The risks of using medical marijuana are a point of disagreement in the medical community and in the public at large. There is widespread controversy about:
•What the risks are to your mental and physical health
•How important they are
•How dangerous marijuana really is
The physical risks of using marijuana are proportional to the amount of marijuana used. Occasional users, or light users, can often avoid or minimize many of these risks.
Smoking Marijuana Has Risks
The increased risk of respiratory problems in people who smoke marijuana is similar to people who smoke tobacco. Respiratory infections, lung damage, chronic coughing and phlegm production are all common among heavy users.
Image thanks to Laurie Avocado via Wikimedia Commons
Cannabinoids are the active ingredient in marijuana and they are not carcinogenic, that is, they do not cause cancer. However, marijuana smoke contains 50% more carcinogens and 300% more tar than tobacco smoke. Researchers have been unable to prove that smoking marijuana causes lung cancer but the risks seem clear.
Authorities Recommend Not Smoking Marijuana
Without smoking it marijuana can still cause increased heart rate and changes in blood pressure that may lead to headaches, dizziness, and fainting spells.
It seems clear that smoking marijuana causes increased risks that can be avoided by finding other ways to use marijuana. Edible forms are available, tea can be brewed, tinctures can be made, or vaporizers can be used to avoid inhaling all of the products of combustion found in marijuana smoke.
Other Adverse Physical Effects
Marijuana can affect your heart rhythms causing palpitations and arrhythmias in susceptible individuals. This risk is increase with age and in people with heart disease.
Short term memory impairment can occur even with low doses, and permanent damage can occur with chronic abuse of marijuana.
Using cannabis is known to cause changes in your mood. Users report feeling of euphoria, detachment, and relaxation. The most common adverse emotional effects are thought to be anxiety, paranoia or depression, tiredness, and low motivation.
More Severe Emotional Changes seen with Chronic Drug Abuse
More severe adverse changes are related to the consumption of large amounts of the drug and they include a distorted sense of time, fear and panic, or psychosis. People with pre existing mental illness may experience exacerbation or worsening of their symptoms.
In most cases the symptoms disappear with stopping the use of the drug, but with chronic use of large amounts of these changes may not go away completely.
Marijuana Addiction is Real
Physical addiction or dependence on marijuana can occur with regular use, but withdrawal symptoms are usually mild and not long lasting.
The bigger risk is psychological addiction or inability to abstain from using the drug. Other signs of mental addiction include regular frequent use, requiring larger and larger amounts of the drug, and problems at work or strained family relationships.
There has never been a reported case of someone dying from a marijuana overdose. That does not mean that you could not suffer adverse consequences from smoking or otherwise ingesting large amounts of marijuana and and uncontrolled fashion.
Many different uses of cannabis have been documented with well controlled scientific studies. It has been shown to relieve pain, increase appetite, and ease anxiety along with many other valuable benefits.
It appears that the physical risks of healthy people using marijuana are limited and directly related to the amount used or abused.