For years, marijuana has been thought of as a recreational drug that not only slows down mental thought, but also turns the user into a "stoner", who can rarely function. Hollywood has fueled the stigma by exaggerating the drug’s recreational effects. Movies like Pineapple Express, Weekend at Bernie’s and Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke have only added to the problem. With medical marijuana now being recognized for its effects on chronic pain, anxiety and other serious health conditions, breaking the stigma is proving to be extremely difficult. With more and more states approving the use of medical marijuana, the skeptics are losing ground, but many people still hold fast to the old stereotypes and refuse to acknowledge its benefits.
Health Benefits Associated with Cannabis Use
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the ingredient in cannabis that not only produces the feelings of euphoria, but also is the active component that offers the most health benefits. Scientists from London’s Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, have performed several studies that prove THC not only helps to relieve pain, but may also interfere with the growth and reproduction of cancer cells. Research still continues in an attempt to show health professionals just how these components work when it comes to stopping the growth of muted cancer cells and improving survival rates.
Along with its cancer fighting properties, cannabis has also been proven to be effective at relieving chronic pain. Individuals who have been using medical marijuana have reported that their pain levels are markedly reduced when the drug is used as prescribed. It has been proven that certain strains and hybrids work quite well at relaxing the body and eliminating pain without evoking the intense "high" many people experience when smoking recreational marijuana.
High vs Help
When people think about cannabis or marijuana in general, they immediately think of long-haired hippie-type people dressed in tie-dyed shirts, tattered blue jeans and sandals seeking out their next high. The problem is that the majority of people who used marijuana in the past did not fit that stereotype in any way. Once the notion was applied that marijuana was a "gateway" drug to other recreational substances like heroin, crack and LSD, everyone began to assume that it offered the same potential high. The fact is that the high from marijuana is different than that of more harmful, easily addicting drugs. From increasing promiscuity in women to turning users into "stoners who live in a vegetative state", cannabis has been accused of it all.
Now it is up to the supporters of medical marijuana and cannabis to prove the health benefits far outweigh the "high". Even though the strains of medical marijuana are designed to accentuate the health benefits and mellow out the "high", skeptics are still unsure of how effective medical marijuana is when it comes to relieving chronic pain and other health problems. Studies are still being performed to prove that certain strains of cannabis and cannabis oil are effective at treating various illnesses, including cancer. Some studies have even showed that cannabis oil can be used to reduce the severity, and in some cases even prevent seizures in children. Once again, parents who are willing to use the oil in an attempt to control the children’s seizures are often chastised by people who have little faith in the drug for therapeutic use.
Doing Away with the Stereotypes
Until people begin to realize that many of the stereotypes concerning marijuana use are, for the most part, fictitious, the stigma associated with the drug will remain. As more people begin to turn to medical marijuana and eventually find relief through its use, the more likely it is that the stigma will begin to fade. One of the best ways to reduce the stigma and prejudice levied against cannabis and the individuals who use it on a regular basis for valid health reasons, is education.
While some will remain steadfast in their beliefs, others may be persuaded to change their way of thinking once they can see the positive effects of cannabis and how far reaching the benefits actually are. Studies will continue to be performed and more states will likely recognize the value of decriminalization and the legalization of cannabis. With each new study, more and more verifiable facts come to light that will help dispel many of the myths that surround cannabis and those who use it for medicinal purposes. For the most part, it won’t be the people who break the stereotype. Instead, the stereotype will eventually be eliminated when doctors and other healthcare professionals become more willing to prescribe the drug