Most people that are regular users of the herb cite feelings of being one with the universe, an increased hunger for junk food and happy thoughts. Seriously, have you ever met someone that’s sad and unhappy while they’re high? If so, it’s not a frequent occurrence. Most marijuana users see it as therapeutic, a way to put their feelings and emotions in a positive light. But can 158 million people really be so wrong?

According to a July 14th study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, smoking ganja leads to increased feelings of depression and anxiety. Testing on 24 regular cannabis users was performed using brain imaging and personality quizzes and compared to people who take methylphenidate, also commonly prescribed as Ritalin. Researchers came to the conclusion that herb smokers have slower cardiovascular, brain and behavioral responses than those that take Ritalin and have increased levels of negative emotions.

Ritalin is often used to treat sleep disorders like narcolepsy and ADHD in hyperactive children, as it raises the levels of the “feel good” chemical our brains naturally make – dopamine. Put simply, it’s a chemical whose function is to help vital aspects of our life like sleep, mood and motivation; without dopamine, diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s run rampant through our lives. People with chronic health issues – both mental and physical – often turn to marijuana as a way to control their symptoms without the use of harmful synthetic chemicals.

Most marijuana users will agree that they feel better after smoking, and even after coming down from their natural high – not worse. This study has provided the media with plenty of fuel for their “war on drugs” rhetoric that plays out on tv, radio and print day in and day out. As more states are pushing for legalization, there has to be a backlash from the staunch opposition, right? Otherwise, the war on drugs would be null and void. Read the original story here, and make your own decision.

— Mary Akers