Marijuana has received lots of attention recently with possibility of now being legalized in Canada, and I am sure a lot of you are wondering about if it is safe to use? Does it have health benefits? Are there long- term side effects of using it? A lot of you probably also may feel wrong about using it morally – so should you or should you not use marijuana?
This short article may help clear some confusion, however it does not substitute for medical advice. If you are thinking about using it, talk to your naturopathic doctor or medical doctor before using it.
Cannabis sativa (and indica) or marijuana is one of the most widely used illegal substances in Western Countries. It is also known as pot, bhang, grass, Indian Hemp, Weed, Ganja, Kif. Cannabis was first mentioned about 3000 years ago in the pharmacopoeia of the Chinese Emperor. For many years, people using it have said that after having tried all kinds of different additive and strong medications for various health issues – and the use of marijuana has helped them the most. Pharmacologically speaking – the chief ingredient is 9- tetrahydrocannabinol better known as THC, among 60 other cannabinoids is the chief active ingredient.
While there are many adverse effects associated to the abuse of the marijuana “herb” there are also some positive medical potential Based on various studies, this compound has been shown to have some beneficial effects as an antiemetic, anticonvulsive, analgesic, as well as respiratory effects of bronchial dilation, helps in the reduction of intra-ocular pressure in the eyes up to 45%, antimicrobial effects, has appetite stimulant effects and tumor inhibiting effects! With tranquilizing effects, the herb has been used to aid in the treatment of pain relief, with lowering the eye pressure in glaucoma patients and increasing the sensory functions to our bodies and environment with minimal side affects.
The assumption has been that the substance or the active ingredients are fairly harmless and safe to use, however over recent years medical officials have now determined that it may not be as harmless as previously believed. With extended use, both acute and chronic problems can develop over time leading into a psychologically addictive habit with mild withdrawal physical potential. The problem does not arise from marijuana as a plant it self, but the active constituent THC. In the recent years, there have been many new developments in how its been processed and extracted and how concentrated it is.
Some of the negative psychotropic effects observed with THC include: mood swings, lack of concentration, inability to think clearly, reduction in drive, confusion, impairment of short- term memory and perception of time. Sensory impressions become heightened and or experienced differently. Tasks become for difficult and the capacity to understand or empathize is impaired. Negative effects such as anxiety, panic and psychosis can occur. Driving ability can be disturbed for up to 8 hours after use!
As the substance is being used more commonly for recreation opposed to medicinal purposes it can create an apathetic and irresponsible attitude towards life, mainly by children or teenagers in order to achieve the ‘laid back’ sensation.
The side affects are minimal but they are still present with the ability to increase over time with regular use, such as lung irritation, bronchitis or even a higher risk of respiratory complications in contrast to their counterparts; non-smokers. Reduced body temperature and immune system suppression has also been observed in animal studies. Cannaboids can also increase heart frequency. Although rarely reported, acute poisoning symptoms include nausea, vomiting, tear flow, hacking cough, disturbance of cardiac function and numbness of the limbs. Instances of death are very rare.
Though unsubstantiated as further research is required to determine a link and then to differentiate the effect of the drug from that of other possible exposures, some studies have suggested that excesses long term use may lead to various cancers, specifically testicular cancers in men. In reference to fertility, in men, it reduces the testosterone levels that may result in lack of aggressiveness and reduces their sperm count. In women, it affects uterine functions and breastfeeding as it lowers prolactin levels as well as causes irregular menstrual cycles.
Many regular marijuana smokers have been associated with hypoglycemic problems as the initial effect of the drug increases the blood sugar levels. The term ‘munchies,’ coined from getting high may be linked to reduced liver glycogen or low blood sugar thus playing a substantial roll with cravings for unhealthy food.
So to answer the question of should you use it or not – this really depends on what you are going to be using it for and if the benefits outweigh the side effects for you. Talk to you naturopath or medical doctor and see if use is warranted.
If you have been a user and are looking to detoxify, here are some simple suggestions:
Similar to any other controlled substance, detoxification from marijuana comes with a list of associated symptoms. Regular usage may also lead into other personality disorders such as anxiety, hyperactivity, insomnia, anorexia, and depression not to mention the increased desire to smoke. If you are looking to detoxify your body of marijuana, attempt to reach out to support groups of those who have experienced the same problem and overcame it, avoid friends who participate in smoking of marijuana and associated paraphernalia.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is mainly stored in the body’s liver and fat, which causes mild withdrawal symptoms to resurface from time to time while going through detoxification. Toxins are released through the perspiration of exercise, sweats or through weight loss, which aids with the prevention of bacteria growth and the release for faster clearing. To be successful at quitting, other controlled substances, tranquilizers and cigarette smoking should be avoided altogether, however some individuals are able to maintain their level of usage to only recreational or social gatherings. When that habit changes from occasional to regular use, it is best to stop and avoid completely.
PDR For Herbal Medicines. 2nd Edition – Medical Economics Company.
Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet & Nutritional Medicine ~ Elson M. Haas, M.D.