Just recently, marijuana has just become legalized in several more states in the US. This is leaning towards the trend of more and more states legalizing the use of this herb.
This has garner a lot of attention from both proponents and opponents for the legalization of marijuana in the states, which is still a largely debated upon topic.
This article isn’t meant to be a piece on the morals of marijuana use or the social impact it has on families, friends, or society in general.
Rather, we’ll discuss the health impacts of marijuana use and what we know now.
This is often a confused topic for many since marijuana is not a well research herb. There’s barely any funded research on this, which mean any meaningful results are even harder to come by.
Nevertheless, it is an important subject that a lot of us have not only opinions, but questions about.
Let’s look into the effects of marijuana has on 5 main components of our everyday life:
- The Body
- Brain Health
- Heart Health
The main concern surrounding marijuana smoking has been its effects on the lungs. Since smoking is the most popular way of taking marijuana, the potential harm to the lungs is a big topic associated with marijuana use.
It has been found that marijuana smoking can lead to shortness of breath, increased coughing, and sore throats.
But that’s about all that can be said conclusively for marijuana smoking and lung health. Due to the lack of reliable scientific studies, the jury is technically out on anything else regarding marijuana smoking and its effect on the lungs.
Take for example a 2008 New Zealand study that associated heavy marijuana smoking with lung cancer. Marijuana smoking can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, with symptoms similar to that of bronchitis.
Another study discovered that marijuana contains up to 20 times more ammonia than regular tobacco smoke.
But on the flip side, a 2012 study reported that most marijuana smokers take part in the habit much less frequently than cigarette smokers; something along the lines of 2 to 3 times per month vs. 8 times per day.
They also inhale much deeper and longer, which ironically improves lung capacity and allows for more air to be inhaled.
According to Dr. Donald Tashkin, marijuana contains THC, which has an anti-inflammatory effect on our body. In animal models, THC has shown to inhibit a variety of cancers and tumor growths.
This potentially mitigates the tumorigenic effects and procarcinogens present in marijuana smoke.
No wonder so many have had success with treating various cancers with marijuana.
But all of this are still waiting to be proven with thorough, reliable scientific and clinical trails and studies. Until then, no definite reliable conclusions can be made regarding lung health and marijuana smoking.
Two polar opposite arguments exists for marijuana and its effect on sleep in general. Some swear by how it helps them fall asleep, while others avoid it at all cost. Let’s take a closer look.
First of all, we’re talking about the Indica type of marijuana plant, not the Sativa type. The former has a relaxing effect while the latter has an energizing effect.
Second, most experts on this topic agree on the same thing: whether marijuana helps with sleep or not all depends upon what you truly want out of your sleep.
While cannabinoid receptors in our brains are responsible for regulating our levels of anxiety, which can either excite or calm our “flight or fight” response.
So falling asleep actually becomes easier with marijuana due to its calming effects.
But what happens during our sleep and the quality of our sleep is a whole different story.
As explained in the polyphasic sleep article, the stage of sleep that helps us feel rested is REM sleep, the same stage where our brain consolidates our memories and everything we’ve learned throughout our day.
Research has shown that marijuana intake cuts into the amount of time we spend in the REM stage.
So although we fall asleep easier and faster with marijuana, our cognitive restoration can take a beating with less time spent in the REM stage.
So where does the lost time go to?
Apparently, slow wave sleep, or delta sleep is lengthened by marijuana use. This is the stage where our body repairs itself. Muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, etc. are restored. It’s when our physical bodies grow.
An increased duration of delta sleep would allow for more repair on our bodies. Just judging from this alone, this may be a good “hack” for athletes and others that engage in hard physical activity day-in and day-out.
Of course, regulations and USADA rules doesn’t make this a viable option in many sports, unless we’re okay with risking getting banned.
And again, due to the lack of research on marijuana and its effects on our health, it’s difficult to draw conclusions on its effects on sleep.
Most of the claims are from anecdotal evidence and experience from users. So keep that in mind when making the decision on whether marijuana use is right for you or not.
When it comes to mental health, the effects of marijuana are two-fold:
- Mental Disorders
Although there’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence and personal experiences that claims marijuana increased anxiety and risks of developing psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, a widespread study proved otherwise.
35,000 adults were surveyed and gauged for their marijuana habits and each of their mental health status was analyzed 3 years later.
After adjusting for several factors, the study concluded that “cannabis use was not associated with increased risk for developing mood or anxiety disorders.”
Although this may sound like good news right off the bat, marijuana has been found to increase the risk of developing other disorders such as alcohol, nicotine and other drug dependency.
Onto the topic of dementia.
There’s currently no definitive cause of Alzheimer’s disease, scientists and medical researchers are starting to narrow down on the possible causes.
One of these suspected causes is amyloid beta, a sticky toxic protein that clumps together to form plaques between neurons and the brain.
The Salk Institute has found that several compounds found in marijuana removed amyloid beta from the nerves cells in the brain.
Amyloid beta also has an inflammatory effect on our brain cells. So while the neuron pathways are getting blocked by these toxic proteins, our brain cells are dying in the process.
Remember the anti-inflammatory effects of THC and other compounds found in marijuana? They play a big part here.
Not only are amyloid beta removed from our brains, from the anti-inflammatory effects of the marijuana compounds protects our brain cells from damage in the process.
Although it’s still a far ways off from curing dementia, with over 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s, this has proved to be a promising treatment for this disease.
Heart health, in this case specifically heart rate, is amped up with the use of marijuana. This has been reported from various users of the herb and some have complained of this effect.
The same anti-inflammatory effects still apply. The heart can get inflammed arteries when excess glucose are present in the blood (refer to this low carb article for more on the subject).
Marijuana’s anti-inflammatory effects can help to an extent in lowering the inflammation all-around in our bodies, and the heart is no exception.
With the stress and anxiety-relieving effects of marijuana, this herb is actually great for sex.
Many have reported longer lasting and more fulfilling sexual experiences when marijuana was taken beforehand. This coincides with the fact that oxycotin is released, the hormone that increases in the feeling of bonding.
Rather than providing a large dose of oxycotin all at once, marijuana “naturally restore a healthy firing of neurological pistons directly correlated to balancing the oxytocin, which is naturally produced by your own body.” according to Stephanie Viskovich, a medical marijuana advocate.
In addition, libido and orgasms have reported to be enhanced by marijuana use. And the relaxed state bought about from marijuana helps couples enjoy the process more.
Since sexual performance is mostly psychological than physical, marijuana holds a lot more promise for fixing bedroom problems than pharmaceutical drugs.
All In All
The use of marijuana will always be a much-debated upon topic in my opinion. Even if further research were carried out and conclusive evidence was discovered, there will always be proponents and opponents for this regardless of the results.
But at this point, there really is no conclusive evidence to decide one way or the other.
While it has shown to slow down dementia, enhance sexual experience, and even protect our bodies, marijuana also increases coughing, shortness of breath, and risk of dependency on other substances.
Currently, marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug according to the DEA. This puts it in the same category as heroin, ecstasy, and peyote.
Any Schedule 1 drug is considered to have no medicinal value, meaning that getting funding for research is nearly impossible.
The only way to prove its value (or lack thereof, depending on the side you take on this) is with well-funded, thorough research. And this all start with rescheduling marijuana and giving it a chance to prove itself to the public.
Especially with it’s potential health benefits and effects, it’s be ashamed if we’re kept away from something so beneficial.