Is Cannabis Bad For You?

August 31, 2023
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Is marijuana bad for you?

Marijuana, or cannabis, has often been demonized since the early 20th century. Propaganda in popular media, such as the 1936 film Reefer Madness, helped bring about the prohibition of marijuana in the United States in 1937 and fueled a destructive (and failed) War on Drugs.

That old-school negative characterization of cannabis stands in stark contrast to how the plant is viewed in the United States today, as views on cannabis have consistently become more positive since the 1990s.

New legal changes have accompanied the shift in public opinion. As of this writing, cannabis is legal for medical use in 40 states and the District of Columbia and for recreational adult use in 23 states and D.C.

With the increasing acceptance of cannabis use, it might be time to reevaluate a basic question: Is marijuana bad for you?

In this post, we’ll examine the current research on how consuming cannabis can affect your physical and mental health so you can make an informed decision about the role of cannabis in your life. We’ll also explore some best practices to follow if you do choose to consume cannabis, and we’ll explain how to recognize cannabis use disorder.

Benefits and risks of cannabis consumption: Current research

Cannabis has been used for wellness-enhancing purposes for thousands of years, making appearances in traditional Ayurvedic, Islamic, and Chinese medical practices and serving a role in the rituals of several cultures across the globe — perhaps most famously in Herodotus’ record of Scythian funeral practices.

Interestingly, many of the reasons wellness-oriented individuals consume cannabis today align with how cannabis was used in ancient times.

massive survey published in 2022 asked 27,169 individuals aged 16-65 in the U.S. and Canada about their cannabis consumption habits and found that people use cannabis to help deal with a variety of physical and mental health ailments.

The most common physical health reasons for consuming cannabis were pain managementimproving sleep, alleviating headaches or migraines, improving appetite, and decreasing nausea, while the most common mental health reasons were for treating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD/trauma.

Despite the prevalence of these reasons for consuming cannabis, some use cases have more supporting evidence than others. The evidence supporting the use of cannabis products to relieve chronic pain or improve sleep in the short term, for example, is more robust and of higher quality relative to the evidence supporting using cannabis for improving social anxiety symptoms.

Several cannabis-based pharmaceutical medications have also been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®), which are used to treat nausea in cancer patients and wasting in AIDS patients, respectively. Importantly, FDA oversight doesn’t extend to the many CBD products available from online and in-person retailers.

Is using marijuana risky?

Of course, consuming cannabis doesn’t come without risks. Smoking cannabis likely comes with the greatest physical risks, especially when it comes to lung health, and the medical community is essentially unanimous in recommending against this consumption method. 

There are psychological risks involved with cannabis consumption as well, especially in cases where users consume high doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main intoxicating compound present in the plant.

Acute exposure to THC — i.e., inhaling cannabis smoke or eating an edible — is “associated with impaired learning, memory, attention, and motor coordination,” according to a 2021 journal article, and high doses can lead to greening out

Chronic exposure to high levels of THC can, over time, increase an individual's chances of developing psychosis and may also worsen symptoms of anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. It is also possible to become addicted to cannabis, and chronic consumption of high-THC products may increase the risk of addiction.

Why do people think marijuana is bad for you?

Many people find great wellness benefits from their cannabis use, so why aren’t more doctors using it to treat patients? Medical studies often consider a certain kind of experiment, called "Randomized Controlled Trials" (RCTs), as the best way to prove if a treatment works. But when it comes to medical products made from cannabis, this method has some drawbacks. The UK, for example, has very strict rules for these products because they're looking for evidence from RCTs, which is currently lacking.

One big issue is that RCTs are not the best fit for studying medicines made from the whole cannabis plant. An alternative approach is to look at real experiences from patients who have used these products and listen to what they have to say. This could help broaden our understanding and could make these cannabis-based treatments more accessible to people who need them.

As a 2022 journal article argues, “a major problem is that [randomized controlled trials] do not lend themselves well to the study of whole plant medicines. One solution to this challenge is the use of real world evidence (RWE) with patient reported outcomes (PROs) to widen the evidence base.”

“Statements such as ‘insufficient evidence of efficacy’ are common and used even in the face of strong personal evidence from patients that [cannabis-based medicinal products] work and, in many cases, can be life-changing and well tolerated. Many doctors fail to include the evidence of the patient’s lived experience and cite the lack of placebo-controlled trials (for most indications) for their hesitation to prescribe.”

How to consume cannabis in a healthy way

To strike a balance between the potential benefits and risks of cannabis consumption, individuals must be willing to opt for more healthful consumption practices

On an individual level, a good first step is to look for alternatives to smoking cannabis. If you don’t want to give up the way the effects of smoking hit you almost immediately, consider checking out the world of dry herb vaporizers

These devices, which include classics like the Storz & Bickel Volcano alongside newer market favorites like the relatively affordable Dynavap or the sleek TinyMight, essentially act like a small oven that heats your cannabis flower to the point where the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds turn into an inhalable vapor that doesn’t negatively impact your respiratory system as badly as smoking does. These are all examples of heat-not-burn technology.

For long-lasting effects and minimal harm to your respiratory system, edibles and tinctures are your best bets. It can be easy, however, to overconsume using these methods. The key here is to slowly work your way up from a small dose until you’ve figured out the minimum effective dose for the goal you’re trying to achieve with your cannabis consumption.

Consider also keeping track of your consumption habits using the Jointly App, which can help you find your perfect dose with the best product for your goals. 

Find top-rated products for your goals 

Jointly is the cannabis discovery app that makes it easy to find and shop the best cannabis and CBD products for your goals. Your matches are calculated from the real product ratings and experiences from hundreds of thousands of people using the Jointly app.

If you're ready to discover new products and reach your goals, download the Jointly app today on the App Store or Google Play, or shop your matches on the Jointly website.   

Are you curious about Jointly?

Whether you want to improve sleep, relieve daily stress, or just relax and refresh, Jointly can help you reach your goals with cannabis.  

With Jointly, you can shop your top-rated products, and save lists of your favorites to share and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.  

The Jointly app also helps you improve your cannabis experiences by uncovering what’s working and what’s not with reflections and personalized insights. In fact, the quality of your diet, how much you slept, who you’re with, and the time of day are just some of the factors that can impact your cannabis experience.  

So if you're ready to find your best products and enjoy your perfect cannabis experience, download the Jointly app today on the App Store or Google Play, or shop your matches on the Jointly website. Discovery awaits.

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