In Oklahoma, a Texas-based doctor warns voters about supposed dangers of marijuana.
Reefer Madness-style myths about cannabis will not go away. In fact, these narratives are still trotted out all the time in debates about real-world policy change. The problem is that many of these narratives—possibly all of them—are grounded more in cultural misperceptions than actual research. For the most recent example of how these myths are used check out the way this doctor warns voters about supposed dangers of marijuana.
Now, in the months leading up to the vote, campaigning efforts from both sides of the issue are ramping up. Most recently, the anti-weed group Oklahomans Against 788 has become outspoken in its efforts to convince people to vote against the bill.
One of the group’s biggest gripes is that edibles will look too much like candy, which will lead young children to accidentally eat them.
Additionally, a doctor from Texas joined the group’s efforts. Addiction psychiatrist Harold Urschel spoke to the Oklahoma Medical Board yesterday. His mission: convince everyone that cannabis is extremely dangerous.
According to local news station KOCO News 5, Urschel told the Board the following:
“It changes how your mood states, messes with your sleep. For teenagers, it decreases your IQ by eight points, which is a significant drop. It causes significant risk of heart attacks, lung cancer. Doubles your risk of stroke.”
From there, Urschel went on to describe the horrors of becoming addicted to weed.
“The better high you get, the more addicting it is, but also the more you get into your brain, the more destructive it is,” Urschel said.
“We see a lot of the devastation caused by marijuana and other drugs as well. Probably 20 percent of our patients are addicted to marijuana.”
He added, “For the couple hours you’re feeling the high, you do feel better. But then it wears off, and the injury it does to your brain makes the symptoms two or three times worse the more you need marijuana again.”
Most of Urschel’s complaints centered on the idea that cannabis is super addictive. But what does research actually say about this?
A landmark 2014 study clears up a lot of this. Researchers in that study reviewed 20 years’ worth of weed research and aggregated all the data to identify key trends and patterns.
They concluded that a cannabis addiction is possible but very unlikely. In fact, this study found that throughout those 20 years of research, only nine percent of regular weed smokers became addicted.
For comparison, here are addiction rates for other substances: 32 percent for nicotine, 23 percent for heroin, 17 percent for cocaine, 15 percent for alcohol, and 11 percent for stimulants.
To put it another way: more than nine out of ten weed smokers do not get addicted. Those are pretty good odds.
Unfortunately for Urschel, even more recent research supports the claim that weed is not very addictive at all. In fact, this research indicates that weed can be used to help people break addictions to substances that are much more harmful.
“People think [cannabis is] a gateway drug to narcotics. It may be the exit drug to get us out of the narcotic epidemic.”
But all this research doesn’t seem to faze anti-weed propagandists like Dr. Urschel.
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