THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive component of cannabis. It is responsible for the “high” that people experience when they consume marijuana. While THC has many potential benefits, it also has some drawbacks that should be taken into consideration. Physical EffectsSmoking marijuana can have a number of physical effects, including daily coughing and phlegm, an increased risk of lung infections, and more common lung diseases.
While there is no evidence that smoking marijuana increases the risk of lung cancer, it does increase heart rate for up to three hours after consumption. Medical UsesMedical marijuana is becoming increasingly available in the United States and is often used to treat chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea and vomiting, and to increase appetite. However, it can also affect thinking and memory, increase the risk of accidents, and damage the lungs and cause cancer when smoked. Psychosocial EffectsResearch has found evidence of some psychosocial problems associated with marijuana use.
There is “moderate evidence” that acute marijuana use impairs learning, memory and attention. There is also “limited evidence” that regular marijuana use can lead to worse outcomes in education, employment, income and social functioning. Long-Term EffectsMarijuana accumulates in adipose tissue over time with regular use, causing a slow release when blood levels are low. This can explain why a positive urine drug test result can be detected up to six weeks after its last use, compared to four weeks in occasional users.
Cognitive EffectsDr. D'Souza is concerned about psychosis and the effect of marijuana on brain development, especially with the increase in THC content. Laboratory studies have found evidence that suggests that the effects of cannabis increase as the dose consumed or the level of THC in the blood increases. Alzheimer's DiseaseA study has been conducted to investigate how CBD and THC can slow progression and help treat Alzheimer's disease.
However, due to government policies that classify marijuana as a highly restricted Schedule 1 substance, it has been difficult to conduct good studies on the drug. AddictionIt is estimated that approximately one in ten users become addicted to marijuana, meaning they continue to use it despite negative consequences on their lives, relationships or health. Drug InteractionsAny prescription drug processed through one or more of the CYP450 pathways can potentially cause a drug interaction when taken with cannabis. This includes commonly used medications such as NSAIDs, opioids, statins, anticonvulsants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and antibiotics.
Social StigmaThe social stigma surrounding cannabis use has diminished somewhat over the past decade as drug policy reform has continued to progress in many states in the United States. Contaminated ProductsIn states where the illicit market is the only option for consumers, there is a greater risk of consuming products contaminated with mold, pesticides, heavy metals, unknown residues, or even hazardous additives such as fentanyl. InflammationInflammation is a cause and symptom of many chronic conditions including multiple sclerosis (MS) and muscle spasms, epilepsy, glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease and more. Medical cannabis has been linked to a decline in opioid prescriptions as well as doses of opioids and other pharmaceutical products as well as alcohol and tobacco.
ConclusionThe risks and benefits of any compound containing cannabinoids must be carefully weighed for each patient. Quality research takes time and the content of marijuana available on the market is changing at a rapid pace.