The Pros and Cons of Cannabis UseErica Smith
People worldwide have relied on cannabis for therapeutic and leisure purposes for thousands of years. Under the Controlled Substances Act, cannabis was placed in the most restrictive category, Schedule I, in 1970, making it illegal at the federal level for the first time in the United States since the 1930s (CSA). California passed the nation’s first medical marijuana law in 1996. The first states to authorise recreational marijuana uses were Colorado and Washington in 2012.
Many states’ laws have been established since then to develop cannabis-related healthcare systems and/or legalise cannabis usage for people over the age of 21. Medical marijuana’s therapeutic potential was an early impetus for legalisation movements, combined with activists’ desire to change the racist, counterproductive drug policies that feed the U.S. prison industrial complex.
Currently, cannabis is still prohibited by federal law in the United States. However, as cannabis rules have become more permissive in a growing number of jurisdictions, more studies have been undertaken to determine whether or not cannabis has any medical benefits and to dispel any myths about the risks associated with its usage.
The Benefits of Cannabis
Many states have legalised cannabis for medicinal and recreational use; scientists have been given more leeway to investigate the plant. There is a growing interest and demand for accurate information on cannabis and its possible drawbacks and benefits. Regarding the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis, we now have more information than ever at our fingertips. The benefits of cannabis have been studied extensively, so let’s look at some of the most well-known ones.
Multiple sclerosis (M.S.), epilepsy, muscle spasms, Alzheimer’s disease, and glaucoma are some diseases where inflammation acts as a cause and symptom. It’s no secret that inflammation is one of medical cannabis’ most sought-after conditions to cure. Cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), are highly effective anti-inflammatory drugs. The benefits of CBD for inflammation were first documented in a widely-read report from 2010.
Chronic pain, in its many forms, is a leading cause of disability and disability-related loss of productivity. Many people cannot function normally due to constant, excruciating pain caused by conditions as diverse as menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, migraines, and chronic neuropathic pain. Cannabis, either topically applied or taken orally, is an effective pain reliever and an alternative to opioids and other over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that can affect organ function.
Prescription opioids raise the risk of death and disease when used temporarily or continuously. Researchers have shown a correlation between increased access to medicinal cannabis and reduced use of opioids, other medications, tobacco, and alcohol. The cannabis and cannabinoids used in the treatment of chronic pain have been supported by “substantial evidence, as per the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Nausea is a common and unpleasant side effect of numerous medical conditions and treatments, including those for motion sickness, digestive system, and cancer chemotherapy. Medical studies suggest that cannabinoids in cannabis can alleviate gastrointestinal distress and normalise metabolic functions. Additionally, cannabis interaction with brain receptors can help control nausea. For those who aren’t feeling like eating due to nausea, it can also help to stimulate their appetite.
Some studies from animal and human studies suggest that cannabinoids like CBD may be helpful in the clinical treatment of nausea and vomiting. Studies on THCA have shown that this cannabinoid may be especially useful in preventing and treating vomiting and nausea. “A more potent alternative to THC in the treatment of nausea and vomiting,” as one study put it, THCA has been shown to be. More studies are required to investigate the various cannabinoids and their therapeutic usefulness.
Meanwhile, synthetic cannabinoids like nabilone and dronabinol have been licensed by the FDA to combat the side effects of cancer treatment. Increasing hunger and weight gain in AIDS patients is another recognised use for dronabinol.
Relieves Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
Researchers at Harvard University 2010 found that cannabidiol (CBD) induces sleep and improves mood in modest dosages, hence reducing anxiety. The anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) benefits of cannabis partly rely on the strain, terpenes, and THC: CBD ratio, according to a 2018 study on the potential of cannabis to relieve anxiety.
According to the study, the psychoactive compound delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) decreased anxiety at low dosages but enhanced it at high amounts. On the other hand, CBD seems to reduce stress in everyone without the intoxication’s undesirable side effects, including psychosis. In addition, studies have indicated that pairing CBD with THC helps alleviate some of the anxious feelings brought on by the former.
A 2021 observational study looked into the anxiolytic and antidepressant benefits of cannabis and found that it “was connected with lower self-reported depression” and that “medicinal cannabis users also reported greater quality of life, sleep, and less pain on average.” Significant reductions in depression and stress were reported in patients who began using medical cannabis during the follow-up period. This effect was not seen in Controls, who never began cannabis usage.
Cannabis usage may alleviate depression and anxiety in clinical populations, while the researchers stressed the need for further placebo-controlled research to confirm these findings. Like the previous study, a 2021 systematic review found that cannabinoids in cannabis were linked to fewer post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, including despair and anxiety.
Helps to get quality sleep
CBD may be a potential treatment for insomnia, says an anecdotal statement of preliminary research. The time it takes to nod off after consuming THC may be reduced, but the quality of sleep may be better. An acute dose of cannabis appears to aid falling asleep and to increase Stage 4 sleep, as per the abstract of a clinical review published in 2008.
Two weeks of sublingual administration of a cannabinoid extract (ZTL-101) improves insomnia symptoms, is well tolerated and improves sleep quality in individuals with chronic insomnia symptoms, according to a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial exploring insomnia and medical cannabis. Similar findings were drawn from a study done in 2021, which concluded that “medicinal cannabis users perceive a considerable reduction in insomnia with cannabis use.”
The Cons of Cannabis Use
Recent studies approve what many people have suspected anecdotally for decades: cannabis has advantageous therapeutic effects and properties worth exploring. A fair and sober assessment of cannabis use and its consequences for users is essential.
Many people don’t believe that cannabis has any negative consequences because of decades of misleading assertions to the contrary. Still, it’s essential to recognise the actual drawbacks and separate them from the negative caricatures and myths that have persisted over time. Let’s look at some of the societal consequences, health risks, and legal ramifications associated with the use of cannabis.
It’s a common stereotype that those who regularly use cannabis suffer from short-term memory loss. This may be especially true for young adults whose prefrontal brain does not mature until about the age of 25. One study found that young individuals who started using cannabis before age 15 were at a higher risk of developing memory problems later in life. However, research on cannabis’s effects on cognitive function is still in its infancy.
For this reason, it’s crucial that states with legalised recreational cannabis usage set minimum wages for purchase and consumption. Patients with qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use may, however, begin treatment far earlier than this. Although THC-rich cannabis may not be available to minors, non-intoxicating cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG) are nevertheless suggested in specific conditions and should be further investigated.
A study also investigated the link between daily, regular cannabis usage and memory loss in adults in another study. The effects of abstinence on memory and other cognitive processes were temporary. For young adults aged 20–24 in Australia, “cessation of cannabis usage appears to be connected with an improvement in capacity for the memory of newly learnt knowledge,” according to the study.
Hinders Cognitive Function
“Although there is solid evidence that acute cannabis use generally impacts cognitive and motor abilities, it is less obvious whether those deficits are short-term and temporary or if they are more permanent.” It was noted in a 2012 assessment of the literature on cannabis and cognitive performance. Long-term cannabis usage may have unanticipated consequences for brain function, but this is still debatable.
The study of how cannabis affects one’s brain power is in its infancy. A paper discussing recent research in the field confirmed that cannabis’s acute effects are visible in people’s attention and information processing abilities. But, like memory and cannabis use, people’s attention and processing abilities recover roughly a month or more after they stop using the drug. In addition, the study acknowledges several ways to interpret these findings, highlighting the importance of doing additional studies.
Slight to moderate deficiencies in language learning, memory, and some executive functions, including decision-making, were connected by a 2021 meta-analysis of ten studies on cannabis and cognition. Researchers discovered that once enough time had passed without using cannabis, the effects that lingered after the first high had worn off. In terms of language and sensory-motor skills, no significant variations were seen.
The review’s authors acknowledged that a substantial proportion of the studies had inadequate sample sizes, “limiting the inference of a causal link between cannabis use, cognition and the generalizability of results.” More importantly, some of the evaluated research included children, whose still-forming brains are more vulnerable to THC than adults. More research is required to examine the cognitive effects of cannabis due to the intricacy of cognitive function and the considerable diversity in cannabis use.
Harmful to the Lungs
Any kind of smoking is harmful to the lungs. However, there is currently only limited research comparing the effects of cannabis and tobacco smoke on the lungs and their relationship to more severe diseases like lung cancer. Research suggests that smoke of cannabis affects the lungs similarly to tobacco smoke, causing symptoms like hyperinflation of the lungs and increased cough. Long-term cannabis use has been linked to respiratory issues, including chronic bronchitis.
Although studies have linked cannabis usage to lung cancer, the evidence is not conclusive. Additionally, the effects of cannabis usage on pulmonary function, in general, have not been consistently proven in the available data. In contrast to tobacco smokers, cannabis smokers take in three times as much tar and five times as much carbon monoxide. Tobacco use, especially among young people and those already at risk for cardiovascular problems (such as diabetics), may increase the likelihood of myocardial infarction, peripheral artery occlusion, and renal illness.
You can avoid this cannabis use trap if you experiment with delivery techniques other than smoking. Dispensaries for both medical and recreational use of cannabis stock edibles, topical applications, and tinctures. Such options for consumption remove the need for smokers to fret over their health.
Void of Consistency in Legal Procedure
Having marijuana goods readily available and of high quality is hampered by the drug’s federal and widespread state-level illegality. Many people may be discouraged from obtaining medical cannabis because they worry about potential social, legal, and occupational implications if caught using it. Residents of places where cannabis usage is allowed may nonetheless be disqualified from federal jobs due to their use. Patients with a medical card may be barred from engaging in certain activities, such as applying for a concealed carry permit.
The risk of ingesting mould, pesticides, heavy metals, unknown residues, or even hazardous additions like fentanyl is amplified in places where the black market is the only alternative for customers. It’s also hard to tell what kind of strain you’re getting, what type of growing methods were utilised (for example, whether or not they were organic), what type of terpene profile it has, and what CBD: THC ratio it has.
Long-Lasting societal stigma
Over the last decade, as drug policy reform has advanced in many states across the United States, the societal stigma associated with cannabis usage has diminished. The social stigma associated with cannabis usage persists, especially in countries where it is still banned for recreational and medical use. However, this stigma can be found even in countries with legal programmes.
In the past, cannabis had a negative connotation and was illegally restricted due to propaganda portraying the plant and its users negatively. It was in the early 1900s that anti-drug advocates in the United States with nationalist agendas began labelling marijuana “The Marijuana Menace,” capitalising on anti-immigrant emotions against Mexican people.
While the societal stigma around cannabis has gradually eroded over the years, it remains an obstacle for medical and recreational users. Users of cannabis, in contrast to alcoholics, are frequently pressured to conceal their habit. Inequitable treatment means that people from marginalised backgrounds are more likely to face adverse outcomes like having their children taken away, losing their jobs or from them because of their cannabis use.
Limited Scientific Support
Even though cannabis was illegal in the United States for so long and still is on a federal level, researchers have had a hard time studying its effects in proper scientific conditions. Because of this, there is a shortage of studies examining the whole range of cannabis’ effects. We will learn more about cannabis, and its effects on humans as more states legalise the drug and more research on cannabis is financed.
Results from the existing studies are encouraging for public health. Cannabidiol (CBD) has been studied for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory qualities, which may help alleviate pain and inflammation in people dealing with various medical disorders. More research on cannabinoids and their medical value, as well as clarification concerning dangers and potential disadvantages, will be encouraged by the federal legalisation of cannabis and local reform of cannabis laws.
Whether you’re considering medical or recreational cannabis use, you should thoroughly understand the pros and cons of doing so. Keep yourself in the know by keeping up with the latest research and legislation around cannabis. However, this should not replace consultation with a healthcare provider. Visit a qualified medical marijuana doctor to discuss getting a medical marijuana card if you’re considering giving medical cannabis a try.