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As it becomes more and more discussed in popular culture these days regarding the legalization of marijuana, conflicting reports are circulating through media outlets that marijuana is safer or more dangerous than cigarettes. It is no surprise that many patients coming into clinics these days are so confused about what is the real truth when it comes to their disease. 

One of the confusing points regarding marijuana is its effects on body growth. Some rumors out there stipulate that chronic smoking can adversely impact your growth if you are smoking during your puberty years. There is currently only anecdote evidence suggesting that there is a real link between a shortened height and marijuana use.

As a physician, the thing that I would be more considered about is the diet that patients will typically turn to when they are smoking marijuana. One of the well-known side effects of marijuana use is that users will experience a "munchies" phase after smoking where they crave a significant amount of food. Chips, fast food restaurants and other calorie-rich options are extremely easy to find and there are more concrete links between stunted growth and a poor diet. If you frequently abuse marijuana, the foods that you may eat could prevent you from reaching your full growth potential, so in a way, marijuana could influence your growth. 

Although marijuana may not directly affect your final height, that does not mean that marijuana is something that is free from any bodily harm. Studies more clearly indicate that the patients who chronically abuse marijuana and alcohol as a teenager have a much slower mental development than those who do not abuse these substances. Slower mental development can lead to not only problems with grades in school but these patients also have been found to be immature for their age. This particular study concluded by saying the trend can be reversible if these agents are stopped during the crucial development years between 15 and 21 but depending on the period of abuse, there may be a permanent lag in the development of the young adult. [1]

Another glimpse into the side effects of chronic marijuana use also shows that although your vertical height may be unaffected, there is a correlation between marijuana use and your horizontal height. If we draw back to the point about marijuana users typically craving high-calorie snacks after smoking, studies indicate that marijuana will cause you to gain weight. As a teenager, this is something that is undesirable as body image distress is a common concern in this age demographic. This investigation observed that patients did not have a noticeable weight gain if they averaged less than one marijuana cigarette per day. These effects were more dramatic in patients using at least two cigarettes per day. [2]

All in all, marijuana users need to take the time to understand that smoking this substance is also dangerous for their health. Common rumors I have heard include statements like smoking marijuana won't cause lung cancer like cigarette smoking or marijuana can help cure cancer. This misinformation will confuse a lot of people, and many are performing these behaviors without understanding the real risks of these drugs.

Although many states and countries are now considering full legalization of these products, be aware that just because something is legal to buy, that doesn't mean that it is safe for you to consume. 

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