Is marijuana use good or bad for your health? Though there’s been a significant increase in the acceptance of cannabis (marijuana) in the U.S., there is still much debate over whether it’s safe to use. Federally, marijuana is still illegal, as it’s classified as a Schedule 1 drug.
However, many states have legalized marijuana for medical (and, in some cases, recreational) purposes. As such, it begs the question, “is marijuana bad for you, or does it have positive health benefits?” Certainly, all of these states would not be passing laws legalizing marijuana if they thought it wasn’t safe. So there must be some proof that cannabis is good for you.
Other countries and international organizations also appear to have a positive perspective on cannabis. In fact, in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations after the mass legalization of marijuana in different nations around the world, stating that cannabis is low risk and carries positive health benefits.
Proof of positive benefits or not, there’s an ongoing debate about marijuana and its effects on the human body. While there are many pro-cannabis advocates, even within the government, many doctors are still hesitant and unsure about the safety and health effects of using marijuana.
What Science Has Taught Us About Marijuana
People have been using cannabis to improve their health for thousands of years, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still hasn’t designated the drug as a safe or an effective treatment for various health concerns.
Overall, those against marijuana use claim that there is still not enough evidence to prove that cannabis is safe and entirely effective at treating medical conditions. But even prescription drugs that have been approved over the years come with negative side effects and are not always guaranteed to work.
There is a stigma surrounding marijuana use due to some of its negative side effects and those who abuse the drug, but any drug — even those that are FDA-approved — can be abused or come with side effects.
For doctors, the concern has primarily been the lack of medical marijuana education among their patients. Even in states where medical and recreational marijuana has been approved, many healthcare practitioners may be hesitant to prescribe marijuana treatments to their patients because they simply do not understand how it works and what effect it will have.
However, despite the lack of marijuana education, many doctors are seeing the positive effects that cannabis can have on their patients’ health. Many of them want to prescribe the drug; they just also want a little more assurance that it won’t have entirely negative impacts. As a result, doctors are working for marijuana education and training to help them and their patients better understand its uses and side effects.
Though there is currently a lack of educational courses on marijuana for doctors, there has been a good amount of published research supporting the benefits of cannabis for conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety, and more.
How Marijuana Affects the Body
When it comes to the health risks and benefits of using marijuana, it helps to understand how it works exactly and what effect it has on the body. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two primary chemicals that come from cannabis that can be used for health purposes.
Our bodies have what is called the endocannabinoid system, which contains receptors that are very chemically similar to CBD and THC. When these chemicals interact with our cannabinoid receptors, they release neurotransmitters in the brain that play a role in things like pain reception, stress, immune function, sleep, and more. For this reason, it’s believed that marijuana can help relieve symptoms and treat conditions connected to the neurotransmitters in our brains.
THC specifically can produce a euphoric sensation in the body, which can overall make people feel better, more focused, and more energized. As a result, many people have started to use marijuana to help boost their workouts. For example, weightlifters are starting to use various supplements and herbs to help improve their weightlifting sessions — including cannabis.
Some people are even using THC and CBD in baking and cooking to provide health benefits. This is because the drug not only provides various benefits when consumed, but it can also help increase the aroma and texture of foods.
Some of the conditions marijuana can help with include:
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Weight loss;
- Inflammatory bowel disease;
The Health Risks of Using Marijuana
Despite the many benefits, some risks come with using marijuana that you should keep in mind.
As with any drug, prescription or not, there is always the potential for adverse side effects, especially when the substance is being abused. Though marijuana may not be physically addictive in the same way that other drugs are, it can still be misused. There are many situations when someone may use marijuana detrimentally, such as to cope with stress or as a form of self-medication. Marijuana use could also result in relapse if you’re in recovery for substance misuse, even if it wasn’t the drug you originally misused.
In some cases, too much cannabis or using certain strains of THC can increase stress and anxiety. It can also exacerbate some mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder. For those who smoke marijuana, rather than taking it as an edible or tincture, it can worsen respiratory functions and increase your risk of respiratory disease.
Too much marijuana can also slow down motor functions and reaction times, and negatively impact balance. So while it can help provide energy and focus to some, it could also cause someone to get hurt if they use too much due to its effects on their coordination.
As WHO pointed out, cannabis is generally a safe drug that can have numerous health benefits. But as with any drug use, you should always consider the associated risks, such as the possibility of negative side effects or interactions with other drugs. When using marijuana to improve your health and overall wellbeing, you should always take precautions and talk to your doctor if possible to ensure the best outcome.