Is marijuana the feel-good panacea that its supporters hold it up to be, or is it a dangerous drug, the way governments around the world see it?
There’s a reason why there’s little clarity about what exactly marijuana is — governments seem to be unwilling to fund studies whose results might question prevailing ideology. Nevertheless, a few credible studies do make it out. They show that marijuana is a complex drug that can sometimes help with conditions that conventional medicine cannot do much about today. In other circumstances, marijuana can be positively harmful.
Marijuana may help slow down the progress of cancer
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main active component in marijuana, is best known for its psychedelic qualities. There’s a lesser-known side to it, though — its ability to fight tumors. Researchers at UCLA have found that marijuana can slow the growth of various kinds of cancer — everything from cancers of the brain to cancers of the prostate and breast.
Marijuana helps with tumors because it promotes apoptosis — the body’s recycling of cells. Since cancer is uncontrolled cell growth, a brisk recycle rate can be of value. Helping the body recycle cells once they outgrow their usefulness can slow tumors down.
Marijuana may help with various conditions in children
While doctors aren’t permitted to write out marijuana prescriptions for adults, leave alone children, serious epileptic conditions in children have been known to see considerable improvement with mild use. Many families with children with epilepsy are known to relocate to the state of Colorado simply for access to a specific mild variety of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web. While this variety does contain the psychedelic component THC, it is high in another substance called Canabidiol that helps with epilepsy.
Many people swear by marijuana for aches and pains
Many stores that sell natural cosmetics and related products sell topical marijuana ointments, creams and lotions. Body Shop, for instance, sells a product called Hemp Moisture High Balm, which is essentially marijuana paste. Despite the name, marijuana on your skin doesn’t cause you to go high.
Marijuana protects the brain
In a research study done on mice at Tel Aviv University in Israel (see: sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530132531.htm ), very low doses of marijuana were seen to protect the brain from situations that would otherwise cause permanent damage. For instance, mice exposed to marijuana were seen to be less likely to suffer brain damage from toxic drugs or a lack of oxygen. In another study, marijuana use was found to help with the long-term effects of alcohol on the brain.
But marijuana is bad for people who have HIV
While smoking marijuana doesn’t cause lung cancer, it does impair lung function. Regular marijuana use irritates the airways and makes them produce mucus secreting cells in response. The mucus is meant to protect the airways from the irritants in marijuana smoke. Unfortunately, a persistent coating of mucus can impair the ability of the body to defend itself against harmful airborne organisms. While marijuana use is seen to slow down cancer, it can speed up the effects of HIV by lowering immunity overall.
Marijuana can aggravate schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
While people love pot for the way it helps them feel happier and freer, it can have the opposite effect in those with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Anyone who even has a slight, genetic tendency for these diseases can find marijuana use setting them off in earnest.
Marijuana : de-stress or distress?
Marijuana does offer the subjective feeling of mellowness. Physiologically, though, it does the exact opposite. Marijuana smokers experience a heart rate rise and an increased tendency to paranoia and anxiety.
With edible marijuana — foods with marijuana mixed in — the paranoia that occurs can be far more serious than when the drug is smoked. The fact that edible marijuana takes time to work makes it worse — people mistake the delay for a weak sample and eat much more than they should. They end up high as a kite, often with severe paranoia.
According to a British Medical Journal editorial, pot doesn’t affect mortality — the study followed tens of thousands of pot smokers over 15 years. The risk of overdosing doesn’t exist, either. Marijuana is a drug; like any other drug, it comes with both positives and negatives. It’s important, when you use it, to wisely keep both sides in mind and use it responsibly.