While states battle over whether or not to legalize the use of marijuana, some facts are becoming a lot clearer. Some people hold to the belief that it grows in nature, or at least it used to before industry took over, so it must be safe. If that were true, no drug treatment center would work every day to help people leave this drug behind.

In fact, a lot of myths surround the cannabis plant and how it’s used. Here are 7 things that you probably don’t know about marijuana:

1. Marijuana Causes Changes to the Brain’s Structure

Smoking marijuana doesn’t just cause a temporary high. It can create changes in the structure of the brain. In the NY Times article, “This is Your Brain on Drugs,” author Abigail Sullivan Moore explains that the nucleus accumbens portion of the brain is what’s affected, which can play a significant role in addiction. Further, a Harvard-Northwestern study of 40 young adults showed that all smokers had abnormalities in the “shape, density, and volume” of that part of the brain.

2. Marijuana is Getting Much More Potent

Many people believe that marijuana is totally safe and natural. But recent samples reveal an enormous increase in THC concentration from samples taken in 1995. In the 90s, the concentration was about 3.75 percent. But these newer, stronger strains are testing closer to 13 percent, according to the NY Times, which could account for more drug treatment center programs designed to offer help. Some special strains, such as the one called “Green Crack” test even higher, at 21 percent. A change from 3.75 percent to 21 percent shows that all marijuana is definitely not created equal.

3. Cannabis Might Be a Gateway Drug

For generations, the debate about whether marijuana is or isn’t a gateway drug has persisted. University of Bristol researcher, Michelle Taylor writes for The Guardian that it might be. While not everyone who smokes marijuana will inherently move on to harder drugs, there’s a real, observed association between marijuana use and using harder drugs later.

4. Some People are Hospitalized for Marijuana Use

One myth that’s persisted for generations is that marijuana is safer than other illicit drugs, and no one becomes ill or requires hospitalization after using it. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, that’s simply untrue. Between 2004 and 2011, marijuana-related ER visits spiked from 66,000 to 129,000. Another mystery revolves around the cause, but it’s believed to be related to the newer, much stronger cannabis strains.

5. Marijuana Really Is an Addictive Substance

Perhaps the most persistent myth of all is that no one can become addicted to marijuana. While true addiction is rare, at about 9 percent of users, it is entirely possible, and a drug treatment center can help. Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, difficulty with sleep, loss of appetite, and some physical discomfort. According to Healthline, if you also include people who are dependent, and not just addicted, the numbers jump to about 20 percent.

6. Smoking a Joint Doesn’t Make Everyone Happy

The classic caricature of a pot smoker usually involves a mellow, laid-back person smoking a joint, watching cartoons, giggling, and eating a bag of potato chips. But for many, the exact opposite is true. Marijuana use can, at least in some people, cause panic, delusions, anxiety, hallucinations, increased heart rate, and several other effects that are decidedly not mellow.

7. Every Drug Treatment Center Knows Pot by a Lot of Names

Cannabis might be its proper name, but marijuana has a lot of other street names, too. The list is exhaustive, and seems to change a bit over time. Some names, such as grass, pot, doobie, reefer, weed, and Mary Jane are fairly well known from generations past. Others names are hashish, bud, green, or chronic. But the list really does go on, as each new generation tends to put its own street slang stamp on marijuana.

8. Synthetic Marijuana is Even More Dangerous

Marketed as “K2,” “Spice,” “Incense,” or several other names, synthetic marijuana claims to be a natural alternative to marijuana. But the only natural thing about it is the plant material that’s soaked in or sprayed with synthetic chemical cannabinoid compounds. Synthetic marijuana may be smoked or used in other ways, such as in teas. The effects are usually much more intense than marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that it’s unpredictable at best. At worst, it’s addictive, and can cause a heart attack and death.

Cornerstone Recovery Center Provides Treatment for Marijuana Abuse

As more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, parents need to be aware of the potential danger its availability may pose. It’s still illegal on the Federal level and the DEA classifies it as a Schedule 1 illicit drug. While marijuana might have a reputation with some people as a less addictive substance, even that is proving to be less true. But fortunately, there are people who care.

If someone you care about is struggling with marijuana use or any other addiction, Cornerstone Recovery Center can help. Please give us a call at 1-888-711-0354. Conversations are always confidential. Or if you prefer, contact us online.