There are many marijuana activists out there nowadays and every one of them is highly praising the benefits of cannabis use based on studies they read about, but don’t fully understand. Also, I am sick and tired of people overly-posting all kinds of pictures and articles about how great weed is without actually considering that abuse of drugs also has risks. Although there are actual benefits in many cases which I am going to talk about, there are risks and long term side effects which usually people tend to forget about. The sad truth behind every web page that feeds us that marijuana is actually a miracle drug which the pharmaceutical industries and our governments are keeping away from us is that those people only want the drug to be legalized so the population can abuse it as much as it wants.
Before believing that cannabis use actually cures cancer or any other disease keep in mind that there are no concluding studies made on people yet, mostly because the use of cannabinoids is highly restricted in most parts of the world, but still benefic effects of cannabis have only been proven in animal experiments and also none of them kept out the side effects. Marijuana or cannabis, however you like to call it, acts on the central nervous system and the immune system through active components called cannabinoids. The main active cannabinoid is delta-9-THC, about which you might have already heard because it is used for pain relief, mostly in terminal cancer patients. Although THC is the most extracted component, it still affects the central nervous system by giving that “high” most marijuana abusers are seeking. It appears that another active cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD) may relieve pain, decrease anxiety and lower inflammation without actively affecting one’s consciousness.
Two other, not as effective cannabinoids that are actually approved by the FDA are dronabinol and nabilone which can prevent and even sometimes treat nausea and vomiting symptoms caused by cancer treatments. Possible benefic effects of cannabinoids, which are not being studied enough due to the restriction of the substance are anti-inflammatory and antiviral activity, relieving muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis and the possibility of preventing or even treating some forms of cancer by blocking cell growth and preventing the growth of new blood vessels that are usually formed to supply tumors.
Actual studies that have been conducted on mice and rats showed that use of cannabinoids reduces the inflammation of the colon, which reduces the risk of colon cancer, it actually destroyed cancer cells in hepatocellular carcinoma (a malignant and aggressive tumor of the liver), it had some benefic effects on breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer and increased the power of chemotherapy in gliomas. Unfortunately, all these effects are not being studied in humans, but in fact, there is some research on the use of CBD in the treatment of solid tumors, a combination of cannabinoids with chemotherapy in recurrent glioblastomas and also the possibility of reducing the graft-versus-host disease, which appears in transplants, by reducing the high inflammatory response of the disease.
Other benefits of cannabinoids use and once again not actual cannabis use are stimulating appetite, which although proven in animal studies on humans did not appear to have the same result. It is well known that marijuana usage does give a craving for high caloric snacks and sweets, but it does not stimulate appetite in general. When it comes to pain relief, it appears that cannabinoids help by reducing inflammation, but they do work better in combination with opiates. Although cannabinoids combined with opiates can be really good pain relievers, both substances have side effects which are not wanted, making this type of treatment only a last resort possibility to relieve the excruciating pain terminal ill patients have.
Last but not least cannabis has been studied for its possible effects on anxiety and sleep deprivation, but in the long term, it reduces hippocampal activity and does increase the possibility of neuronal degeneration of some areas which can ultimately lead to depression, hallucinations, and paranoia. Although marijuana activists believe that its use reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cannabis, in fact, has as side effects tachycardia (rapid beating of the heart) and hypotension (low blood pressure) which can lead to cerebrovascular accidents or even heart failure.
Although the muscle relaxation effect is benefic for muscle spasm in multiple sclerosis, in normal muscle activity the effect is not wanted, because it reduces muscle force and leads to muscle atrophy. Also cannabis use slows down the movement of the digestive system leading to possible long-term complications and digestive diseases. Most of the side effects of cannabis use appear only when the substance is abused or used for long periods of times and even if they don’t put your life in danger immediately, they are the cause of chronic diseases. Other effects like bloodshot eyes and dizziness are usually not as important as they can be relieved by rest. Also, the drug should highly be restricted to children, because in the past the idea of exploring its benefic effects on children with cancer was disapproved. Cannabinoids act on the central nervous system which alters the neurodevelopment of a child, leading to serious psychiatric problems.
In medical treatments, the tendency is to give cannabinoids orally or through inhalers, but once again marijuana activists really want the drug to be legalized so they can smoke it without considering the side effects of smoke. Smoking isn’t harmful because of the substance people consume for pleasure, but because of the smoke components that come from burning the substances. Inhaling smoke components, as well as heat, lead to loss of lung function which makes the lungs more predisposed to diseases. Also, long term use of marijuana has been linked to endocrine and reproductive system malfunction. And even if cannabinoids go well against many types of cancers, it may as well act as an inducer of testicular cancer.
Last but not least, as much as people want to believe that in fact marijuana is not addictive, it is. The substance mainly gives a psychological addiction because of the “high” which everyone is searching for, but it also give physical addiction. The reason why people don’t usually acknowledge the physical addiction is because withdrawal symptoms from cannabis are not as bad as for other drugs. The symptoms of cannabis withdrawal include irritability, restlessness, and trouble sleeping, areas were cannabis acts. Also, hot flashes, nausea, and cramping might appear, but these symptoms are rare because only some people are predisposed to feeling them.
Overall, my opinion on cannabis use is that it should be approved for clinical trials all around the world, but when it comes to the legalization of the substance I am more biased. On one hand, as long as we are aware of long term side effects it should be our choice, but on the other hand, I am well aware that the drug will be highly abused and in decades will lead to many other complications and even deaths. Honestly, I don’t think marijuana is the miracle drug that can save us all from cancer or any other diseases people think it might cure, I do acknowledge that it can have benefic effects, but I loathe the psychiatric effects it has. The abuse of any substance becomes unhealthy in the end, so no matter how much you think cannabis can help you, in the long term it might do you more harm than good. That being said I do think medicine could benefit from cannabinoids treatments, but don’t start thinking that by smoking marijuana you get the same effect as a medically controlled treatment.