Is Marijuana as Bad as Alcohol?

Cognitive function and memory problems could develop from marijuana use

(RxWiki News) Many people may think that marijuana may be harmless, as its use has become more acceptable in society. However, just because its presence in popular culture is larger doesn't mean the health risks go away.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11.8 percent of 8th graders used marijuana at least once in the past year of 2009. As grade level goes up, so does the percentage of students who used marijuana. There were a reported 32.8 percent of 12th graders who used marijuana in the past year. 

"Know the health risks associated with marinjuana use."

Benedikt Fischer, Ph.D., a scientist for Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research/Public Health Agency of Canada chair in applied public health, recommends guidelines for a public health approach that are evidence based to reduce health harms related to marijuana use.

Fischer’s latest study examines data from existing English-peer-reviewed studies that have analyzed health harms of marijuana use.

He found that many high school students drive after using marijuana compared to drinking because they believe it’s okay to drive after smoking marijuana. In actuality, marijuana-related accidents have increased. Fischer believes this is similar to the time when people believed it was safe to drink and drive some forty years ago. People should wait at least three to four hours after smoking to drive, Fischer says.

He also found that marijuana use at a young age could cause mental illness and dependence later on. Cognitive function and memory problems could develop from daily use. Marijuana use during pregnancy is definitely not advised even though researchers are unsure of the potential harm.

The best way to avoid marijuana-related risks and harms is to be abstinent, Fischer comments.

The research is being published in the September/October 2011 issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health (CPHJ).

Review Date: 
September 23, 2011