Why Cannabis Shouldn’t Be Considered a Gateway Drug: Calgary Professor Debunks Marijuana Myths

Article by Dave Dormer, CBC News

Why cannabis shouldn't be considered a gateway drug: Calgary professor debunks marijuana myths U of C associate professor Matthew Hill says some common beliefs around the drug aren't rooted in fact By Dave Dormer, CBC News . University of Calgary professor Matthew Hill says there are many myths and misconceptions when it comes to marijuana. (CBC)

The legalization of marijuana in Canada is just five months away, but there are still questions and misconceptions in many people’s minds surrounding cannabis.

Matthew Hill, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute, is working to debunk the myths.

He was part of a panel discussion on cannabis this week at the U of C and also appeared on The Homestretch to dispel some of the misunderstandings about marijuana.

Below is an abridged version of that conversation.

Myth: Teenagers who smoke a lot of cannabis can develop mental illness, schizophrenia in particular, true or false?

A: Somewhere in the middle but definitely closer to false depending on exactly how you look at it. There is definitely some relationship that’s out there between cannabis use and adolescence and the development of schizophrenia, which is the main mental illness that has been linked to cannabis use in teenagers.

But it’s very difficult to actually figure out if this is causative, in the sense that someone who had never developed schizophrenia smokes pot and suddenly develops schizophrenia. Or, what I think the data more likely would suggest, is that if someone is vulnerable to develop schizophrenia, cannabis can act as one of the triggers that will bring an episode on.

It might bring the disease on earlier and it might make the course of the disease last longer and be worse in the long run, but that’s a fundamentally different thing than saying using the drug can cause the disease out of nowhere.

Myth: Cannabis alters brain structure.

A: That one I would say, right now from the current studies, that would be false. There’s certainly no compelling data to show that cannabis use, either as adolescents or as adults, really causes structural changes in the brain that are entirely attributable to cannabis by itself.

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