With marijuana being legalised left and right, it is not surprising for the public to start believing that it is indeed not only not dangerous, but perhaps even beneficial to one’s health. That, however, is the farthest thing from the truth.
While Marijuana may not be as harmful as, say, harder drugs like ice, marijuana still carries with it a number of dangers, especially when you look at it in the context of the workplace.
In these days of legalised marijuana, so many myths about the drug abound. Let’s take a look at some of those dangerous myths about marijuana at work, including one that is a flat-out lie.
Myth #1: Marijuana addiction is a myth
If research done by the National Institute of Drug Abuse is to be believed, marijuana is indeed addictive. According to the United States federal-government research institute, 30 percent of marijuana users may develop problem use to a certain degree. These can eventually lead to dependence and worse, addiction. Like with other addictive drugs, marijuana users are likely to develop a tolerance to the drug. That means a user may have to use bigger amounts of marijuana over time to achieve the same effect.
Also, we have to look at how we define addiction. Marijuana, like other drugs, alters a user’s brain chemistry. When someone makes an effort (like regularly getting a marijuana fix, for instance) to sustain that altered brain chemistry despite any problems that it might present at school, work, and in their relationships, then there is a good chance that person is already dependent on or addicted to marijuana.
Myth #2: There is no such thing as marijuana withdrawal
If a substance leads to dependence and/or addiction, then anyone who quits them are likely to suffer the effects of withdrawal. When a heavy marijuana user discontinues the drug, he or she may experience some withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, weight loss, irritability and a general restlessness. These and other physical discomforts may last for at least two weeks after quitting marijuana.
Myth #3: Marijuana vs Alcohol : It is better to drive high than drunk
Whoever believes this myth has a pretty skewed idea of what’s safe and what’s not. Being under the influence of any substance while driving—or operating machinery of any kind at work, for that matter—does not in any way lend itself to safety.
A person who is stoned is expected to possess slower reflexes. Reaction time is considerably reduced, and that could only be bad news for anyone driving a vehicle, a forklift, or cranking the controls of other heavy equipment. Add to that decreased coordination, reduced depth of perception, lessened alertness and difficulty concentrating, and you have someone who is more likely to get involved in an accident that results in injury and/or death.
Myth #4: Smoking marijuana is less harmful than smoking cigarettes
According to the British Lung Foundation (BLF), cannabis is a greater cancer risk than tobacco. Like cigarettes, marijuana joints also contain tar. Its tar content, however, contains 50 per cent more carcinogens than those found in cigarettes made from tobacco.
Apart from being a cancer risk, smoking marijuana also brings with it a host of other health issues. Many marijuana users report of breathing problems, elevated pulse and heart rates, sore throat, asthma and bronchitis, among other things.
Myth #5: It is easy to spot employees who engage in cannabis use
If you are an employer and you think you know what a marijuana user looks like, then you are one of countless people subscribing to the stoner archetype firmly established by pop culture.
Many people think that all marijuana smokers look like Scooby Doo’s best friend Shaggy or Jeff Bridges’ legendary character from The Big Lebowski, The Dude. Neither of them, however, look like Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and countless other celebrities who have openly admitted to using marijuana.
While there are signs of marijuana abuse in the workplace that can be watched out for, judging when an employee–or any other person, for that matter–is a marijuana user or not based on the way he or she looks can prove to be tricky. An employee could look and act like Shaggy and yet be pot-free, while someone who looks like she could be anyone’s grandma could actually be a pothead.
Myth #6: Enhanced creativity is one of the many effects of marijuana
There are people who work in the creative field who believe that using marijuana makes them even more creative. However, a recent study at Lieden University discovered that cannabis use does not really make one superior creatively. All it ever does is give a marijuana user an illusion of enhanced creativity. So much for artists, writers and musicians who make the need for a superior creative mindset an excuse to light up a joint.
Myth #7: Medical marijuana is the best treatment for glaucoma
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that lead to optic nerve damage and loss of vision. While there are a number of legally-approved treatments for glaucoma, medical marijuana is often being bandied about as the best treatment for the condition. It is not surprising that there are employed glaucoma sufferers who specifically request medical marijuana for their treatment.
While it is true that marijuana can lower intraocular pressure or IOP, which is one cause of optic nerve damage in glaucoma, a patient would have to smoke marijuana six to eight times a day to get any consistent effect. Smoking that much cannabis is the only way to receive the benefit of a consistently lowered IOP using the drug. After all, marijuana lowers IOP for only about three or four hours.
The so-called “best treatment” for glaucoma requires the patient to be consistently high, and we all know how that one would go. The patient would be too impaired to drive, operate machinery or function at the peak of his or her mental ability. The American Academy of Ophthalmology knows that, which is why it does not recommend marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma.
Myth #8: There are no long term effects of marijuana on mental health
This is a flat-out lie. Many studies have already concluded that marijuana works on the brain the same way alcohol, cocaine and heroin do. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary active ingredient in marijuana, targets your brain’s cannabinoid receptors. Once it’s in, your concentration, time perception, memory and thought processes are affected and influenced.
A marijuana addict’s risk for mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks and even schizophrenia is elevated. A recent study also shows that long-term marijuana use harms verbal memory as well.
Myth #9: There have been no marijuana deaths, ever
Marijuana advocates have long taken pride in the belief that no one has died after using marijuana. However, scientists at the University Hospital Düsseldorf in Germany beg to disagree.
After conducting the first full post mortem examinations on people who have died after using the marijuana, the German researchers found out that the death of two of the subjects could not be attributed to anything else but cannabis use. They believe marijuana use caused arrhythmia in the subjects and caused their deaths.
Aside from directly causing death, marijuana has been at the root of many accidents, some of which have happened in the workplace.
Myth #10: Marijuana does not stay in your system for long
Many employees use marijuana at work believing it doesn’t stay long in one’s system anyway. What they don’t realise is that how long marijuana stays in your system depends on how much you’re smoking and your body type. That’s because THC is stored in fat.
That means if you’re skinny and a casual user, traces of THC and its metabolites may be detected in your urine from seven to 14 days after ingestion. However, you can expect marijuana to stay longer if you’re heavier set and a heavier user at that. Traces of marijuana will remain in your system anywhere from one month to the rest of the year.
Myth #11: You can cheat on your marijuana urine test
Many workplaces have strict policies regarding marijuana use. These policies often call for marijuana urine tests, with corresponding consequences for those who fail them. It isn’t surprising then that many marijuana-using employees employ tricks—some of them bordering on stupid and even dangerous—just to beat the marijuana urine test.
For example, drinking litres and litres of water in the hope of diluting urine could lead to water intoxication and certain death. Some try detox kits or even cocktails from a neighbourhood shop selling potions and whatnot, all to no avail.
The bottom line: you cannot cheat on your marijuana test, especially when it’s performed by a reliable drug testing company such as Frontline Diagnostics.