Marijuana, or more specifically, THC, is the new medical buzzword. There are reports that it can help everything from insomnia to cancer, which is a pretty hefty claim. But the key to remember is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. While cannabis might kill cancer cells in a petri dish, so does a bullet. That doesn’t make it healthy! But marijuana is different. We can take a closer look to find out: Is marijuana healthy for you?
For starters, smoking is a questionable way to consume medication of any kind. The industry is relatively unregulated, different strains have different amounts of THC, and it’s very difficult to tell what percentage you’re getting when you smoke it. Edibles can be more measurable, but you’ll encounter the same problem with different strains and regulation. This, more than anything, is what makes people question if marijuana is healthy.
A large component lacking in the medical marijuana industry is more research, and that’s the same thing people need. Scientists are interested in exploring the plant and its components to determine how it might be able to help people, but they haven’t reached conclusive evidence yet. That whole extraordinary claims idea has yet to meet the evidence it needs to hold up. But that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to get excited. It just means more research is needed to determine if marijuana is healthy or not.
What We Know
Research on marijuana isn’t new, exactly, but it’s been very limited. This is largely due to the politicization of the issue, and the fact that the DEA classifies it as a Schedule One drug. That classification means that it has “no currently accepted medical use.” This clearly goes against some of the evidence that’s been acquired, but it’s become a political battle, instead of a scientific one. As far as what scientists say, there are some well-demonstrated positives.
There are some drugs that contain synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is one of the active chemicals in marijuana. It creates the high that people get, but it’s also a potentially beneficial chemical. Synthetic THC compounds are used for cancer patients to reduce some of the effects of chemotherapy, like nausea and vomiting, while also increasing appetite.
On the other hand, some studies suggest that another aspect of marijuana, cannabidiol, can help reduce seizures associated with epilepsy. This specific compound may also help with some psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, but the relationship isn’t well-understood. There needs to be more research to determine the efficacy.
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What We Want to Know
Even though a lot of research has been done, there’s still plenty left to learn. Successful animal studies do not automatically mean that there will be successful human trials. We simply don’t share enough functions with lab animals to make a determination without human trials. It’s hard to imagine there being any shortage of volunteers for those!
At this point, it’s been shown that marijuana does make some physical changes to the brain, especially when used in developing brains, like teenagers. What we don’t know is if those changes are negative or permanent. As mentioned earlier, the relationship between mental health disorders and marijuana is also of interest.
There was also one study that suggested marijuana could possibly slow the progression of certain kinds of dementia, like Alzheimer’s. One study is obviously not enough for that to be conclusive, so researchers are excited to see if it could help!
Of course, in addition to all of these potential medical aspects, researchers want to know if there are negative effects. This is easier to find out with well-studied chemicals.
So, Is It Safe?
In general, yes, marijuana is safe. You’re very unlikely to hurt yourself or anyone else as long as you’re using it responsibly. It’s much less harmful to the human body than both cigarettes and alcohol. However, there is still a potential for unknown risks. The CDC also states that approximately 10 percent of people will become addicted to marijuana, although the withdrawal symptoms may be very mild.
Smoking anything can be a huge risk for people with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Driving while under the influence of anything, including marijuana, has a high risk factor. You may simply not respond as quickly to stimuli, which puts you, and others, at risk.
Ultimately, the choice to use marijuana is a choice either between you and yourself, or you and your doctor. There are some potential benefits, but those come with risks, and the two will need to be weighed against each other. You can rest assured that you are unlikely to get hurt from trying it out to see how you react. For now, just watch for new information regarding long-term safety before you make a decision.
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