Weed: health benefits and risk
I decided to write a post on weed in order to educate hiveans about weed, the risk, and its benefits. Shall we?
What is Weed?
Weed is a substance that is gotten from the stem, leaves, and the flower of the plant Cannabis Sativa. Indian hemp, pot, marijuana, and cannabis are other names for weed.
I used to think that weed could only be smoked but I discovered that it could also be mixed in food such as brownies, cookies, and even candy. When mixed in food, they are called edibles. Some people go as far as brewing it into tea. In my country, I have heard people put it in food like noodles and beans.
What does weed contain? You must have heard of people who claim that they feel so good when they take weed. Have you wondered the reason for that? Cannabis has over 100 active components called cannabinoids, however, most of the components have not been fully understood. Interestingly, two of the components have been studied in depth. These components are Tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) and cannabidiol(CBD). THC is the active component in cannabis that is responsible for the high feeling they get after it is been ingested. CBD on the other hand does not produce a high feeling but has been shown to have medical importance as some studies have shown its beneficial effect in treating seizures, hence, its approval by the food and drug association(FDA).
Marijuana is the most commonly used addictive drug after tobacco and alcohol. Most people have used it and its rise in its use rising partly due to its legalization.
How does the High feeling come about?
The main psychoactive ingredient THC stimulates the part of your brain that responds to pleasure, like food and sex. This THC unleashes a chemical called dopamine, which gives you a euphoric, relaxed feeling.
When a person smokes weed, it passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood then carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. This is the reason why most people who are new or not knowledgeable of how edibles work get so high on their first attempt. I once had a friend who was expecting the high feeling and kept on eating. After about 1 hour, the effect kicked in and he had ingested a lot. He was high and sober at the same time for five days. He was actually placed on infusion to reduce the concentration in his body.
Is weed good or bad?
Like I earlier said, some states in the United States legalized it for its benefits while some have rejected it because of its potential effect. The answer to this question is subjective and I will like to say that anything taken in excess becomes harmful. Weed has the tendency to cause addiction and at the same time has been observed to heal certain medical conditions of importance.
So what are the effects of weed on the body?
Marijuana has benefits and risks. The effect of marijuana can be seen in all systems of the body. On the central nervous system, it can cause impaired judgment, lack of orientation, and sometimes anxiety. They tend to act irrationally too. Some sources say it worsens the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder that comprises two forms; extremely hyper feeling and an extremely depressed feeling. In other words mania and depression. There is evidence that people who take weed regularly are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideations are one of the tell-tale signs of severe depression.
Studies have shown that most of the constituents of cannabis can cause cancer i.e They are carcinogenic. Some studies have seen a positive association with increased risk for the slow-growing seminoma subtype of testicular cancer.
I used to think of lung cancer was exclusive to smoking cigarettes only. I always asked if smoking weed could also predispose one to lung cancer. The answer to that question is a big YES. Smoking weed has a serious effect on the respiratory system. Sources say people who smoke weed have an increased risk of chronic cough. However, there are no studies that link lung function to smoking weed.
Lung functions include respiratory capacity, inspiratory capacity, etc. There are no studies that show a relationship between smoking and reduction in taking in air or expiring air. Although a study done sometime in 2014 saw plausibility in the relationship between marijuana and lung cancer. although the linkage seems to be difficult to establish.
When I started my clinical posting, every time I entered a new unit they would always ask me if I smoked weed? This was because my eyes were always red and that's how it has been since I was young. Weed causes dilation of the blood vessels in the eye and that's why those that ingest weed usually have red eyes. This is called bloodshot eyes. Other effects include an increase in heart rate. Some studies have shown that chest pain tends to be worse with those who have preexisting heart conditions when they take weed.
Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart beats too fast. Some people describe it as consciously feeling their heartbeat. This is way worse than that. Sources say that marijuana worsens the condition and hence sudden death is possible after ingestion in a patient with this condition.
Other effects include dry mouth which people call cottonmouth. Another effect is that appetite increases seriously after ingestion of weed.
What are the benefits of taking marijuana?
Growing up as a child till I became an adult, my mother made me believe marijuana had no benefit. She made me feel that anytime anyone smokes weed, you just have to run mad. This made me to scared of anything that had to do with illicit drugs. Marijuana has benefits and some of the benefits will be covered in the next few paragraphs.
In a recent study, it was discovered that taking weed reduced the number of seizures in patients who had epilepsy by almost 50%. This resulted in a better outcome in patients who had a serious seizure disorder and also increased their quality of life.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. It is a condition in which the pressure in the eye is too much. This pressure destroys the optic nerve which is responsible for vision. This pressure can cause serious eye pain and this can sometimes be an emergency. Some studies have shown that taking weed reduces this pressure which in turn reduces pain and alleviates the symptoms of glaucoma.
Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability second to depression. A study was done and it was observed that marijuana acts on the same receptors for pain in the brain. This evidence implies that marijuana might be able to treat chronic pain. Chronic pain includes pain from cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Chronic pain is a pain that is present for more than 2 weeks.
A comprehensive review from a clinical psychology journal observed that marijuana could help people with drug and alcohol addiction although the exact mechanism is not known. This benefit is actually controversial as people who take marijuana might have problems with other substances of abuse. I have a feeling they might probably get addicted to marijuana itself.
I stated earlier that weed acts and causes the release of a substance called dopamine which gives a high and euphoric feeling. Based on this mechanism, some sources claim that it can be used to treat depression and post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). Some studies also say marijuana alleviates the symptoms of anxiety however another renowned study claims that it worsens the symptom. From what I have observed I think it is a dose-dependent action meaning that at a certain dose it might reduce symptoms and at another dose, it might cause a serious anxiety attack.
A popular use of cannabis is in alleviating the nauseating feeling that comes when taking chemo drugs. it also reduces vomiting. It is most likely due to dopamine. There is a receptor in the brain that dopamine acts on that work by reducing the urge to vomit. It is this mechanism upon which the drug metoclopramide( a popular antiemetic) acts on.
Interestingly, a serious observation was made and I must say if it works it could be a serious revolution in the medical industry. Cancers feed and grow due to the supply of nutrients from blood vessels. Some studies have shown that it reduces the flow of blood to those cancer cells and therefore reduces the speed of their growth. Some sources say it also kills some cancer cells.
Addiction and cannabis
Cannabis like every other drug of abuse has the potential to cause addiction. Although some observations claim that the addiction is not as bad as things like alcohol, opioids, heroin, and cigarette.
The problem with marijuana is that most people who start taking marijuana are most likely going to take other drugs to get that high feeling. This is why marijuana is called a gateway drug. Some people go as far as lacing it with strong psychoactive substances like cocaine.
Withdrawal from any form of addiction is never easy and cannabis is not an exception. A lot of people say a lot of terrible things about the withdrawal symptoms but I say to you today that they are not life-threatening and it is possible to overcome the addiction.
Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, mood changes, insomnia, cravings, restlessness, decreased appetite, general discomfort. These symptoms get to their peak within the first weak and then stay for two weeks and begin to decline. This means that within one month, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms should be reduced to a bearable point. Like with other addictions, psychotherapy plays a vital role in getting better outcomes.
Cannabis and Pregnancy.
There is evidence that taking cannabis at an early age reduces brain development. Studies say that there is a possibility of mental impairment in children of mothers who took cannabis while pregnant.
Weed is a substance with risks and benefits. Knowing one's body system is important. it is also important to see a doctor before using cannabis either medically or for recreation. If you are pregnant abstain from any form of recreational drug till you give birth. Don't forget to check if it is legal in your country or state.
So, do you think weed is good or bad? I will leave that for you to answer, Till then happy internaltional weed day in arrears.