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Harm Reduction Tips for Marijuana Users

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Updated October 30, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Marijuana has a reputation for being a harmless drug, but this is inaccurate.  Many problems can occur as a result of this drug, including legal problems, accidents happening while under the influence of marijuana, problems with mental functioning, and physical health problems.  Following these harm reduction tips will help to reduce the potential harm of marijuana use, but it will not necessarily prevent problems from occurring if you choose to partake in any type of marijuana use.

1. Don’t Take Risks with the Law

Legal problems are a negative consequence of marijuana use, and it really isn’t worth the risk.  If you are using marijuana to deal with a health problem, look into getting your marijuana through a legitimate medical marijuana source.  

If you are using marijuana recreationally, purchase it in small quantities and keep it for your own personal use.  If you buy in larger amounts to save money, and particularly if you are passing it on to others, you could be breaking the more serious trafficking drug laws rather than simply possessing it for personal use.  And be discreet about marijuana use -- whether or not you think everyone is doing it and no one cares. Flaunting your marijuana use in public is annoying to others and is asking for legal trouble.

2. Don’t Drive When You Are Stoned

Just because the drunk-driving laws are focused on alcohol does not mean you aren’t impaired through marijuana use, and it doesn’t mean you won’t get in trouble if you are caught driving under the influence.  The police are not naïve and know the signs of marijuana intoxication.  More importantly, you could cause a serious accident while driving under the influence, and could even get killed or be responsible for the death of another person.  Not easy to live with.

3. Keep a Check on Your Mental Functioning

Marijuana can have detrimental effects on your mental functioning. It can affect learning, memory and performance.  There is no point in lying to yourself – keep a check on your mental functioning, and if you think it is slipping, ease off the marijuana for a while.  You will be surprised how mentally alert you can feel after a few weeks of abstinence.

4. Keep a Check on Your Motivation

Marijuana can cause long-term problems with motivation, but these problems can creep up without you noticing.  Chronic users of marijuana will often vehemently deny they are addicted to marijuana and that it affects their motivation -- only to show up in treatment 10 or 15 years later, complaining that they have achieved nothing.  Set goals for yourself, whether to improve your education, your job prospects or achieve something significant.   Each year, evaluate how closely you have come to achieving your goal.  If you find you have done nothing but dream since last year, it could be time to take a break from the weed.

5. Take Care of Your Lungs

Much of the focus in preventing lung cancer has been on cigarette smoking, but inhaling any type of smoke, including marijuana, can increase the risk of this painful and deadly disease.  Marijuana can be taken orally, for example, by being cooked into brownies and cookies, and this might be a better option than inhaling smoke.  Take care that any sweet treats containing marijuana are not within reach of children or anyone else who might eat them by mistake; be aware that marijuana effects are often stronger and longer lasting when it is eaten than when it is smoked.

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