Habitual Marijuana Use and the Paleo Diet: What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been

Marijuana | The Paleo Diet

Last month I had the pleasure to lecture on the Paleo Diet in Sydney, Australia at the BioCeuticals Research Symposium. After my presentation a couple who appeared to be in their late 40s to early 50s approached the podium. The man and his wife told me they had adopted the Paleo Diet a few years back and wondered if habitual marijuana smoking was aligned with Paleo. Both indicated they had been regular pot smokers for decades since their college undergraduate days. As I previously pointed out, humans have only recently (from an evolutionary perspective) acquired the technological sophistication to start fires at will. On a 24 hour clock representing the entire 2.5 million year Paleolithic era, humanity’s ability to create fire first came into regular play somewhere between 48 and 36 minutes to midnight. Need I say more?

I am a child of the ’60s. I came of age in southern California and northern Nevada when political, social and recreational drug standards were radically changing for many young people nationwide and for the US society as a whole. In high school and college during the ’60s and early ’70s, “the day,” I participated on various athletic teams that required regular aerobic workouts, almost year round. Consequently, smoking anything (tobacco or dope) was completely out of the question for me. very summer from my early 20s until I was 42, I worked as the Head Lifeguard on a major beach at Lake Tahoe, so my former aerobic workout ethic continued with me throughout my later life.

An almost universally accepted narcotic of “the day” was marijuana, dope or pot. Call it whatever you will, but this drug became emblematic of the “youth generation” who grew up during the ’60s and early ’70s. My generation is now approaching our retirement years, yet the legacy our age group created regarding recreational drug use lives on. So much so, that my generation and our children’s generation and our grand children’s generation have recently voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state. Additionally, if we look at national response to recreational drug use a little more than half the country’s voters favor marijuana’s legalization.

Nevertheless, marijuana has not been legally sanctioned for recreational use in the 48 other states, and remains the most widely used illicit drug in the US (16.7 million users during the past month).1 The more important point of this statistic is that about 283 million Americans did not use marijuana in the past month. President Clinton claimed he never “inhaled” when smoking pot as a college student, whereas President Obama freely admitted to its use in his earlier years. Accordingly, marijuana is a drug which many if not most Americans have experimented with, particularly during their youth. Currently 43% of all high school seniors have tried pot,2 and as many of you may have personally witnessed, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug on college campuses.3

In my blog and scientific writings, I can honestly say that I have never deliberately ventured into political or social commentary – and sorry – you won’t get that perspective here either. However, I would like to remark upon the physiological ramifications of regular pot smoking or ingestion upon your health and well being. All plant compounds (either smoked or ingested) entering our bodies on a regular basis, just like any other nutritional or dietary element, will have an effect upon our overall health. So, you be the judge, and let the data below speak for itself. In the final analysis, you (the learned reader) must decide the ultimate route that you will take for your health and well being and that of your family.

Psychological Effects

You don’t have to be a scientist to understand why people smoke or ingest marijuana. For most people it produces a pleasurable “high” or euphoria. Most marijuana users know that the primary active compound in pot which elicits this narcotic drug’s high is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, few pot smokers are aware that marijuana also contains over 60 related compounds called cannabinoids and more than 400 other chemicals including benzopyrene, a well recognized carcinogen.4

When marijuana is smoked, THC quickly passes from the lungs to the bloodstream which then transports THC to the brain and all other organs of the body. Consumption of marijuana laced cookies, brownies or candies takes longer for the high to occur because marijuana must first be digested in the gastrointestinal tract and then absorbed before THC reaches the bloodstream. Whether pot is smoked or ingested, once THC reaches the brain it binds to specific molecular sites called cannabinoid receptors which in turn set off a series of biochemical reactions resulting in the high that users experience.4 The greatest density of cannabinoid receptors occurs in areas of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, coordination, thinking, concentration and sensory and time perception.5

Predictably, acute THC intoxication is associated with impairment of cognitive function including: learning and memory, attention span, planning ability, organizational skills, problem solving, decision making, perception of facts, control of emotions and behavior2, 4, 6, 7 and impairment of motor coordination.2, 7, 8 Perhaps that’s why even states like Colorado and Washington, which have legalized recreational marijuana use, still impose strict legal penalties for driving while high on pot, similar to the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol. Two recent meta analyses (large, pooled, population studies) concluded that: “Acute cannabis consumption is associated with an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash, especially for fatal collisions,”9 and “The results of this meta-analysis suggest that marijuana use by drivers is associated with a significantly increased risk of being involved in motor vehicle crashes.”10

OK – so get stoned, but just don’t drive while you are high and nobody is hurt, including yourself – but are you really? Are the effects of acute marijuana use only transitory or are there chronic, long-term effects of dope smoking which may adversely affect your health?

These potentially undesirable effects would be robustly predicted by the evolutionary medicine model: 1) introduce an evolutionarily novel agent into an organism’s physiology that has been conditioned over eons of natural selection without it; 2) if the novel agent produces evolutionary discordance between the organism’s genes and its environment, then 3) this discordance elicits increased morbidity (disease incidence), mortality (death) and reduced reproductive success. My mentor, Boyd Eaton coined the term, evolutionary discordance,11 but it was Charles Darwin who first conceived of the most powerful idea in all of biology. Hence, evolution via natural selection is the organizational template for contemporary Paleo diets. This concept represents the evolutionary logic underlying the adverse health effects produced by recently introduced food staples (refined sugars, trans fats, vegetable oils, cereal grains, dairy products, salt and processed foods).

Why should recently introduced narcotic drugs affect our health in an evolutionary manner that varies fundamentally from recently introduced foods? Both items represent novel environmental factors in which our physiology and biochemical pathways have had little evolutionary experience to adapt to and both would be expected to cause evolutionary discordance, which in turn elicits increased morbidity and mortality and hence reduced reproductive success. Natural selection then may respond to these changing environmental selective pressures by moving the organism’s genome to a new set point, frequently resulting in a new species, or alternatively the species may become extinct.

Very few scientists studying narcotic drugs would argue that acute marijuana intoxication either via ingestion or smoking does not temporarily impair cognitive function in a variety of ways. The human experimental and epidemiological data outlined above is forceful, compelling and undeniable.2, 4, 6, 7, 8 Less clear are the long-term behavioral and psychological changes which may occur from chronic marijuana use. Nevertheless a number of recent human meta-analyses support the notion that long term pot smoking fundamentally re-arranges brain structure in a manner that may in turn adversely influence cognitive function.

In a recent meta-analysis Rocchetti and colleagues reviewed 14 MRI studies examining how smoked marijuana affected the brains of healthy people without psychotic illness.12 “Our meta-analysis showed a consistently smaller hippocampus in users as compared to non-users. Our results suggest that in the healthy brain, chronic and long-term cannabis exposure may exert significant effects in brain areas enriched with cannabinoid receptors, such as the hippocampus, which could be related to a neurotoxic action.”

From this study, it cannot be determined if reductions in brain hippocampus size in pot smokers influences behavior or psychological factors on a long term basis.

Similar, but not as robust, results were reported in a meta-analysis by Dr. Lorenzetti and co-workers at the University of Melbourne.13 They concluded that, “Together, these structural imaging findings suggest that THC exposure does affect brain morphology, especially in medial-temporal regions.” Three years later in 2013 after reviewing the most recent literature,14 Dr. Lorenzetti’s research group came to a comparable conclusion: “This review supports the notion that regular cannabis use is associated with alterations of brain morphology.” In a larger, recent meta-analysis involving both adults and adolescents, similar observations and conclusions were reached by yet another independent research group.15

An early study16 by Dr. Lorenzetti and colleagues, that concurrently measured brain hippocampal and amygdala volumes along with verbal learning ability and psychotic symptoms, concluded, “These results provide new evidence of exposure-related structural abnormalities in the hippocampus and amygdala in long-term heavy cannabis users and corroborate similar findings in the animal literature. These findings indicate that heavy daily cannabis use across protracted periods exerts harmful effects on brain tissue and mental health.”

One of the factors in this study which may not apply to casual pot smokers was that the subjects were “heavy” users, consuming more than five joints daily for more than 10 years. Clearly, these subjects maintained pot addictions that are not necessarily representative of recreational marijuana smokers.

Nevertheless, a just released cross sectional study in young, recreational, non-dependent, marijuana users revealed disruptions of normal anatomical brain structure in the amygdala and nucleus accumbens when compared to non users (17). The shortcomings of this experiment and most other studies evaluating brain structural and functional changes in marijuana smokers is that they are cross sectional in nature – meaning that they view results at a single point in time. What are needed are experimental studies (randomized controlled trials [RCTs]) which randomly assign subjects to pot smoking and control groups and then compare pre-post intervention differences. RCT’s on pot smoking will provide us with the definitive data we need to make informed decisions about marijuana’s chronic effects upon brain function and mental health.


When scientists do literature reviews on almost any topic, not all papers are in perfect agreement with one another and frequently yield vastly differing results and conclusions for a variety of reasons, usually involving experimental methodology. Hence to the casual reader of the scientific literature it is almost always possible to find a paper or two that conforms to your particular bias, but invariably you can also find a few which are inconsistent with your preconception. To overcome this potential prejudice, scientists have developed procedures which allow them to pool any and all individual experiments on a topic and statistically analyze the entire collective group as if it were one. This technique is called a meta-analysis, and represents a powerful statistical tool to make sense out of multiple studies with conflicting results. Notice that almost all studies I have cited previously regarding marijuana’s adverse effects upon brain structure or function are either meta-analyses, or comprehensive reviews.

Now let’s take a look at how pot smoking may adversely influence the mind, or our perceptions of reality. “Psychoses” is a generic term referring to multiple abnormal mental conditions which frequently are characterized by “a loss of contact with reality.” You have probably heard of some of these psychoses which include: hallucinations, delusional beliefs [some may be paranoid], schizophrenia, severe depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression) and others.

The studies of marijuana use and psychoses below are all meta-analyses, and I have quoted the conclusion of each of these studies:

  1. “The results suggest that the association between cannabis use and earlier onset of psychosis is robust and is not the result either of tobacco smoking by cannabis using patients or the other potentially confounding factors we examined. This supports the hypothesis that, in some patients, cannabis use plays a causal role in the development of schizophrenia and raises the possibility of treating schizophrenia with new pharmacological treatments that have an affinity for endo-cannabinoid receptors.”18
  2. “The results of meta-analysis provide evidence for a relationship between cannabis use and earlier onset of psychotic illness, and they support the hypothesis that cannabis use plays a causal role in the development of psychosis in some patients. The results suggest the need for renewed warnings about the potentially harmful effects of cannabis.”19
  3. Approximately every fourth schizophrenia patient in our sample of studies had a diagnosis of CUDs (cannabis use disorders). CUDs were especially common in younger and first-episode patient samples as well as in samples with a high proportion of males.”20
  4. “The objective of this article was to examine whether cannabis use can be an independent risk factor for chronic psychotic disorders, by using established criteria of causality. Data extracted from the selected studies showed that cannabis use may be an independent risk factor for the development of psychotic disorders. Early screening of the vulnerability to psychotic disorder should permit improved focus on prevention and information about the specific risks related to cannabis use among this population.”21
  5. “On the basis of cohort studies that have been conducted within the last decades and recent meta-analyses the hypothesized connection between cannabis use and psychotic disorders can be corroborated. The risk to develop psychotic symptoms and also schizophrenic psychoses is thus explicitly elevated for young people who use cannabis.”22
  6. The evidence is consistent with the view that cannabis increases risk of psychotic outcomes independently of confounding and transient intoxication effects, although evidence for affective outcomes is less strong. The uncertainty about whether cannabis causes psychosis is unlikely to be resolved by further longitudinal studies such as those reviewed here. However, we conclude that there is now sufficient evidence to warn young people that using cannabis could increase their risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life.23
  7. Early use of cannabis did appear to increase the risk of psychosis. For psychotic symptoms, a dose-related effect of cannabis use was seen, with vulnerable groups including individuals who used cannabis during adolescence, those who had previously experienced psychotic symptoms, and those at high genetic risk of developing schizophrenia. In conclusion, the available evidence supports the hypothesis that cannabis is an independent risk factor, both for psychosis and the development of psychotic symptoms. Addressing cannabis use, particularly in vulnerable populations, is likely to have beneficial effects on psychiatric morbidity.”24
  8. Cannabis use, and particularly heavy cannabis use, may be associated with an increased risk for developing depressive disorders. There is need for further longitudinal exploration of the association between cannabis use and developing depression, particularly taking into account cumulative exposure to cannabis and potentially significant confounding factors.”25

Physiologic and Health Effects

The mental, behavioral and psychological effects of marijuana use have received much interest in the scientific community over the past 20-30 years, however an equally important and nearly as extensive scientific literature exists regarding marijuana’s effects upon other body organs, systems and tissues.

Lung and respiratory function

For the past 40 years of my life, I have had the luxury of spending part of my summers on Lake Tahoe’s pristine east shore. The high, alpine air here at 6,300 ft above sea level is nothing short of exhilarating and filled with therapeutic negative ions naturally generated near waterfalls and crashing waves. Each summer when I first arrive, I take in a deep breath of this magical elixir and contemplate Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor.”

One unfortunate summer a number of years ago, northern California and Nevada had one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. The entire Tahoe basin was filled with smoke – our eyes reddened and watered, we coughed incessantly, our heads hurt and the alpine magic that once was, no longer existed. To my way of thinking I can’t imagine how anyone would ever intentionally put their lungs and respiratory system into a smoky forest fire environment on a regular basis – yet that is exactly what pot smokers do.

Incinerated and inhaled marijuana, like tobacco contains a toxic combination of gases and other chemicals that can be injurious to the lungs and respiratory system.26 The most recent reviews of habitual incinerated marijuana inhalation have concluded that it increases cough, sputum production, upper lung emphysematous changes, chronic bronchitis, and large airway inflammation.27-29 Whether or not pot smoking initiates or promotes lung cancer has remained controversial4, 27, 28 partially because few adequately powered (statistically), prospective epidemiological studies have ever been conducted. Recently, just such a study has been published in which “heavy” marijuana smokers (lifetime use of more than 50 joints) were followed for a 40 year period.30 The results of the study showed a more than twofold risk of developing lung cancer even after statistical adjustment for tobacco and alcohol use.

Cardiovascular function

In healthy, young adults the risk for fatal or serious health threatening events from cardiovascular disease (CVD) is low to non-existent, yet the medical literature reveals case study after case study of young marijuana smokers showing increased morbidity (disease incidence) from CVD and even fatal CVD events attributable to marijuana use.31-38 Older pot smokers are also at an increased risk for CVD events including myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), sudden cardiac death, cardiomyopathy, stroke, transient ischemic attack, atrial fibrillation and arteritis.4, 39-41

Sports and athletic function

If you aspire to be a national or international caliber athlete, smoking pot is definitely something you don’t want to do. Whether you are an Olympic, professional or college level athlete, you can be randomly tested for illicit drug use including marijuana. Testing positive can potentially ruin your athletic career from the sport’s regulatory bodies and/or legal fallout. Marijuana has been on the International Olympic Committee’s list of prohibited drugs since 1989.

More importantly, acute marijuana use reduces maximal exercise test duration and increases sub-maximal exercise heart rates.4, 42 Both of these changes will impair acute aerobic exercise performance. The available evidence43 suggests that habitual dope smoking will impair exercise training, which in turn will impair performance on race day.

Immune function

A recent paper44 which compiled the results of 122 studies and 446 references concluded that, “endocannabinoids (the body’s naturally produced cannabinoids) enhanced immune response, whereas exogenous cannabinoids (marijuana) had immune-suppressant effects.” It has been previously suggested that immune system impairment by marijuana use may increase infectious disease susceptibility.45 Taken together, this information suggests that habitual pot smoking likely increases the incidence of the common cold and its severity in a manner similar to smoking tobacco.46 For athletes, the greater the incidence and severity of the common cold, the greater your training intensity will be reduced, which in turn will reduce your performance on race day.47

Dental and Oral Health

Habitual dope smokers are apt to have an increased prevalence of dental caries, oral infections, periodontal disease, mouth dryness, leukodemia (blue, grey or white appearance on the mouth’s inside cheeks) and an increased prevalence of the fungus Candida albicans than non-smokers.4, 48, 49 To say nothing of their foul breath.


If you are pregnant or nursing and regularly smoke pot, whether you know it or not, your unborn fetus or dependent nursing infant is also getting high with you, even if you are not high when you nurse. As a regular marijuana smoker, the primary psychoactive ingredient in pot (THC) does not simply exit your body like alcohol after a few hours or a few days, but remains in your system for 10-30 days because it is stored in your body fat.4 This fact allows potential employers to screen your urine for past marijuana use, and furnishes your baby/fetus with THC whether or not you are acutely smoking pot or not. OK – no big deal, you are unemployed and your urine will not be screened. What about your baby? Do you want this beautiful boy or girl to also participate in your marijuana addiction?

A recent and comprehensive review of marijuana, the pregnant woman and her child has this to say, “Current evidence indicates that cannabis use both during pregnancy and lactation, may adversely affect neurodevelopment, especially during periods of critical brain growth both in the developing fetal brain and during adolescent maturation, with impacts on neuropsychiatric, behavioural and executive functioning. These reported effects may influence future adult productivity and lifetime outcomes.50

Perhaps just as important as neurodevelopment is the risk pot smoking places upon a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Marijuana use, even for a short period during pregnancy, increases the risk of adverse birth outcomes including low birth weight, pre-term labor, small gestational age, stillbirth and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.51-54


As a couple, whether you realize it or not, your chances of achieving successful fertilization, a normal pregnancy and a healthy infant are dependent not just upon the mother’s health but also upon the father’s. If Mom is a chronic marijuana smoker her chances of a healthy conception are reduced because THC disrupts the normal menstrual cycle, suppresses oogenesis (egg development) and impairs embryo implantation and development.55, 56 But remember the woman is only one half of the fertility equation, and regular pot smoking by the father is just as risky for conception. THC reduces sperm count and motility, increases ejaculation problems, produces a loss of libido and thereby increasing the risk for impotence.55-57

Educational achievement

It’s bad enough to know that your dope smoking as young parents may have prevented successful conceptions, normal pregnancies and healthy infants, but it adds insult to injury (if you live long enough) to think that your pot addiction during your child’s formative and adolescent years may contribute to their own marijuana/drug addictions. An increasing body of scientific literature indicates that chronic marijuana exposure during the youth and adolescent formative years are related to a range of adverse outcomes in later life, including poorer educational achievement, lower income, unemployment, greater welfare dependence, and reduced life satisfaction (59-63).

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis

Unless you have a medical background, most of you have never heard of the word, hyperemesis, much less cannabinoid hyperemesis. This isn’t surprising as the condition was first described in the medical literature in 2004.64 This illness is characterized by cyclical vomiting without other identifiable causes in chronic marijuana users.65-68 Patients with cannabinoid hyperemesis are unresponsive to conventional anti-vomiting drugs and report that compulsive hot baths and showers represent the only reliable treatment to improve symptoms.66-68 Nevertheless, an obvious cure exists – abstinence. When marijuana use resumes, the condition may recur.4


I will repeat myself from a passage earlier in this essay. “So, you be the judge, and let the data speak for itself. In the final analysis, you (the learned reader) must decide the ultimate route that you will take for your health and well being and that of your family.”


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


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About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“38” Comments

  1. REEFER MADNESS 2016 More Lies

    Genesis 1:29
    I’ll never take another harmaceutical drug.
    God’s Word never changed
    I replaced all harmaceutical drugs with cannabis. All my numbers are within normal range.
    The government owns the patent on cannabis as a neuroprotectant. It cures cancer and stops seizures. Any doctor that says otherwise is a LIAR.

  2. Yet another hit piece on the cannabis plant from someone who has never even tried it. I give this type of information about as much credence as those who claim to be an expert on what is known as “psychedelic” drugs who have never tripped in their lives. Only the uneducated and ignorant will buy this.

  3. It is offensive to see the Grateful Dead quotes in the title of another science lacking reefer madness hatchet piece. If the good doctor was half a condemning of the deaths, suicides, and other dangers of psychotropic drugs that are dispensed all across our society – even to children and pets – there might be more inclination for people like myself who have worked with thousands of casual and medical cannabis users. Psychotropic drugs is a story of big money. These drugs fuel a $330-billion psychiatric industry, without a single cure — and now kill an estimated 36,000 people every year, with the death toll still rising. How many deaths can be directly attributed to cannabis use? It does not matter, does it? Follow the money, Honey.As for me, I intend to keep on truckin’ with my cannabis usage. Over 40 years and counting.

    • Additionally, those advancing the Paleo diet ignore the inconvenient truth that animal husbandry (35 billion land animals slaughtered annually) is responsible for more than half the emissions responsible for climate change. Therefore such a diet is virtually not sustainable for any more than a small portion of the human population.

  4. I was looking for paleo info concerning the oils from the plant, as to biological and physiological effects ( like when we talk about coconut oil ). The idea that psychology would be discussed on this site strikes me as odd, so it should be said that the extracts have helped to increase positive affect while effectively transitioning to a paleo and fitness lifestyle. Dabbing, which is heating extracts, has been essential in having a clean delivery method, as well as the ingestion of extracts mixed with healthy oil. I have lost over 100lbs last year and part of that is that I am aware of the properties and temperatures of oils I am consuming, whether nutritionally, medically, or recreationally.

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  9. Finally, someone with the scientific knowledge and willingness to show the detrimental effects of Marijuana! Living in WA State and appalled at the legalization of Pot, my husband and I are rare creatures who also were children of the 60’s, 70’s and never used drugs. We are tired of hearing the diatribes of those who insist on espousing the merits of Pot.

  10. Thank you Dr Cordain for such an informative and well-written article. Five years ago when my son (than age 23) had the first ‘episode’ of psychosis (literally overnight) and admitted to my husband and me he was smoking pot but felt it was “harmless” “just a herb” I knew there must be a connection. A beautiful 6’4″ healthy (never before had any mental health issues) with many successes in life does not just lose his mind. We finally got our son to a psych unit which I deeply regret now and he was locked away for 10 terrifying days. Despite family and multiples of his friends came nightly to support him, our son was given egregious amounts of neuroleptics (antipsychotics) for psychosis while testing (+) for THC though the psychotropics did nothing to abate his psychosis, made it worse imo. The out-patient psychiatrist insisted our son had bipolar one (manic-depression) despite no family member on either lines has had any severe MI. None of us have been around anyone in the throes of psychosis and may I assure every reader it is a terrifying experience for both the person and the ones around. Thankfully, my son’s psychosis did abate, 10 weeks later he was completely back to “normal”. But the story doesn’t end there. My son was just newly married and unbeknownst to my family, pot was a part of their social circle. Even though we got our son counseling from a psychologist (he stopped seeing the psychiatrist who charged $250/session took no insurance once he stopped the antipsychotics and was completely healthy again) the addictiveness of today’s pot on some young,developing brains is very true. My son returned to using and 18 months after the first ‘episode’ of psychosis, had a 2nd break. And no psychiatrist in 2009 would even consider the hundreds of scientific papers linking cannabis and psychosis (just google PubMed) and despite me, the mother, waving all these studies at these so-called “experts” not one MD would consider THC is what triggered my son’s psychosis. Sadly, I was completely naive about the morphology of the cannabis plant from its origin nor did I know that later in 2012 with the research that the Netherlands changed their laws that the maximum THC sold in their pot cafes has to be 15% THC potency has addictive qualities on par with heroin and cocaine. So, I understand why my son unfortunately gravitated back to using this drug. The end of this story is as tragic as it gets. Despite we got our son to a psych hospital for drug rehab (once we realized he had relapsed back to using pot) but the hosp coerced him into their locked unit and despite we paid $12,500 on our credit card (+ my son’s PPO ins) he never got a second of drug rehab. The facility drugged him mercilessly with multiple neuroleptics (actually enough to have killed him according the expert psychiatrist who we paid to review my son’s medical records) which again did nothing to lessen his psychosis. This time he was kept 13 days against his will (without a mandatory hearing in CA when held >72 hrs) all the while the admitting psychiatrist lied to me that my son was going to be moved to the drug rehab unit- only to be released so far worse than how he was admitted only because the insurance refused to pay for another day of “treatment”. This is absolutely a true story. My son was taken off all neuroleptics at the first out-patient appt with the same psychiatrist who treated him at this hospital (despite he was still in psychosis). And once again my son’s toxicology report in that hospital was (+) for THC yet the psychiatrist DENIED that THC can trigger psychosis!!!! Even again with me, the mom, referencing the hundreds of articles on this topic in May ’11. My son’s life crumbled after he was discharged- his wife left him for another man, his friends repelled because seeing someone in psychosis twice is actually quite frightening, and he lost his job as a Certified Residential Electrician. My son did thankfully emerge back to “normal” after 10 weeks again in full psychosis, living at home with his parents after his wife left during the last hospitalization. My son (with the blessings of two psychologists working with our son and his family) did move 5 hours away near Yosemite to live closer to nature “to heal” and “to start anew” successfully attending AA in that area. My son got almost weekly weekend visits from his father and I insisted he come down for Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays which he did. We knew our son’s life had been completely upended but he seemed to be progressing. Never could I fathom – nor anyone who knew my son because my son was always was a bigger-than-life, fun-loving, charismatic, gregarious individual- that he would take his life 12 days after we were with him over New Years (we went up to be him to be sure he wasn’t alone for his first holiday without his wife and friends). We very much enjoyed our New Years together and my son had his beloved dog with him in the mountains. Never did our son threaten to harm himself or share he was having suicidal ideations, but the research about cessation from marijuana is clear. The recent Lancet medical journal, Oct 2014 states there is a 7 fold increase in suicide attempts for those ages 17-30 who were studied over many years who use marijuana. Please don’t dare tell me this drug is “benign” and of no consequence. My son tragically died from his naivety that today’s genetically altered strains of super high THC are wrecking havoc on the minds of young people. Yes cessation as Dr Cordain so accurately writes includes DEPRESSION. And so very tragicaly, my son’s depression was a suicidal depression which he hid from unless until the day I felt my first-born son die. And his toxicology report was (-) for any substance upon his death. I have since learned the highest rate of suicide is 6 months after cessation from marijuana (my son was in his 7th month when he took his precious life devastating his family).

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  12. For 16 yrs, I was on extremely high prescribed daily dosages of morphine & other opiates after serious spinal trauma. I now know that the oxycontin, morphine sulphate & methadone that I was prescribed were potentially lethal doses. I ran across numerous recent studies, many from prestigious mainstream medical associations, stating various uses of medical cannabis.
    One of the studies caught my eye, regarding how many of the substances in cannabis actually work well along with opiate medications for pain relief and allow for lower doses of pain medication, with more pain relief and helps with withdrawl symptoms.
    I had been wanting and trying to wean off of my pain medication for yrs, and had many, many unsuccessful attempts, ending with too much withdrawl pain.
    So I embarked on my own self-directed implementation of using marijuana in very modest amounts 2 or 3 days per week to allow for weaning down of my pain meds. In my home state, the medical community dissapproved and was punitive, in spite of the spiraling rate of deaths from prescribed pain meds. But I figured it was my liver, kidneys and life I wanted to save, I persevered.
    As I was on mega doses of morphine, plus was on hydrocodone for breakthru pain, it took a couple of yrs, but was successful in weaning completely off all prescribed pain medications. I never did smoke cannabis daily, but it helped to gradually get me off prescribed narcotics. No thanks to my dr or the medical community in my state.
    Now it’s only a maintenance dose of cannabis 2 or 3 times a week when I plan to stay home & not drive anywhere. And my pain levels are now tolerable. The cannabis seems to help me forget that I have pain. Show me a pharma drug that can do that without killing your liver, kidneys and other organs or have few side effects.
    Thank you, mother nature.

    • I am so glad you found a way to wean off those opiates, Bob. There are many, many people who benefit from a medicinal use of cannabis in order to stay off things that are far more damaging. My husband was sent to a sleep clinic because he was always feeling like he had not slept even though he was getting enough hours. The sleep doctor was stunned to see the results: His REM cycles were almost non-existent which would account for the lack of rejuvenation he felt each morning. Now, he takes a couple of puffs at night and sleeps soundly and wakes up refreshed. If the good doctor has anything better to offer, I would like to know what it is.

    • Thank you …..I was about to adopt the Paleo diet but having just read through the very biased “scientific” article on cannabis, hemp, pot…suit you self I am once again dumbfounded by the medical profession’s utter denial of the benefits of correctly administered cannabis
      Ooooooh yes I forgot….not as expensive as the lethal drugs you prescribe daily. I am a cancer survivor….and a pain survivor…..broken neck and pelvis. After four years of a small daily dose of pot tea….I am cancer and pretty much pain free….and cognitive functioning on the pot that is going to turn me into the village idiot ..I am on my third PhD. ….just for fun. Food I know little about accept that I seem to thrive on a diet of veg, dairy, eggs and beans so I was about to be taken in…until I read this…what a complete “feed” for the gullible LOL

  13. Using “junk science” to support a point of view does a disservice to yourself and your readers. Anyone who does even minimal research into your claims and the supported “studies” can quickly realize the bias and poor research practices used in support of your “reefer madness.”

    I have to wonder what is your motivation? Obviously, it is not accurately educating the public on this topic.

    There is value in your writings…just not when it comes to marijuana and health.

    Epic fail.

  14. Making space cake is the obvious solution for a lot of problems associated with smoking cannabis. There are tons of paleo proof cake recipes available and I can personally recommend using extra virgin coconut oil as a base for THC absorption. As with everything moderation is key. But edibles is definitely where it’s at cannabis wise.
    People should be free to ingest whatever they want!

  15. Where in this article does it ever directly talk about habitual marijuana use and the paleo diet. I see it goes on and on about the negative effects and “you make a judgement” but the author does not put their own 2cents in. I feel that the question could have been addressed a lot more properly instead of bashing marijuana with biased reasearch.

  16. This article is biased, and mostly opinions. Half of these things are not true whatsoever. Anyone can create a study and get whatever answer they want from it just based off the way they word it and control the study. This is a lot of bullshit and a lot of this is not based off fact. Marijuana has been around longer than human beings and has been used as ancient medicine for thousands of years.

  17. Sorry, I disagree with anyone who states that this is a legitimate study! Do your own research because this study is not reliable and in my opinion was written with bias. This is 2014 and there has been a lot of recent and extensive research in Israel, the UK, and all over the world to be honest. Don’t follow blindly!

  18. Pingback: Habitual Marijuana Use and the Paleo Diet: What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been. | The Paleo Diet Recipe Book - New Paleo Cookbook


    If you aspire to be a national or international caliber athlete, smoking pot is definitely something you don’t want to do. Whether you are an Olympic, professional or college level athlete,——-

    More importantly, acute marijuana use reduces maximal exercise test duration and increases sub-maximal exercise heart rates.4, 42 Both of these changes will impair acute aerobic exercise performance. The available evidence43 suggests that habitual dope smoking will impair exercise training, which in turn will impair performance on race day.”

    Two words: Michael Phelps…

  20. Dr. Cordain,

    I would like to know if you have the same kind of research or hard data comparison for lifespan on marijuana exclusively smokers?.

    Can marijuana be one of the solutions to help deal with the diseases developed by the “agricultural industrial age diet” and ease up the conversion back to the “paleo diet”?.




  21. I have been smoking since 1979. Now at 49 I am still feeling great healthy weight blood pressure and blood oxygen levels. I stay active every day and train for cross country track with my son. Legalize it and make it available for medical and psychological uses. Rather have this than add med any day.

  22. This is a joke. Obviously it is harmful to inhale anything other than oxygen, but my Native American ancestors smoked marijuana and lived healthy lives. Regardless of science, your body is a machine and can take the beating that a bit of recreational use may cause. If you stay active and do not smoke an ounce a week alone, then you will be okay. You will never live much beyond 100yrs anyway, regardless of your health habits. Marijuana is not nearly as bad as the chemicals that are being sprayed in the sky above us everyday, marijuana is not nearly as bad as the chemicals in the masses of non-organic food. Don’t go through life not living to the fullest extent.

    Only you can make the call for yourself.

  23. I am interested in learning more as my daughter has severe accute chronic panreatitis since the age of 16 about the time she started smoking pot and from what her friends told me at the time she was a heavy users and still is to this day she is now 41. I would like to ask you more she certainly has a lot of symptoms you have outlined in the above information. Please could you contact me so I may gain more information on this subject as I came upon this article purely by accident or maybe it was meant to be. Thanks

  24. I vaporize my cannabis (1/2 a teaspoon) or ingest 1 drop of oil a day for my insomnia. Works great.
    Are there any side affects when a person quits altogether and how long does it take to clear out of the body?
    Thanks for an informative article.

  25. Lance,

    I’m glad this piece led you to reflect on your own habits. With so much scientific research pointing to the many adverse effects, the majority of the population simply may not be aware of the consequences of recreational marijuana use.


    Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

    • This is avery impressively researched presentation on the effects of marijuana usage . I would hope it will be available to health educators as an invaluable resource to raise awareness of negative impacts of pot usage . Some comments my son has mentioned to me,he recently stopped frequent usage , were ” I can do mental math better “and “I can remember better” There is nothing harmless about this drug . It must be controlled and if legalizing it is the means to achieving this ,as with alcohol , it could at least initiate some measure of change . As often the ‘sins of the father ‘ affect the child ,the pot generation of the 60’s and 70’s bears the shame of setting the example of this negative drug usage . I will certainly refer my colleagues to this site .

      • It really gets old hearing from marijuana advocates that lambast any research that doesn’t endorse their marijuana smoking.

        Since actual research shows that the more frequent the use of marijuana, the lower that individual’s perception of harm from marijuana will be, that makes sense. In other words their objectivity is not to be trusted. But criticizing the high quality studies referenced by Cordain is ridiculous. Admonitions like “do your own research” to find out the truth is absurd. The point of science-based research is to choose medications that are safe and efficacious, that are long term (in order to provide for reports of adverse events), that are current, of adequate size, and quality. Study participants are not experienced marijuana smokers, which is often true of much of the pro-marijuana research. Marijuana actually has a higher mortality rate than alcohol or cocaine. There is no such thing as “medical marijuana”, that is there is not a particular type of marijuana used for medicinal purposes, let alone for a specific, proven medical purpose per Bertha Madras, Harvard expert on psychoactive, therapeutic drugs, neurobiology, brain imaging, addictions, analysis of study design, and validity of scientific data.

        Some of these naysayers might do well to read research from an individual who is not only highly qualified, like Dr Madras, but has zero conflict of interest.

        • The fact that you can confidently state that Marijuana use has a higher mortality rate than alcohol or cocaine, as if it is some Holy Grail fact that people are actually unbeknownst to, is a clear indicator of the amounts of misinformation that people allow to spew from their opinionatedly righteous lips these days.

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