Today, I am going to be reviewing an article from Eat This, Not That! , a platform devoted to healthy living. The author of the article is Leah Groth, a freelance journalist and contributor to several well-respected wellness publications (including Prevention and Men’s Health, among many others).
Though I normally cover/review articles based on their hyperbole or malicious nature, this is not the case with this one. This work is meant to inform at its heart. I am just concerned by at least one of the points of concern that the author has raised.
Let us begin.
Marijuana, also referred to as weed, pot, dope, or cannabis, is the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. “It contains mind-altering (e.g., psychoactive) compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, as well as other active compounds like cannabidiol, or CBD, that are not mind-altering,” explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marijuana is used for many reasons, some recreational and others medicinal. However, no matter what you are using it for, there can be side effects, explains Niket Sonpal, MD, NYC Internist and Gastroenterologist, Faculty Member Touro College of Medicine. Read on to learn about the surprising side effects of marijuana.
Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these 19 Ways You’re Ruining Your Body, Say Health Experts.
1.)There May Be a Lowered Reaction Time
One potential short-term negative effect of marijuana is a lowered reaction time. “Slower reaction times may occur due to the THC, the main psychoactive in marijuana. It’s believed that the thalamo-cortico-striatal circuit network in the brain (portion related to the perception of time) contains many receptors that bind with THC,” explains Dr. Sonpal. “When this binding happens, your internal clock speeds us, thus leading you to feel as if everything has slowed down around you.”
While I have never heard the medical explanation of this phenomenon before, this isn’t really anything new. It serves as a good reason why driving under the influence of cannabis isn’t a great idea, though.
2.) It May Promote Severe Anxiety
While marijuana has a calming effect on some people, others experience severe anxiety. “Someone may experience increased feelings of anxiety because high THC levels cause the brain to receive more cannabinoids than usual. This over-stimulates the amygdala, which causes some people to feel anxious,” says Dr. Sonpal.
While this also isn’t new information, I have to wonder how much of this is based on the combination of increased/increasing THC content and decreasing (or the complete lacking of) of CBD content in many modern strains of marijuana (sold both legally and illegally).
I mention this partially because CBD has become a well-known (albeit, not well researched) aid in controlling anxiety, but also because the 2 compounds are thought to work in unison when it comes to delivering a fairly stable THC high.
Again, science has yet to catch up to the claims. Nonetheless, however, when THC and CBD are both present in cannabis or cannabis derivatives consumed, the CBD is thought to work as a sort of buffer to the at times chaotic sharper edges of THC intoxication.
This site puts it best:
Taken alone, both CBD and THC may have unique and isolated effects, but when taken together, research shows that the negative side-effects of THC is reduced greatly.
Clinic studies and research shows that the combined effects of taking CBD and THC together reduces pain and cancer related symptoms.
The overall understanding of medicinal cannabis, CBD and THC and their effects on the human body is in its infancy.
The format of the list format of the OP article may not be conducive to the intricate details of nuance such as those above. However, given the purpose of the article, the omission of these details seems somewhat deceptive (even if unintentional).
I am lenient when it comes to journalists quoting experts, however. It would not be the first time that I’ve come across quoted experts who are taken seriously solely on account of their resume containing the letters MD. Just as it would not be the first time I’ve come across a quoted expert who is quick to parrot negative effects of cannabis (such as anxiety), yet not understand anything beyond this symptom. BECAUSE this is not their area of expertise.
You can find one of my favourite examples of this HERE.
Journalists want sources with well-respected credentials. And there are many people out there that fit the bill, even if they may have just as much understanding of what they are claiming expertise to as the very journalist in which they are speaking. It’s annoying, but so long as people don’t know any better, it is what it is.
Is that what is happening here?
I don’t know. Like many media quirks and biases, it is not always possible to know the answer to this question for sure. However, it is something to keep in mind when reading articles (in this case, on the subject of marijuana) going forward.
3.) It May Negatively Impact Your Heart
Using marijuana not only makes the heart beat faster, but could also lead to increased risk of stroke and heart disease, says the CDC. However, they do point out that most of the scientific studies linking marijuana to heart attacks and strokes are based on reports from people who smoked it. “Smoked marijuana delivers THC and other cannabinoids to the body, but it also delivers harmful substances to users and those close by, including many of the same substances found in tobacco smoke, which are harmful to the lungs and cardiovascular system.
Again, this is not really news. Though the bad for the heart aspect has been getting a fair amount of online media coverage recently, I am glad the author has made clear the limitations of that research.
Overall, i’de say that this falls into the realm of common sense. Smoking anything isn’t healthy. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options.
4.)It Might Result in Long-Term Brain Damage
Per the CDC, marijuana affects brain development. “When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce attention, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions,” they explain. “Marijuana’s effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent. This means that someone who uses marijuana may not do as well in school and may have trouble remembering things.”
This was the main point I wanted to touch on in this article. Something that I have come to see as borderline scaremongering after writing THIS a month ago.
The part of the linked article that is most pertinent is this:
How old are you? Why age matters
Still in the womb? The prenatal brain is very vulnerable to the presence of cannabis.
You’re an adolescent? The available evidence indicates that the adolescent brain is still vulnerable to exogenous cannabinoids. Essentially, cannabis alters the normal trajectory of brain maturation, although the consequences are less severe than those seen following prenatal exposure. The combined evidence from numerous human and animal studies suggests that exposure to cannabis during adolescence has the potential to produce subtle, but lasting, alterations in brain function and behavior. The severity differs according to the duration of use, age at first use, and underlying genetic vulnerabilities that are more likely to appear during adolescence, such as various psychopathologies.
If you’re beyond middle age, the use of whole plant medical cannabis does not have a negative impact on cognition in older patients. Why are the effects of cannabis age-dependent? The answer to this question remains unknown but there is one fascinating potential mechanism that involves what is happening to the stem cells in your brain. Stem cells undergo neurogenesis and give birth to new neurons every day. Neurogenesis is obviously critical for the developing brain from prenatal to adolescence. Neurogenesis begins to decline around middle age and is nearly absent by the time you are ready to retire.
And to quote myself (as sourced from the link in the previous paragraph):
First of all, the term psychopathologies seems to be psychologist speak for various mental illness traits. It sounds kind of like psychopathy, but it’s not. If memory serves, psychopathy generally starts showing up long before adolescence.
And just so I am clear to my readers:
Note: If you are under the age of majority where you live, leave the intoxicating experiences until you are legal age!
While I again do not advise that minors consume marijuana or any other drugs, I have to point out what most of these hyperbolic scare-mongering articles seem to miss. Contrary to the squeaky clean world that adults wish we and our children live in, there will be teens that use cannabis. Rather than pushing the hyperbolic talking points which essentially say Marijuana is bad, PERIOD! (which will only lead to problems when teenagers inevitably call your bluff and ignore this prudish nonsense), be realistic.
No, people under the age of 18 (or whatever the legal age is where you live) should not be using marijuana. But since that is as much wishful thinking as promoting an abstinence-only education curriculum, teach them some facts about what they are getting into, starting with reviewing the article I quoted above.
5.) It May Help You Sleep Better
A potential short-term positive effect? Marijuana may help you sleep better. “Marijuana acts as a sleep aid because the THC’s sedative effects lengthen the time spent in deep sleep and shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep,” explains Dr. Sonpal.
Knowing people that use cannabis partly for this benefit, I have to concur that this isn’t new. Though, like all sleep aids (including over-the-counter melatonin), one may want to be wary of continuous dosage for this purpose. There may be reliance or addiction factors to consider.
Another odd omission on the part of our quoted MD.
6.) Risk of Prescription Opioid Use
A potential long- term negative effect is increased risk of prescription opioid abuse, states Dr. Sonpal. “Research has suggested that individuals who use marijuana may be more likely to misuse opioids than nonusers,” he explains.
This was another point that grabbed my attention since it struck me as being opposite to what one would expect. The fact that neither MD nor author has bothered to cite any source to back this claim is also bothersome.
But I may understand what the concern is. And for that, I have to again consult my entry from a month ago.
This is certainly new to me. I have in the past, come across research indicating that substances like alcohol and nicotine act (or CAN act) as sort of magnifiers of the effects of other drugs (one of them being THC). A better word to use may be primer (as opposed to magnifier).
In my previous (linked) post, it was indicated that THC may be linked to alcohol use disorder due to a priming effect on the brain. It makes me wonder if the connection between marijuana, nicotine and schizophrenia may have similar origins.
Though that article was more focused on a possible association between marijuana use, tobacco use and the development of schizophrenia, the phenomenon we are concerned with is the so-called priming of the brain. This may be the factor that increases the risk of marijuana users abusing opioid medications.
Brain endocannabinoid and opioid signaling systemshave overlapping behavioral functions, playing keyroles in pain, memory, and reward ‘‘liking’’. In accordancewith this hypothesis, drugs likeD9-tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) and heroin that target these endogenous systemssuppress pain, interferewith memory, and have eu-phoric effects. Cannabinoid and opioid signalingalso enhance hedonic ‘‘liking’’ of food rewards, and fa-cilitate incentive motivational ‘‘wanting’’ that, whenexcessive, can lead to development of compulsive drugseeking in addiction. Given rising use and addiction toopioid and cannabinoid drugs, a better understandingof how these endogenous signaling systems interact inthe brain is of significant interest.The overlapping affective functions of opioids andcannabinoids in nucleus accumbens (NAc) may not beseparate, but instead involve synaptic interactions be-tween these signaling systems. For example, cannabinoidreceptor type 1 (CBR1) andlopioid receptors are fre-quently found in the same cells and afferent axons inNAc shell. Their co-use of Gi/o signaling pathways,as well as their ability to form heterodimers3alsopoint to these signaling systems interacting to modulatebehavior. Indeed, there is evidence that cannabinoidand opioid receptor systems interact functionally.For example, cannabinoidantagonists block opioidstimulation of accumbens dopamine release, heroinself-administration, reinstatement of heroin seeking, andfood intake.
Conversely, opioid antagonists block cannabinoid drug self-administration, the reinforcing ef-fects of THC, and THC-elicited food intake. In ad-dition, cannabinoid and opioid drugs demonstratecross-sensitization and tolerance, and THC can prime heroin seeking in a self-administration model.
Well, that is handy-dandy. But the paper itself is a nightmare. However, the relevant information can be found near the end of the quoted text.
I am assuming this was the relationship eluded to by the OP author (or more accurately, her quoted MD). A citation would certainly have been great.
7.) It May Help Treat Chronic Pain
Dr. Sonpal also reveals that s potential long-term positive effect of marijuana is that it can treat chronic pain. “THC in marijuana reduces pain perception and pain signaling by interacting with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, thus relieving pain,” he says. And to get through life at your healthiest, Don’t Take This Supplement, Which Can Raise Your Cancer Risk.
And again, there is nothing really new being added here. Though this reply is surprisingly well explained (compared to the last one).
Thus ends this article, and exploration. Though I had a few critiques, it is good for a piece tailored for everyday people who are ignorant of the ins and outs of marijuana. While it contains a couple tropes common in media reporting on the subject, such tropes tend to be more common than not, and (most importantly) are generally not the fault of the journalist. They are just writing what they are being told.