In Nigeria, it is not news that weed is not legalized and if you take weed, most people regard you as irresponsible. In my opinion, this shouldn’t be the case but is there a reason for this assumption? Well, most of those who take weed engage in the use of other drugs.
It is also not new that some states in the United States have legalized weed either for recreational or medical use or both. This means that weed has some benefits.
However, it should be noted that research is lacking in this area because of restrictions placed on the substance in most places. This is because it is a schedule 1 drug-drugs with no current medical use and a high tendency for abuse.
In this post, I will be covering facts about weed, who should take weed, the benefits of taking weed, and the risk associated with taking weed. I hope you learn a lot as we go on.
Weed has different names and also different ways of taking it.
Weed, dope, grass, Indian hemp, pot, marijuana and cannabis are all the same, While I was growing up my mum used to warn me about Indian hemp and she always associated it with madness, I didn't really understand and maybe that was one of the reasons I didn't attempt it.
They all have tetrahydro cannabinoid(THC) as their active ingredient.
Worthy of note is that it can be taken via different routes. It can be vaped, eaten, drank or smoked. It should also be noted that the different routes have different absorption times.
While smoking or vaping gets into the bloodstream faster and has a faster onset of action, eating weed takes a longer time to get absorbed and has a slower onset of action and this in turn is the most reason why people overdose on cannabis.
It affects the brain and that’s what is responsible for the high feeling.
THC affects receptors in the brain that cause the release of dopamine. Dopamine makes us have that feeling of euphoria when we do certain things. For example, when you achieve a certain task, dopamine is released and you feel excited. Same way when you exercise, dopamine is released.
This is what happens when you take weed and this happens to be the commonest reason why people try weed.
There is an increased risk of developing depression and some mental health disorders.
A study was done amongst 23000 individuals who started taking cannabis before the age of 18. One of the most significant findings from that study was the development of depression with suicidal tendencies among these individuals.
It was also reported that these tendencies were reported more at age 18 spanning through 32.
Also, some studies have shown that those with clinical depression who consume weed experience worsening symptoms.
According to the CDC, people who take weed are more susceptible to developing temporary psychosis evidenced by hallucination and paranoia. Some were also reported to develop long-lasting mental health issues hence, my mother’s fear back then. There is a popular study that associates the use of marijuana with schizophrenia. This association is also worse in people who started using it before age 18.
There might be problems with brain development and functions
It is no news that weed affects brain function. However, it should be noted that marijuana has both short-term effects and long-term effects.
CDC defines recent marijuana use can be defined as the use of marijuana in the last 24 hours.
The effects of recent marijuana include attention problems, thought distortion, problems with coordination, etc.
Some studies have reported heightened sensations like seeing colors brighter than they appear, also hearing things and voices, etc. Some people have reported the feeling of impending doom - I had a friend who experienced this when he overdosed on edibles.
Other studies have reported lowering inhibitions and so decision making can be detrimental like unprotected sexual intercourse, risky driving, etc.
Hence, someone who just used marijuana shouldn’t drive.
Long-term effects of marijuana use have been linked to several factors and they include; frequency, age of commencement and use with other mind-altering substances like alcohol, tobacco, or opioids. In fact any schedule 1 drug at all.
Brain scans of individuals who use marijuana before the age of 18 showed physical changes in some of their brains. It was also reported that the changes were in regions associated with alertness, learning, and memory. This is most likely the cause of the reduction in IQ scores.
A couple smoking weed
Smoke is smoke and so there is an increased risk of respiratory disease
A few days ago, a friend called me asking what drugs could be used for COPD(chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). I was almost sure the person involved was a smoker.
Smoke inflames the lungs and regular use of smoke can cause irreversible injuries to the lungs. Studies have linked the irreversible injury to tar.
Smoking marijuana regularly can give you the same symptoms as those who smoke cigarettes. The symptom can be cough productive of colored sputum.
THC has been reported to reduce immunity and hence, some studies have associated smoking marijuana with an increased risk of respiratory infection.
Increased risk of addiction and the use of other mind-altering substances
The feeling of dopamine being released is something anyone will love to experience repeatedly.
Hence, the reason for repeated use.
Marijuana use disorder is a phenomenon used to describe a condition when a person is unable to stop using marijuana despite adversely affecting his or her social or health activities. In this condition, they tend to do anything to get weed even if it can cost them their livelihood.
The problem with addiction to marijuana and any other mind-altering substance is the fact that, an increased dose is needed overtime to get the same high because tolerance develops over time( a phenomenon known as tachyphylaxis)
A study done showed that about 30% of people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder.
A subsequent study showed that 1 in 10 people who use marijuana may develop an addiction. It was also reported that addiction and the use disorder were seen to be more in people who used it before the age of 18. In my opinion, I think this might be due to maturity and education.
A lot of psychiatrists regard marijuana as a ‘gateway drug’ a term used to describe a drug that opens up one's mind to trying other drugs. Like I said earlier, those who smoke weed in Nigeria have tried things like codeine and the rest just after being exposed to weed.
It has been reported that most people who take marijuana have higher tendencies of trying different stimulants.
As a matter of fact, most people try weed because it’s cheap.
It should be noted that it’s the concentration of THC that causes the addiction.
Some cancers have been attributed to Cannabis Use
Smoking has been linked with increased susceptibility to cancers. However, it was mainly attributed to cigarettes.
However, a study done by the National Academy of Science did find some evidence to suggest that there is some association between weed and testicular cancers and weed use although studies are limited.
Weed and pregnancy
With the legalization of weed, more pregnant women are becoming high according to a JAMA study. The use in pregnant women has been linked to morning sickness and recreational use.
It is important to note that THC when smoked enters the blood and can pass through the placenta and get to the baby just like most drugs.
This implies that the baby could also have the same effect and more owing to the fact that the brain is not matured enough for this substance.
According to the CDC, some research shows that smoking weed during pregnancy has been associated with adverse outcomes like Low birth weight (babies weighing less than 2.5KG), Anaemia in the newborn, and some neurological disorders.
It should also be made known that second-hand smoking of Marijuana is as deadly as cigarette smoking too as it contains a lot of oncogenic and toxic chemicals.
After abstaining from weed for so long and the baby is out you might be wondering if smoking weed while breastfeeding is safe?
Well, studies are limited as regards this area but what is known is that THC is stored in fat and is released into the blood and once it gets into the blood it can definitely get into breast milk and still have an effect on the newborn.
Weed and Heart disease- A lethal combination
Various studies have been done trying to show the linkage between the consumption of weed and cardiovascular disease.
For the most of it, there has been no evidence of a negative effect of weed consumption on a person with a healthy heart.
However, a lot of studies have shown an increased risk of worsening cardiac conditions in those who have a pre-existing heart condition.
Weed when taken causes the heart to beat fast and increases blood pressure after consumption. Some authorities have reported increasing pulse rate from 72 beats per minute to as high as 120 beats per minute. This effect tends to make the heart work harder and this can lead to an increase in oxygen consumption by the heart muscle and this might worsen symptoms of people with heart disease.
According to a study, it was said that there is a high risk of developing acute coronary syndrome, Myocardial infarction, stroke, and death from hypertension in patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease or those who have a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
People who have a high risk include those with a positive family history of cardiovascular disease, Obese people, those who live a sedentary lifestyle, old people, etc.
I am sure after reading this much, you might think weed must be a bad thing to take. The answer to this is a big NO as there are beautiful and amazing benefits of taking weed.
The main reason for legalizing weed consumption in over 25 states in the united states was its perceived medical benefits. Hence, its use in medicine.
Weed and chronic pain
This might be the singular most important benefit of consuming weed. This is one indication of the medical use of marijuana.
Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and cannabis use has helped as a go-to medication to relieve pain from conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and the likes.
Some studies reported that the pain-relieving effect of cannabis is due to a reduction in muscle spasms and also its action on receptors in the brain.
Weed and cancer.
Treatment of cancers can be very difficult. One of the side effects of taking chemotherapy drugs is nausea and vomiting.
Canabis-containing substances have been indicated in patients who experience nausea from chemotherapy drugs.
This is also another medical indication of cannabis.
Although there is not much evidence to support it, some studies have shown that Cannabis might have some anti-cancer effects.
Olivia Newton, a popular actress has been using cannabinoid oil for her metastatic breast cancer.
Some studies have revealed that the ingredients in this so-called oil might be able to prevent the growth of cancer cells. But like I earlier said, research in this field is limited.
This might be the reason why Cannabinoid oil(CBD oil) is approved by the food and drug association(FDA).
Weed, Post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), and anxiety
When people take weed, they tend to feel relaxed. This has made it useful in helping people fight anxiety and panic attacks.
A study done in 2016 showed a positive correlation between relief of symptoms of PTSD in people who take weed.
Another study showed that people who took a low dose of THC experienced less anxiety before speaking in public. Low dose in its context was a puff or two.
Epilepsy and Weed(Children might even benefit)
The first time I heard about CBD oil was from my girlfriend back in 2019 and I was confused as to how people were saying an extract of weed could reduce the occurrence of seizures and cure a lot of things.
Well, a study showed that kids who had a condition known as Dravet syndrome had a reduction in the occurrence of seizures up to about 39%.
In the study, the children were said to have an average of 12 seizures per month and after taking CBD products, the occurrence of seizures reduced to about 6 seizures per month. As a matter of fact, 2 of the children in the studies didn’t experience any seizures at all. Although, the report says that the CBD products were devoid of THC and so the children didn’t experience the ‘high’ feeling.
Weed might solve some addiction problems
As I earlier said, weed has been said to be the gateway drug to other drugs.
However, some studies have shown that people who are addicted to alcohol and opioids might be able to overcome their addiction when they start taking weed.
Although, this is a controversial study as people can also get addicted to marijuana.
An interesting thing was observed in states where weed was legalized, there was a drop in the rate of opioid consumption. Hence, some authorities are saying that legalizing marijuana might be the end to the opioid pandemic.
In conclusion, weed has benefits as well as risks. The route of administration plays a vital role in both short-term and long-term effects.
Children under the age of 18 should do their best to refrain from weed as the effect is profound in this age group.
Also, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should try as much as possible to abstain from weed for a particular period of time.
People with heart disease and the risk of developing heart disease shouldn’t attempt taking weed. It is an absolute contraindication.
It is also important that you meet with your doctor to assess and properly identify indications for consumption.
Chronic pain and vomiting are amongst the few benefits of taking weed.
It is also imperative to know the concentration of the weed you take, so as to prevent mishaps from its effect.
Finally, Weed is not as bad as most people think it is. The key is knowing if it is okay for you to take it and when it should be taken.
- Medical news today
- Keyhani S, Steigerwald S, Ishida J, Vali M, Cerdá M, Hasin D, Dollinger C, Yoo SR, Cohen BE. Risks and Benefits of Marijuana Use: A National Survey of U.S. Adults. Ann Intern Med. 2018 Sep 4;169(5):282-290. doi: 10.7326/M18-0810. Epub 2018 Jul 24. PMID: 30039154; PMCID: PMC6157909.
- ACP internist
Thank you for reading