Did you know that marijuana is the most popular illicit drug across the globe? The drug, which has been legalized for recreational use across Canada for almost a year, has wide-ranging effects on your body.
Statistics Canada data for Q2 2019 shows that cannabis use across all provinces in Canada remains steady, with provinces ranging between 10-24% of the population using cannabis in the last 3 months.
The drug is also popular with high school students. In a 2018 study, 18% of high school students in Cannabis admitted to having used cannabis at least once in the last ear. The number of school-age children who believed that the consumption of cannabis is risky more than halved in the past 20 years.
The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health in the US is a good point when it comes to cannabis statistics. The survey shows that 19.8% of people who used cannabis, said they had used cannabis within the last month from when the survey was conducted.
There are so many ways of consuming cannabis, from inhalation and smoking to edibles, beverages and vaping. Some people use cannabis for medical reasons. This is because weed is well known for its medical benefits, including relief of symptoms of chronic pain, inflammation, and treatment of some conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and others. Medical marijuana can be used in a wholesome matter, although some people prefer working with some of the plant’s therapeutic ingredients, like CBD.
It’s important to note that medical marijuana isn’t regulated by governments. Its potency and ingredients are not public information.
Fast facts on marijuana
THC, or 9-tetrahydrocannabidiol provides the psychoactive elements of cannabis. The marijuana plant contains more than 120 compounds. Recreational marijuana brings a range of effects, including increased appetite, low blood pressure, lightheadedness and a feeling of relaxation.
What is marijuana
This substance is derived from the dried leaves, flowers, seeds, and it is the stem of the hemp plant, also known as cannabis Sativa. Marijuana has been used by humans for hundreds of years. They used it for different purposes, including recreation. Other uses were extraction of seed oils, seeds, fibre and for medical purposes.
According to research, some of the compounds found in the marijuana plant, including CBD, could be used to relieve chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, and chronic conditions. However, it’s important to note that CBD is just one of the 120 compounds found in the plant. The other compounds could have adverse effects on humans.
For instance, the main component of the cannabis plant is THC, a psychoactive compound that acts on your brain receptors. Its effects can include mood swings, suicidal thoughts, disruption of normal learning abilities, addiction and memory issues. THC is also known to stimulate appetite, to alter the senses of smell, sight, and hearing, fatigue and to make you feel more relaxed. In some humans, it reduces aggression.
The effects of the more than 120 compounds in the plant are largely unknown. Only those of THC are well known and documented by now.
When you smoke weed, THC is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream and reaches the brain within minutes. When we instead eat cannabis cookies, the body takes time to absorb the THC, prolonging the absorption process by up to 2 hours. This also extends the time that the effects will linger in your body.
THC (along with others) has similarities with cannabinoids that are produced by the human body. They act as neurotransmitters, sending different chemicals to the nerve system for communication. The transmitters affect parts of the brain that are involved in the movement, coordination, thinking, memory, concentration, sensory, time perception as well as pleasure.
Some studies have shown that THC affects parts of the brain that control memory creation and attention. It also has adverse effects on coordination, reaction time, posture and balance. With all these side effects, a person who uses marijuana shouldn’t be driving a vehicle, operating any machinery or engaging in any kind of rigorous sport or physical activities.
THC also acts on a specific neurotransmitter called dopamine. It controls the feeling of pleasure. That’s why people use marijuana to feel high, giddy or relaxed. It simultaneously affects our sensory perception, making colors seem brighter, music to be more vivid, and experiences to be more profound. In some people, it triggers the feeling of paranoia.
- People who consume Cannabis for recreational purposes can experience effects such as
- A change in perception as the hallucinogenic effect alters the perception of time and space.
- Mood swings that lead to euphoria, feelings of greatness and high energy.
- Impaired memory and concentration.
- High heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Fast breathing
- Reduced psychomotor coordination
- High appetite
Even after months of use, traces of THV can still be detected in a person’s urine a few months after they stopped using it.
Below are some of the negative effects of consuming cannabis as suggested by various studies.
- Impaired judgment. According to a study in the BMJ, a person is more likely to crash their car if they drive it within three hours of consuming weed.
- Reproductive issues. The review of animal studies showed that weed consumption leads to sexual dysfunction.
- Immune system issues. One study found out that consuming weed suppresses our immune system, making our bodies more susceptible to cancer and other infections.
- Psychosis. According to research conducted on siblings, weed consumption leads to psychosis in young adults.
- Risk of gum disease. One study found a relationship between smoking weed and gum disease. It showed that weed smokers could end up have gum disease regardless of whether they also smoked tobacco.
- Reduced brain function. According to researchers, regular weed smokers who started smoking before they were 15 years old performed dismally in brain tests, compared to those who started smoking cannabis later in life.
- Acute memory loss. One British study suggests that weed smokers, especially those who consume potent strains like Skunk, experienced memory loss.
- Change in human DNA. Another British study found out that weed consumption alters a human’s DNA to the extent that they remain susceptible to the risk of getting cancer.
- Testicular cancer. According to a 2015 study on three meta-analysis studies, long term use of marijuana increases the risk of testicular cancer. More studies are needed to prove this.
Like any other pain reliever, cannabis can lead to addiction. When you consume cannabis, it stimulates the neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoids. Overstimulation of these receptors id what causes cannabis dependency and addiction.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse study shows that cannabis users who start consuming it at an early age tend to get addicted faster than those who start later on.
Contrary to popular belief, you can abruptly withdraw from cannabis. The process itself could be uncomfortable but the good news is that it’s not life-threatening at all.
Withdrawal starts from the second day after you stop consuming cannabis. The withdrawal phase could persist for weeks and its symptoms include decreased appetite, irritability, insomnia, stomach pains, and anxiety. There are no documented long-term effects of cannabis use. It’s, however, important to note that every person is impacted in a different way.
In the US, drugs that do not have the approval of the FDA, or those that lack a legal status are not considered to be safe. These include K2 and Spice, which have some components of the marijuana plant but are not marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are untested and unsafe. They could turn out to be a health hazard, or in extreme cases, deadly.
Cannabis and related products are legal across Canada, with edibles being allowed very soon. It’s extremely important to check which cannabis products, and its derivatives, are legal in your province before making your first purchase.
For a long time, researchers have been experimenting with cannabis in order to prove if it has any medical benefits. According to various studies, cannabis has proven to reduce the symptoms of substance dependence and withdrawal, pain, autoimmune disease, psychotic disorders, seizure disorders, inflammation, and many more conditions.
CBD in medicine
Cannabidiol, one of the nonpsychoactive compounds found in the marijuana plant, has been widely tested for medicinal purposes.
In 2018, the FDA in the US allowed the use of CBD to treat two types of epilepsy which were not responding we to conventional medicine. This came after the FDA conducted lengthy research and clinical trials on CBD. Epidiolex, the resultant drug, is a purified CBD that doesn’t have any THC.
There’s a host of cannabis users who believe that the drug could help treat the pain and inflammation that comes with fibromyalgia and arthritis. Others believe it’s an ideal treatment for anxiety and depression.
CBD in medication
According to some studies, CBD effectively treats nausea and vomiting, only that it has adverse effects that could limit its use.
Its antiemetic qualities make it ideal for people undergoing chemotherapy or other treatment therapies which have nausea as a side effect. It could also be helpful in treating the symptoms of inflammation, muscle control, anxiety, and pain, although there’s no drug that has been approved for this. That said, more research needs to be conducted to ascertain the drugs side-effects, safety, and effectiveness.
Furthermore, some clinical trials show that the drug has pain-relieving qualities and could be used to treat headache pain. Given that cannabis has proven to have lots of benefits, it won’t be a surprise to see the FDA approving more cannabis-derived drugs over time. Other than Epidiolex, three other drugs have been approved by the FDA to treat anorexia. These are Marinol, Cesanet, and Syndrome. They all have synthetic materials that ape the structure of THC.
Other researchers see marijuana extracts as a perfect drug for killing cancer cells. They are looking at ways the drug can be used alongside radiation therapy to treat cancer. However, a July 2018 study failed to find any evidence that cannabis relieves pain for cancer patients. According to results, the drug was used illegally and no specific cannabinoids were tested.