15 Misconceptions About—and Realities of—Medical Cannabis

By Ellen Lenox Smith, Co-Director for Medical Marijuana Advocacy, U.S. Pain Foundation

So many people in this country—who are deserving of safe pain relief—have chosen to stay away from even considering medical cannabis due to the stigma society has put on it for years.

Let’s examine the real truth about cannabis to understand these misconceptions. I think it will be easiest to list these issues one-by-one:

  1. We are brought up to believe that anyone using cannabis gets high or stoned from using it. However, a body that lives with pain has brain receptors that work differently from those of the social user. They get pain relief, just as long as they don’t take too much.
  2. People assume that if you use cannabis for medical use that you are smoking it. People are encouraged to consider other administration methods, to thus not take any chances with their lungs: vaporizing, tinctures, topicals, edibles, and oils are some examples of ways medical users successfully administer cannabis without smoking.
  3. Many cannabis growers just throw out the large fan leaves, assuming they have no value. You can juice the large fan leaves from the cannabis plant, mix with some other kind of juice, and drink it—for amazing benefits from the CBD, and no high. The healing powers are magical. I tried this after a leg surgery; I had previously had the same surgical procedure on the other leg, but the second time—with juicing—was able to reduce my healing time with a bone stimulator from 10 months to just three months. By drinking juice!
  4. People believe cannabis is not proven to have any medical benefits. But research performed in Israel shows that cannabis helps heal and strengthen bones, just as I experienced in the previous example.
  5. People believe that if you face the same condition as another person, the same strain of cannabis will work equally well for both of you. A strain that works for another person may not be your match. We each have to test a few to find our magic. Each body has different matches, so don’t give up finding yours!
  6. People believe using cannabis will cause you to develop psychosis. A four-year study that followed 170 individuals at high risk for psychosis concluded that marijuana use had no effect on the development of the disorder.
  7. People assume that they will need to continue to use other pain medications while using cannabis. But one survey shows that nearly half of people who use cannabidiol (CBD) products stop taking traditional medicines
  8. People who vaporize are actually smoking and hurting their lungs. When you vaporize cannabis, you look like you are blowing out smoke, but it truly is just vapor and very safe for your lungs. But remember to have your vaporizer on the low setting to achieve this.
  9. People believe that using cannabis will bring on mood disorder, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. In fact, research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that using marijuana as an adult is not associated with a variety of mood and anxiety disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder.
  10. Cannabis is considered to be high-risk for addiction. A report published in Scientific Reports journal compared the risks associated with 10 substances using the margin of exposure approach. Cannabis was the only substance to be classified as “low risk.” In contrast, alcohol posed the highest risk to individuals and was ranked alongside nicotine, cocaine, and heroin as “high risk.”
  11. People believe when they have an edible with cannabis in it, that they will feel the effects right away. If you ingest cannabis, the effects take time to kick in. So don’t eat that whole cookie—wait and see what a small bite does after an hour or so. Ingested cannabis will stay in your system for some time, so take it slow.
  12. People feel that using cannabis means you will just get high and not be able to sleep. A terrific benefit of marijuana as a sedative sleep aid is that it usually works for all degrees of insomnia, whether slight or severe.
  13. People believe using cannabis will have no positive effect for those living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One aspect of PTSD is an endocannabinoid deficiency: the body stops producing enough endocannabinoids to fill receptor sites, and this is where the cannabinoids found in cannabis play a therapeutic role. By replenishing these missing endocannabinoids, researchers think marijuana might bring PTSD patients relief from their memories.
  14. Patients with Parkinson’s disease would gain nothing from using cannabis. New research out of the U.K. may explain why chemicals from marijuana offer protection in various models of Parkinson’s disease.
  15. All strains of plants I use are the same and will just make me stoned. There are two types of cannabis plants: the Indica, which gives you pain relief and allows rest, and the Sativa, which provides pain relief and allows you to stay alert and awake. Be sure you know which type you are taking and remember there are many named strains of each of these two types.

I hope that reading this will help to alleviate some of your concerns and allow you the confidence to consider trying cannabis as another safe alternative for pain relief and new peace for your body.

We have to overcome the stigma society has placed on using this, and advocate for removing it from Schedule I, thus allowing for more research. By educating others about the truth of this amazing plant and all it can offer us, we hope to open up more options to patients with pain.