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Marijuana and Mental Illness

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As noted in this Reuters news story, a new study finds that heavy use of potent forms of marijuana doubles the risk of psychosis.  There have been a number of studies in the past several years that have made similar findings, but the conclusions are hotly debated.  For instance, it is not clear whether people who are more prone to mental illness to begin with use marijuana at higher rates than others or whether the drug causes psychotic illness.  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle:  those who are troubled are drawn to the euphoric effects of marijuana which is noted for its anxiolytic properties while research into the body's endocannabinoid system suggests that extrinsic sources can lead to symptoms of mental illness

Whether marijuana is a dangerous or harmless drug largely depends on what it is compared to and what one deems as acceptable risk.  Quite clearly compared to alcohol and cocaine the risks are small:  marijuana isn't strongly linked to crime or illness compared to those drugs.  But when the assertion is made that marijuana is harmless, that too is clearly wrong:  marijuana use is linked not only to mental illness but also pulmonary damage, cognitive impairment, and possibly liver disease.  And these points are worth consideration in discussions about marijuana and legal proscriptions irrespective which side of the fence one sits on in terms of prohibition.  


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