Health & Wellbeing

Massive marijuana report reveals drug's many health effects

Massive marijuana report revea...
Cannabis and its many effects on users are described by a massive report that looks at 10,000 scientific studies
Cannabis and its many effects on users are described by a massive report that looks at 10,000 scientific studies
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Cannabis and its many effects on users are described by a massive report that looks at 10,000 scientific studies
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Cannabis and its many effects on users are described by a massive report that looks at 10,000 scientific studies

There's been no shortage of studies conducted over the years on the effects of marijuana use. But the focus of those studies can be as varied as their conclusions, making it a challenge to wade through the reams of information and get a full read on the drug. A new and lengthy report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine seeks to remedy this by examining more than 10,000 scientific abstracts of cannabis studies published since 1999, reaching nearly 100 conclusions.

Like the many studies, the report issues a mixed bag of good, bad and inconclusive results. Some of the more significant conclusions are on the therapeutic effects of cannabis and its ability to considerably reduce chronic pain symptoms in adults. It also finds that marijuana use likely increases the risk of developing schizophrenia, various psychoses and social anxiety disorders. The scientists involved with the report point out areas where research is lacking, and suggest ways to improve such scientific efforts while enhancing data collection in support of this research.

With the growing acceptance and legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana use, getting a clear view of the effects of the drug, both harmful and beneficial, has never been more needed from a public health standpoint. "The lack of any aggregated knowledge of cannabis-related health effects has led to uncertainty about what, if any, are the harms or benefits from its use," states Marie McCormick, chair of the report committee and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "We conducted an in-depth and broad review of the most recent research to establish firmly what the science says and to highlight areas that still need further examination. As laws and policies continue to change, research must also."

A nationwide survey found that 22.2 million Americans age 12 and older used marijuana in the past 30 days. Ten percent of use is solely for medical purposes and 90 percent primarily recreational, with 36 percent using it for both. Since 2002, the number of regular users (citing use in the past month) has increased steadily from 6.2 to 8.3 percent.

Regarding medical benefits, the report finds that oral cannabinoids (tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other chemical compounds) helped to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting that typically results from chemotherapy. It also helped reduce back spasms in adults with multiple sclerosis.

As for negative outcomes, using marijuana before driving increases the risk of a car accident. The report also finds a greater risk of ingestion (and poisoning) by children in states that had legalized medical marijuana.

Some good news for marijuana users: there's no evidence that smoking cannabis increases your risk of lung, head or neck cancer, like tobacco use does. But smoking marijuana on a regular basis will lead to more respiratory issues, such as chronic bronchitis, cough and phlegm production. At the same time, regular exposure to marijuana smoke may promote anti-inflammatory activity within the immune system.

Marijuana use is generally not good for mental health – users are more likely to report thoughts of suicide, while it can increase symptoms for individuals with bipolar disorder. But a history of cannabis use can help those with schizophrenia and other psychoses perform better on learning and memory tasks.

There is moderate evidence to suggest that using marijuana can lead to substance abuse and dependence on other drugs. Additionally, the younger you start using marijuana, the greater the likelihood of developing problem cannabis use. It's also not surprising that learning, memory and attention are impaired immediately after using marijuana, with limited evidence of cognitive impairments in terms of learning, memory, and attention in those that have stopped smoking cannabis. The researchers also say there is evidence that cannabis use during adolescence can result in "impairments in subsequent academic achievement and education as well as social relationships and social roles."

Source: National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine

Update (Nov. 5, 2018): This article originally stated that, "there's no evidence of any negative long-term effects in those cognitive functions after you stop smoking." This was incorrect, with the study reporting there is "limited evidence" of cognitive impairments in those that have stopped smoking cannabis. The article has been edited to reflect this and we apologize for the error.

19 comments
Daishi
There is a lot of data to challenge the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug but a point that I rarely see brought up alongside with it is when people are arrested and put into our penal system that action is more likely to just create a career criminal than it is to bring about any meaningful reform to that individual's life. What this means is arresting people for victimless crimes turns otherwise fairly law abiding people into hardened criminals. Hardened criminals are often people who started with minor crimes and got trapped in the legal system. You get put on probation and then start getting your hand slapped over and over again doing things other people regularly get away with. It sounds anecdotal but all my friends growing up drank beer and smoked occasionally. When I look around at the people that succeeded and left that stuff behind vs the people that were consumed by it into adulthood the most consistent difference I see is the ones who were caught and put into the legal system are the ones who never came out of it and the ones who didn't grew up and moved on. It's anecdotal but the studies I have seen on crime and recidivism mostly reinforce my experiences growing up. The people who talk about marijuana being a gateway drug always seem to ignore this when considering legalization. This is also part of the reason I never considered going into law enforcement. I could never arrest people for doing the kinds of things I was doing at the same age. I lost my best friend to drugs but credit the legal system for changing him before he moved on to harder stuff. They made my friend a criminal and he never came back.
PG
I have only one thing to contribute: It's a link to the PATENT on medical marijana. It is owned by the US Government www.goo.gl/tdwtb
CzechsterMarek
So basically the Government and MSM have been lying to us for the last hundred years. Marijuana incarceration is far more racist than the worst events through our history. Today we celebrate MLK but not one of the prominent figures of the black community will stand up for the millions of blacks incarcerated due to Marijuana Prohibition. Geez.
Grunchy
Marijuana has long been a street drug combined with other substances such as opium, heroin, PCP, whatever. It may not be very addictive on it's own, however it is possible for street peddlers to spike it so it can become more habit-forming for you. So you may think you smoke innocuous 'herb, but the reality is you've been putting into your body whatever your street dealer thinks is to his favor. Drug dealers are pretty violent & dodgy criminals, do you actually believe anything they tell you? Part of the reason they don't work may be because of lack of legitimate opportunity, but mostly because they are too messed up to hold down a real job. Or else they commit to lawless enterprise, and then they usually have a gun (North America). It is a gateway drug to the extent that your dealer thinks you need to consume more product, simple as that.
keith14
In my youth I smoked plenty of this stuff. But at least I could get up in the mornings ready for work. Unlike my boozy mates turning up late for work with massive hangovers. Mind you the weed we smoked in those days was probably a lot less harmfull as the weed they grow nowadays. In my opinion it should be made legal to purchase say 40 grams a week for personal use.
tjcoop3
OK, government is strongly against marijuana legalization for any number of excuses. Government run NAS comes out with studies controlled by government or large pharmaceuticals that says various negative things along with a couple positives to convince people they really are neutral. I say BS. If a government agency is talking they are usually lying. If typing a report the lies are no less likely.
noteugene
I smoked for about 25 yrs, just got tired of it. Can hardly believe all the silly comments that "scientist" attribute to pot. They can attribute about anything if they have a biased viewpoint beforehand. Nixon declares a war on drugs and for the next several decades we've spent billions locking people up for smoking pot. I wish we had those billions back to pay down on the national debt. No, I'm not a career criminal, or any other kind of criminal. No, no schizophrenic tendencies here, sorry. No paranoia. No substance abuse or chemical dependence's. No learning disabilities. No warts on my forehead. Medical marijuana is a load of hooey. Back door excuse to decriminalize or legalize pot. I'm ok with it though because throwing people in jail for a small amount is just stupid. What people do on their own time, with their own money and health is no concern of yours. If they had to enact a silly excuse to combat silly laws, hurray. No saying that pot doesn't alleviate pain to a certain extent. Pretty mild compared to some pain pills. But it is claimed by a few that can't tolerate pain pills. I suspect that this may be true but only for an extremely limited percentage of medical marijuana users. Most of the users smoke pot because - gasp - they want to smoke pot. Only problem I have with it is right after smoking, incoming headlights really effect you. You don't have that problem after you stop for a couple months. But testing thc levels is bogus. You only effected for a short time period right after you smoke and even at that to a limited extent. Cops want to test your thc levels and if you've smoked withing say a month or so, it's like a dui charge so I've heard. Unbelievable. People that have never smoked and know jack s**t are the ones that make these laws. Oh yeah - you can get loose your job too....after working for them for 16 yrs. Oh you don't smoke at work, your not high at work, you've just got some thc in your system. I never felt like robbing a store after smoking a joint. It was more like, let's watch cartoons........So I really don't understand the class III label that Uncle Sam slapped on this. Again, stupid. But....all the old white farts are dying off, newer generation taking over, maybe they will enact laws that contain a bit more common sense. People that have actual EXPERIENCE should be crafting these laws. I'm ok with a dui like ticket if someone is driving like a drunk or is involved in an accident sure but not just for thc levels alone. I say legalize it, tax the crap out of it, apply it towards the national debt.
Jacksdad
Published in the American Journal of Public Health, "US Traffic Fatalities, 1985–2014, and Their Relationship to Medical Marijuana Laws": "Conclusions. Both MMLs and dispensaries were associated with reductions in traffic fatalities, especially among those aged 25 to 44 years." http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303577
Signguy
noteugene: I agree with most of what you said. I smoked when I was young & coming up in the 60's it was just the "thing to do" with everyone. I didn't do any hard drugs because of it, but tried others like LSD, Peyote, Schrooms; none of this made me want to rob a store, or any other weird stuff. I quit because I accepted Christ. I've tried the new stuff, but quite frankly I don't like it. We all make choices, no matter what happens to us, we're still responsible for them & what we do after.
JamesAsherton
Dope as a stupid person was early American slang, and that's why it is called dope. Use it if you want but if you mess your life up with it then what?