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As marijuana has become more popular and accepted by more Americans what are some are some of the good points and potential negative side effects of the drug. Medical and recreational marijuana use is becoming increasingly permitted across the United States on the state level (and illegal use is on the rise too) as well legal in many European countries —reasearch has shown cannabis can have advantages for well-being and health, as well.
So what, precisely, are the pros and cons of weed? We evaluated recent research and talked with several experts about who might want to try it, who should avoid it, and what any cannabis user should know.
It may assist and improve your anxiety and PTSD
The relaxing and calming effects of marijuana are well understood, so it’s not shocking that 2016 paper in the journal Clinical Psychology Review noted that it might have advantages for people with social anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A recent study issued in Drug and Alcohol Dependence also discovered that a very moderate dose of THC, one of the principal compounds in marijuana, aided people in feeling less nervous about a public-speaking responsibility.
But it may not be that plain: That portion was comparable to only a few puffs on a marijuana joint, say the study authors. They also observed that slightly more significant amounts of TCH—anything that would create even a mild high—actually produced higher anxiety levels. Another analysis has also proposed that marijuana may be more detrimental than helpful for people with specific mental health conditions, like bipolar disorder or psychosis..
The research “indicates cannabinoids could be helpful for people with anxiety,” lead author Emma Childs, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, tells Health. But more study is needed, she says, to ascertain proper dosages and delivery processes, and to counter the adverse effects from happening.
It can relieve nausea and chronic pain.
Pain relief is a popular application for medical marijuana, and this year the National Academies of Sciences resolved there is indeed good evidence to support this practice. Marijuana products also seem to be capable of calming muscle spasms produced by multiple sclerosis and relieving nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, the report affirmed.
The National Academies also concluded that there is reasonable evidence that cannabis or cannabis-derived products may benefit people who have trouble sleeping due to fibromyalgia, sleep apnea, or chronic pain.
People with epilepsy may receive benefit from Marijuana —even children
In a contemporary New England Journal of Medicine examination, cannabidiol oil—a derivative of marijuana—decreased seizures by 39% in children with the Dravet syndrome, a rare kind of epilepsy. That was significant news for parents who have been practicing medical marijuana for years, unfortunately often illegally, to help their kids suffering from conditions that produce seizures.
The cannabidiol oil used in the research—which will be marketed as Epidiolex if it’s accepted by the FDA—will not produce psychedelic highs, because it doesn’t carry THC. Specialists say that results may be precarious and more random with other marijuana products.
May it be a safer option to opioids?
Despite Homeland, certain government officials claim that marijuana is “a possibly dangerous gateway drug,” studies have revealed that the use of medical marijuana may decrease the dependence on dangerous prescription painkillers like those medications fueling America’s opioid epidemic.
In a 2016 investigation published by the journal Health Affairs, the authors found that there were 1,826 less daily doses of painkillers prescribed per year, on average, in states where medical marijuana was legal compared to states it’s not. And in a study published this year in Trends in Neuroscience, researchers recorded that cannabinoids might help people recover from opioid addiction. Human trials have been restricted due to marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug within the U.S – but the authors argue that more studies are urgently needed.
It may have anti-cancer effects, but research is limited
Olivia Newton-John uses cannabidiol oil (along with conventional medicine) to fight her metastatic breast cancer, the actress’s daughter recently revealed. Investigations have shown that the oil may inhibit the growth of cancer cells outside of the human body, but there have not been any real-life trials to back up these findings.
In 2016, Gregory Gerdeman, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Eckerd College, told Time that there have also been anecdotal patient reports and “increasing numbers of accredited clinical case studies … that all indicate tumor-fighting activities of cannabinoids.” It’s nevertheless unknown, however, whether conventional forms of marijuana would be an efficacious cancer therapy, or what cancer types it might truly work against.
Parents (and expectant parents) should understand the risks
As marijuana usage grows more widespread, more pregnant women are becoming high, according to a 2016 JAMA study—either for social or recreational use or, sometimes, to treat morning sickness. But signs suggest that prenatal exposure to marijuana is linked to developmental and health problems in children, including low birth weight, memory, anemia, and impaired impulse control, and attention, the authors wrote. Until more is understood for sure, they say women who are pregnant or contemplating becoming pregnant should be “advised to desist using marijuana or other cannabinoids.”
Modern parents should also utilize marijuana with caution, University of Washington researchers suggest. Their recent study in Prevention Science discovered that people tend to cut back on marijuana use once they have kids, but they don’t always halt. That’s concerning, says the leading author and research scientist Maina Epstein, Ph.D., due to parental marijuana use being strongly related to children’s use—and children’s use is linked with higher incidences of health difficulties.
“Children watch what their mothers and fathers do,” Epstein tells Health. “I would reassure parents to be speaking with their kids and be transparent about expectations for their children about using or not using marijuana and the amount of usage, particularly with their teenagers.”
Heart problems could heighten the risk of Marijuana usage.
In 2014, a study in Forensic Science International documented what German researchers claimed to be the first known mortality directly associated with inebriation from marijuana. The authors pointed out that, through autopsies, it was determined that one of the two young men had a severe but undetected heart problem and that the other man had a history of drug and alcohol use.
The researchers decided that the absolute risk of cannabis-related cardiovascular effects is low, specifically for healthy people. But they say that individuals who are at high risk for heart-related complexities should discontinue and avoid using cannabis since it can have transient effects on the cardiovascular system.
Do Not Drive and Use Marijuana
Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that insurance claim rates for motor vehicle collisions from 2012 to 2016 were about 3% higher in states with legalized marijuana than in states without. But other studies have found no such jump in fatal car crashes in states with legalized marijuana, opposed to similar states without legalization.
Experts say it’s possible that driving under the influence of marijuana may raise the risk of minor fender benders—but may also reduce rates of alcohol consumption and hence help prevent more serious, deadly crashes. The bottom line? Driving while stoned may be less hazardous than driving drunk, but it’s still more dangerous than driving sober.
Marijuana smoke is still smoke—and still has all the health risks associated with smoke.
The Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse newly published set of “lower-risk cannabis use guidelines,” directed at supporting people who use marijuana develop responsible decisions about their health. (The drug is currently outlawed in Canada, but the country is shifting toward legalization.) Amongst other advice, the guidelines urge individuals to “avoid smoking burnt cannabis,” which can injure the lungs and respiratory system—particularly when combined with tobacco.
They recommend engaging in vaporizing usage or edibles instead, but prudence is needed for these methods also occur with some risks. And if you do smoke cannabis, the guidelines say, “avoid ‘deep inhalation’ or ‘breath-holding,’” which raise the number of toxic materials consumed by the body.
It’s not just lung-health that frequent weed smokers should be concerned about, either. A new study in the Journal of Periodontology found that frequent marijuana users were twice as likely as people who didn’t frequently use to have gum disease, even after controlling for other components such as cigarette smoke. The research didn’t differentiate between methods of marijuana use, but they do indicate that smoking is the most common form of recreational use.
For recreational users, less is safer
Canada’s new low-risk guidelines may sum it up best with this statement: “To avoid all risks, do not use cannabis. If you choose to use, you could experience immediate, as well as long-term risks to your health and well-being.” The guidelines also suggest avoiding marijuana use during puberty, because the later in life people begin using the drug, the less inclined they are to experience these problems.
Finally, the guidelines suggest adults choose natural cannabis over dangerous artificial versions and limit themselves to “sporadic use, such as on weekends or one day a week at most.” As some pointed out, making marijuana a routine habit has been linked not just to health problems, but to social problems as well.