A fallacy about marijuana

Below, Odyssey House President Dr. Peter Provet comments on an article in USA Today (“As marijuana-induced psychosis rises, parents say treatment for young people hard to find,” Jan. 6). 

A recent article illustrates a fallacy about marijuana: that it is fundamentally safe, or at least, no more harmful than alcohol.

While there is no evidence marijuana directly causes mental illness or psychosis, it is well-established that it can precipitate the onset of an organic mental illness such as depression. Two general factors lead to potential harm: the age at which use begins and the frequency, dose, and duration of use.

Regular usage dulls motivation and thinking – essentially acting as an antagonist for adolescents, whose brains are still developing. Usage hinders the development of critical physiological brain functions down to the cellular level. The bigger the dose, the more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is ingested. THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, also affects areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotional experiences.

The bottom line is marijuana is not as safe as its advocates would have you believe, particularly for teens. The majority of adolescents in our treatment programs come into Odyssey House for marijuana abuse. As more states legalize marijuana, we must bring greater awareness to its potential dangers and establish safeguards to protect our youth.