This doctor debunks some of the most common myths about cannabis, but I have to say, I’m still not 100 percent convinced about a couple of them.

Instead of giving you my own opinion (because I’m not a doctor) about these, I invite you to read them and see which ones you agree with.

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Please share your thoughts on the FB feed as I would like to start a ‘mature’ conversation about this topic because it is through intellectual discourse that progress is made. And remember, it’s ok to agree to disagree.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, a licensed osteopathic physician, and below he makes an attempt to debunk some of the most common myths about cannabis. He believes that many of these rumors have their origins via industries that benefit from the prohibition of cannabis.

Myth 1: Cannabis Kills Brain Cells and Lowers IQ

Dr. Sulak: Interestingly, numerous studies have proven cannabis does just the opposite — it promotes the growth and development of new brain cells [1]. No other class of compounds has demonstrated the neuroprotective effects of cannabis. So, in essence, it can potentially make you smarter.

Very promising animal studies show that treating brain injuries, including newborn babies lacking oxygen [2], victims of stroke, and head trauma, all sustain less damage and heal faster if they are given cannabinoids, the substances found in cannabis, or their synthetic counterparts [3].

Cannabinoids also protect the brain from slower forms of injury, like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis [4], especially when used in the correct dosage.

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While cannabis can cause some temporary cognitive changes, such as a decrease in short-term memory, these changes are reversible when an adult stops using cannabis [5].

Myth 2: Cannabis Makes You “Stoned” or “High”

Dr. Sulak: Smoking or ingesting marijuana can cause a psychoactive effect, which most people describe as a pleasant euphoria and enhancement of the senses, but it can include less desirable features like sedation and paranoia.

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Pleasant or uncomfortable, a growing number of patients want the medical benefits of cannabis without any intoxication or impairment in function — they want to use it while working, safely driving, and more. This is both possible, and practical.

After decades of selective breeding to produce the most intoxicating strains of cannabis, sought after by recreational users and dealers in the underground market, medical cannabis breeders are now producing strains that emphasize the health benefits and reduce or eliminate the psychoactivity [6].

Myth 3: Smoking Cannabis Causes Cancer

Dr. Sulak: A large study in 2006 showed that heavy cannabis users have an equal or lower rate of lung and respiratory tract cancers than non-users [7], even though cannabis smoke has been proven to contain cancer-causing products of combustion.

How is this possible?

The therapeutic substances in cannabis actually have strong anti-cancer properties. This has been known since the 1970s [8], but more recently cannabinoids have become a major focus of the pharmaceutical industry’s anti-cancer drug development [9].

While smoking cannabis is unlikely to cause cancer, it can irritate the respiratory tract, especially in sensitive individuals.

Most patients and responsible adult cannabis users are turning to non-smokable delivery methods: vaporizers allow users to inhale the medicinal component of the herb without any smoke; tinctures and liquid extracts are safe and convenient, and topically applied cannabis salves are reported to reduce pain and inflammation.

Myth 4: Cannabis Is Addictive And Is a Gateway to Other Drugs

Dr. Sulak: Marijuana dependence does exist, but is not common. One study found that only 9 percent of those who try marijuana develop dependence compared to, for example, 24 percent of those who try heroin [10].

Furthermore, marijuana dependence is much safer [11] — the withdrawal effects are mild and similar in intensity to caffeine withdrawal. Most people don’t have any trouble stopping using cannabis, when and if they need to.

Recent research demonstrates that cannabis actually serves as an exit drug, not a gateway drug. One study of 350 medical cannabis users in California found 40 percent of the subjects used cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 26 percent as a substitute for illicit drugs, and 66 percent as a substitute for prescription drugs [12].

Any time a person can replace a more harmful substance, such as alcohol, with a safer substance, like cannabis, it is a step in the right direction.


1 Reviewed in Galve-Roperh, Ismael, et al. “The endocannabinoid system and neurogenesis in health and disease.” The Neuroscientist 13.2 (2007): 109-114.

2 Alvarez, Francisco J., et al. “Neuroprotective effects of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol in hypoxic-ischemic newborn piglets.” Pediatric Research 64.6 (2008): 653-658

3 Baker D, Pryce G, Giovannoni G, Thompson AJ. The therapeutic potential of cannabis. Lancet Neurol. 2003; 2:291 -298

4 Ramírez, Belén G., et al. “Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease pathology by cannabinoids: neuroprotection mediated by blockade of microglial activation.” The Journal of Neuroscience 25.8 (2005): 1904-1913.

5 Tait, Robert J., Andrew Mackinnon, and Helen Christensen. “Cannabis use and cognitive function: 8‐year trajectory in a young adult cohort.” Addiction 106.12 (2011): 2195-2203.


7 Hashibe, Mia, et al. “Marijuana use and the risk of lung and upper aerodigestive tract cancers: results of a population-based case-control study.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 15.10 (2006): 1829-1834.

8 Munson, A. E., et al. “Antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 55.3 (1975): 597-602.

9 Velasco, Guillermo, Cristina Sánchez, and Manuel Guzmán. “Towards the use of cannabinoids as antitumour agents.” Nature Reviews Cancer 12.6 (2012): 436-444.

10 Anthony JC, Warner L, Kessler R. Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances and inhalants: basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 1994; 2: 244–68.

11 Reviewed in Budney, Alan J., et al. “Review of the validity and significance of cannabis withdrawal syndrome.” American Journal of Psychiatry 161.11 (2004): 1967-1977.

12 Reiman, Amanda. “Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs.” Harm Reduction Journal 6.1 (2009): 35.