Weed is bad for you, isn’t it?
Updated: 4 days ago
This is the question that comes to a lot of people’s minds as soon as they think about cannabis. And that’s what I thought to myself before I had the right information. There are a number of reasons why people ask this question with one of the main reasons coming from the stigma around cannabis (talking about it, consuming it, and so on). For years since THC and its ‘high’ effects were first discovered, a lot of strict regulations and policies were created around the sale, possession and consumption of cannabis and over time, the stigma around marijuana was formed (For a quick history of cannabis, read our previous post).
But is weed really bad for you? Sometimes when your friend tells you it’s not or when you do an internet search for a quick answer, you may not be entirely convinced, I get it. In this post, I want to provide information that I’ve found through peer-reviewed research papers and other medical journals so you can trust that this information has been validated. There is a plethora of research done on cannabis from different angles including age and other demographics, various medical conditions and purposes, looking at short and long-term effects on pretty much every single organ in your body, separately or together. However, here are some highlights and summary points. If you are curious for more information, you can dig through the sources I’ve provided here.
First things first: How does marijuana make you feel?
Consuming cannabis can:
Increase perception of smell, taste, sound, color and other sensations
Make you feel happy and relaxed
Alter perception of time and space, often making you think that you are experiencing profound ideas or insights
Increase the appetite
(If you are curious about trying it out the first time, read our post on What to expect when you’re expecting to get high.)
There may be some physical effects such as decrease in coordination and balance, increased heart rate, reddened eyes and dry mouth. Some of these should sound similar if you’ve had experiences with being ‘drunk’. But unlike alcohol, you don’t typically get a hangover the next day.
However, these effects can vary from person to person based on your tolerance level, your past cannabis experience, your biology, in what form of cannabis is consumed and how strong it is. It is also practically impossible for users to overdose on cannabis. If you happen to consume too much cannabis at once, you will just feel all the same effects of consuming cannabis but way more amplified. It will take longer for the effects to wear off as well but yes, you will be sober after a while. It’s like drinking 5 cups of coffee at once; you will likely feel extremely jittery until the caffeine effects wear off.
What do studies say?
Here are highlights I’ve sourced from The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.
Therapeutic effects of cannabis
In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms.
In adults with multiple sclerosis (MS)-related spasticity, short-term use of oral cannabinoids improves patient-reported spasticity symptoms.
In adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, oral cannabinoids are effective antiemetics.
Other health effects of cannabis
There is moderate evidence that cannabinoids are an effective treatment to improve short-term sleep outcomes in individuals with sleep disturbance.
There is minimal evidence that parental cannabis use during pregnancy is associated with greater cancer risk in offspring.
Smoking cannabis during pregnancy is linked to lower birth weight in the offspring.
Risk of cancer and other medical conditions:
The evidence suggests that smoking cannabis does not increase the risk for certain cancers (i.e., lung, head and neck) in adults.
The evidence is unclear as to whether and how cannabis use is associated with heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
Smoking cannabis on a regular basis is associated with chronic cough and phlegm production. But It is unclear whether cannabis use is associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma, or worsened lung function.
Cannabis use does not appear to increase the likelihood of developing depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder
Greater frequency of cannabis use increases the likelihood of developing problem cannabis use.
There is moderate evidence that adolescent attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a risk factor for the development of problem cannabis use.
There is moderate evidence that neither alcohol nor nicotine dependence alone are risk factors for the progression from cannabis use to problem cannabis use.
Motor and cognitive function:
Cannabis use prior to driving increases the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Recent cannabis use impairs the performance in cognitive domains of learning, memory, and attention. Recent use may be defined as cannabis use within 24 hours of evaluation.
If you want to learn more about the methodology, scope and more detailed outcomes of the study, go read the book. It also addresses the research barriers and gaps, and recommendations for future cannabis research.
So, what’s the verdict? Is it bad for you?
I mean, is caffeine bad? How about sugar? Or alcohol? Like most food and drinks, moderate use of cannabis in small quantities is unlikely to cause any permanent health damage. So, you decide.
My job here is to give you medical facts in hopes of de-stigmatize the talk or use of cannabis if you wish to do so. The way these medical studies works is that there are new findings every day and at any given point, we are not able to determine the exhaustive list of benefits or effects with 100% accuracy. Our brains are not wired to process and analyze every single information about everything we consume everyday either. It’s ok.
I want to make sure my body and mine are in good shape, but I also like to drink a glass or two of wine at dinner sometimes, have a morning cup of coffee, indulge in delicious junk food and eat some edibles. Point is you decide for yourself but try not to overthink it. If you want to try, go for it and enjoy. If you are not ready yet, don’t. At least, you have the facts now.