We’ve heard marijuana described as a “gateway drug”, and “the Devil’s lettuce”, especially by overbearing mothers… but can marijuana actually kill you, though? Considering that marijuana was, until recently, considered a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA, comparable to some of the most dangerous and addictive drugs in the world, there must be extreme risk associated with its use. Drug overdose is a serious issue in the United States and around the world, and many of the long-term effects are still yet to be investigated. With cannabis becoming as popular as it is, with well over half the population of the U.S. claiming to have tried it at least once, it is important to understand the risks of using marijuana, as well as the other drugs around us.

There are potential risks of smoking marijuana. THC can impair coordination, judgment, and can make you extremely uncomfortable; stimulating extreme anxiety and paranoia. It puts users at risk of other psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, and a number of long-term mental instabilities that I will address later in this article. It can make people feel as if they were dying. These episodes can be traumatic and sometimes even painful, but that is not a typical reaction to the drug. Another obvious risk of using marijuana is lung cancer or disease. Inhaling smoke can decrease lung capacity and damage the sensitive tissue within, but most users don’t smoke enough to sustain the same damage as tobacco users, who often smoke several cigarettes a day. It has been suggested that smoking marijuana may also increase the risk of heart attack in the hour after use, but there is no convincing evidence to support this notion.

It has also been concluded that adolescents who use marijuana recreationally are more than twice as likely to drop out of school as those who don’t. This consequence may not kill you immediately, but no education can lead to no job. No job can lead to no food. No food can lead to starvation, illness, and death. Therefore, a lack of education can have potentially fatal consequences.

Using any drug recreationally involves risks of one sort or another, but for those of you who do smoke marijuana, rest assured that it probably won’t kill you.

Several studies have been conducted to prove the safety of marijuana use. Two major notable studies include test populations of around 50,000 subjects each. Of the one study in California and one in Sweden, the populace was observed over a 10 to 15 year period, and the marijuana users were no more likely to experience fatality than non-users. The Sweden study did, however, conclude that young men by age 18 were about two times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia within the next 15 years compared to those who had not used the drug.

With the recent growing trend of the drug’s undeniable popularity, there haven’t been any significant large, long-term studies conducted on the level that it has reached. Like anything, with its growing popularity among the public, only time will tell if any complications will arise in the late-lives of modern marijuana users.

Why isn’t marijuana fatal? The sensation of feeling high comes from when chemicals from the plant fuse to what are known as cannabinoid receptors in the brain, and these receptors are not associated with the parts of the brain that influence essential functions, such as breathing. Instead, they are only associated with the parts that influence things like pleasure, memory, and coordination. For this reason, it is difficult for anything but an extraordinary quantity of weed to kill you.

Marijuana cannot, as far as we know, kill you. It can stimulate many other unpleasant sensations and instigate further neurological issues in the long term. As with any drug, take caution, because as many try to convince otherwise, there are short and long-term risks to using marijuana. Mother may not always know best, but her caution comes from a wholesome place and should be heeded: be careful.