Cannabis and Health
According to the American National Institute of Health, cannabis has been used for over 3000 years as an effective, natural health aid for a wide array of ailments. On the other hand, there are institutions and government bodies across the globe – including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Washington, D.C. – that have not approved cannabis as safe or effective for most medical conditions.
What’s the truth about cannabis and its effects on health? Following are some of the pros and cons based on research studies and empirical evidence over the last several years.
Benefits of cannabis for health
Even among many who are anti-cannabis, they readily admit that there are some illnesses and conditions that cannabis does treat and help. Two diseases on which most agree are epilepsy and glaucoma. However, there is a long list of additional ailments, diseases, and conditions in which cannabis has been proven effective. These include:
- Chronic pain: Studies show that cannabis (and other products containing cannabinoids) is effective at relieving chronic pain, one of the leading causes of disabilities in the world.
- Alcoholism and drug addiction: While some feel that cannabis is addictive itself or that it can be a getaway drug, many studies show that using marijuana can actually help people with alcohol or hard drug dependencies to fight their addictions.
- Depression, social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder: Evidence suggests that cannabis helps treat several mental health conditions, especially those related to anxiety, stress, and depression.
- Cancer: There is also strong evidence that oral cannabinoids are effective in treating nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. In addition, there are some studies that have found cannabis to aid in slowing the spread of some cancers (such as testicular), although this is still not considered conclusive.
- Multiple sclerosis. Short-term use of oral cannabinoids is found to offer modest improvement in the symptoms of spasticity for those with multiple sclerosis.
Keep in mind that CBD – the common chemical compound found in cannabinoids that contains a minuscule amount of THC – is also known for its wide array of safe, natural and holistic health benefits. These include maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, enhancing skin care, regulating hormonal imbalances and alleviating PMS symptoms in women, promoting healthy digestion, improving sleep quality, and more.
Cons of cannabis for one’s health
Smoking cannabis may cause carcinogens. Of primary concern to the worldwide medical community, and for good reason, is that cannabis smoke – just like tobacco smoke – contains many harmful substances and carcinogens. Also, people who smoke marijuana smoke it in a different way than tobacco, which possibly poses an even greater danger to lungs: With marijuana, the user inhales the smoke deeply and holds it in, giving toxins even more contact with lung tissue. Additionally, when a person smokes a joint all the way to the end, the tar left after burning has high levels of harmful substances that are concentrated at the end of a joint.
Cannabis may be addictive. Although there is evidence that cannabis does help fight certain addictions, there are also studies that show frequent use, especially for those who begin at a young age, are at increased risk of developing a problem with marijuana dependency down the road.
Cannabis may be a gateway drug. Even though numerous studies show contrary evidence, there are many people — including some addiction experts — that feel cannabis use leads to the use of harder drugs. One argument along these lines is that cannabis itself is getting much stronger. For example, cannabis in the 60’s and 70’s typically had a THC level of about 1%. Today’s THC levels can exceed 30%. Cannabis may increase anxiety. While studies show that marijuana may alleviate symptoms of anxiety, there are contradictory studies that reveal regular users may actually be at increased risk of anxiety, including social anxiety.
As the legalization of cannabis continues to be debated in cities and countries across the world, there will certainly be more and more research as to its effect on health-related issues. In the meantime, it’s important to stay informed about the industry – and also do your due diligence whenever acquiring and using cannabis products.