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Health effects of consumption of medical marijuana

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Medical marijuana
Medical marijuana: a healthy alternative medicine or a dangerous drug? Image via social media.
Medical marijuana
Medical marijuana: a healthy alternative medicine or a dangerous drug? Image via social media.

Medical marijuana health effects: The case for legalization. Cases it is used for, case for adverse effect and is it a medical herb or a dangerous drug? 

The idea of marijuana as an illicit drug is beginning to go up in smoke. 31 states and Washington, DC have legalized use of the marijuana plant for medical purposes with varying restrictions. In 9 states and Washington, DC, recreational use of marijuana is legal.

But while the laws are changing, the debate over legalized cannabis continues. Some advocate its use and claim that it’s as safe as coffee. Others say that its benefits are overestimated, and it can be harmful. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Let’s see.

marijuana
marijuana chemical breakdown.

Key Chemicals

Medical marijuana is a plant-based medicine derived from Cannabis sativa. It contains at least 113 different cannabinoids. The two of them are considered to have a healing effect. Both are created in the process of smoking or vaporizing cannabis.

  • THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. When you smoke or vape the plant, THC quickly passes the way from the lungs into the bloodstream and then directly into the brain. It affects the brain area that influences pleasure, causing the user to experience a euphoric “high”.
  • CBD (cannabidiol) is another active chemical that provides users with medical benefits without getting them high.

What medical conditions is marijuana used for?

Thanks to the above mentioned ‘miracle’ compounds, medical cannabis may help to relieve the symptoms of and treat a whole bunch of illnesses and conditions:

  • Chronic pain
  • Diseases that affect the immune system, including HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Eating disorders
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Wasting syndrome (cachexia) inflammation
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Muscle spasms
  • Alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Mental disorders, including depression and social anxiety
  • Epilepsy.

It’s interesting that the power of cannabinoids is not an undeniable scientific fact. So far, cannabis use is proven to be helpful in chronic pain management, decreasing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and relieving spasticity (stiff or tight muscles) due to Multiple sclerosis. Recent research found that it significantly reduces premature deaths from conditions like diabetes and cancer.

In spite of this evidence, the FDA hasn’t yet recognized marijuana as a safe and effective method of treatment of any health condition, except for some types of epilepsy.

Medical Marijuana
Enjoying a spliff….

How to Use Marijuana for the Best Result?

There are two common ways to consume cannabis: smoking or vaping and eating.

Smoking or Vaping. These two similar ways provide the fastest results. Patients who would like to vape cannabis will need helpful marijuana vaporizers (the full details). The most popular forms of cannabis for this method are dry herbs/flowers, oil, shatter, and wax extracts.

The bloodstream brings the cannabinoids to the brain so fast that one may feel high after a few minutes or even seconds. The effect lasts from 1 to 4 hours. Common cannabis smoking methods include rolling a joint and using a pipe (a bong).

Vaping is safer than smoking and here’s why. When the plant is burnt, toxic chemicals, including carcinogens, are created. So, a smoker inhales them together with good active compounds.

The lack of combustion makes vaping a safer option as patients won’t be inhaling the toxic materials produced. If a patient uses a dry herb vape pen, they inhale vapor rich in cannabinoids, not smoke containing undesired chemicals.

Eating or drinking. Everyone who comes to dispensary the first time is amazed by the wide choice of marijuana edibles. A buyer can choose from brownies, cookies, chews, chocolates, lollipops, mints, and truffles. As for the drinks, smoothies, colas, juices, coffees, and teas are available.

This method is the best option for non-smokers. The major disadvantage is that it takes from half an hour to 2 hours for a user to feel high. However, the effect will be longer than in case of smoking or vaping – up to 8 hours.

Can medical marijuana be harmful?

Before you rush to buy a marijuana vape pen or some edibles for your treatment needs, have a look at the opposite side of the coin.

Just like there is not much evidence that cannabis has a healing effect, there’s no reliable proof that it can lead to health problems. Nevertheless, the lack of knowledge doesn’t allow us to claim that the plant is totally safe.

You should be aware of the possible side effects:

  • A low dose of marijuana is unlikely to cause side effects. Some experience dry mouth and fatigue.
  • Dizziness and mood swings may follow higher doses consumption.
  • Heavy pot smoking is known to cause temporary hallucinations and paranoia. Other by-effects include bloodshot eyes, fast heartbeat, low blood pressure, higher risk of heart attack (within an hour after smoking), and anxiety.
  • Using marijuana can impair your judgment, concentration, and coordination and slow your reaction time. It’s recommended that you don’t drive for 4 hours after inhalation and 6 hours after oral ingestion.

Is medical marijuana addictive? This is a commonly asked question. A few studies showed that patients who stuck to recommended low doses didn’t develop an addiction. When they stopped smoking, they didn’t feel the withdrawal symptoms like tobacco smokers. Those who abuse marijuana may find it tough to curb or stop it.

So, is medical marijuana a healing herb or a dangerous drug?

From one side, there’s evidence that demonstrates the healing properties of cannabis. From the other hand, there’re reports about its adverse effects. Anyway, scientists and medics still lack knowledge of its impact.

The tension is rising as marijuana legalization movement is picking up pace around the world. Substantial research has to be done in order to define the public health consequences of cannabis use completely. But that’s not that easy.

Marijuana is labeled as a Schedule I drug. Thus, the study of marijuana use is deterred by strict guidelines.

If medical marijuana is legalized in your state, and you discuss a possibility of using it as treatment with your doctor, weigh all the pros and cons. The benefits should always outweigh the risks.