Health Implications of Marijuana Use

A marijuana cigarette
A joint. Photo by Wavebreakmedia –
Who said “I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.”? Well, we’ll keep you guessing for a while, but the person who did say this was concerned about the image he would leave, mainly because it is illegal.

The legalization of marijuana in the United States has been a hot topic for quite some time. 32 states now have legal medical marijuana programs. Even in the wave of statewide legalization sweeping most parts of the US, the federal government is adamant about maintaining the status of pot alongside dangerous addictive drugs such as cocaine and MDMA.

If we put the debate on recreational marijuana aside, the support for medical marijuana (MMJ) is increasing gratefully. In many state-administered varsities, marijuana is being researched and studied as a potent medical substance. Interestingly, many studies have vindicated the stance of MMJ legalization.

In the latest study, it has been found that the use of this plant might be linked to a high sperm count.  Amid many encouraging signs showing the therapeutic and health benefits of marijuana, it is important to refrain from giving sweeping statements regarding its medical criteria.

Although there are proponents for legalizing marijuana, their reasoning is essentially based upon financial and judicial reasons with some credit towards its medical use, but the research in its favor has overshadowed the long-established studies regarding the harmful implication of pot usage overall. So let’s take a look at the health risks that are associated with the use of smoking the marijuana plant, but before we do, we promised we’d tell you who said that he didn’t inhale it – our 42nd president of the United States – Bill Clinton.

Effects of Marijuana Use on Mental Health

In many statewide MMJ programs, it is now recognized as the legitimate treatment for some mental health issues. For instance, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the qualifying conditions in most of the statewide MMJ programs, but it is important to mention that marijuana extracts in the form of CBD oils are effective against some mental health conditions, including PTSD patients, but the research for CBD as a cureall or even as help for many other claimed health issues is hardly conclusive.

Marijuna Plant
Marijuana plants contain hundreds of cannabinoids

Pot plants are laden with hundreds of cannabinoids (receptors, located throughout the body, which are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory), but one thing is clear; although the CBD extract may have some promising benefits, the cannabis extract that is considered detrimental to your health is Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This substance can have significant consequences on the mental health of people who consume weed on a regular basis. 

It has been extensively studied that THC binds with cannabinoid receptors present in nerve cells and disrupts their regular function. The nerve cells affected by exposure to THC are responsible for many cognitive functions. Smoking weed and getting ‘high’ is the result of the psychoactive effect of THC. Many brain activities like pleasure, critical thinking, time and distance perception, and body coordination can get affected by heavy marijuana use. People who regularly consume pot are not able to act normally under its influence and can ultimately become dependent on its use. Their brain cells actually adapt to the stimulation of THC and only work well in its presence. 

Illustration of Distance Perception

One case of distance perception inhibition was a college student who was driving on the FDR Drive in Manhattan, which is the roadway that runs along the East River. It was a rainy night and the student was heading south as his passenger friends were puffing away on their weed. The driver saw what looked like a stalled car up ahead that looked liked it was stopped, but he got distracted and turned away for a second. When his eyes hit the road again, the car was smack in front of them. The student slammed on the brake and came within a few feet away from the stalled car before his car came to a stop.

What made matters worse was that there were two men removing the spare tire from their trunk and were between his car and theirs. No doubt they would have been killed had the student not reacted when he did, but he should have reacted sooner. He didn’t realize how close he was to that car until it was almost too late.

Aside from the fact that these two men were apparently not the sharpest knives in the tray because every New Yorker knows to never change a tire on the FDR Drive (there is no shoulder), they are lucky to be alive, but the student was quite shaken up and vowed never to touch the stuff again. The latest information is that he has been sticking to his vow.

So we are saying not to avoid marijuana if it is legal in your state, but same as driving while drunk – DON’T DO IT!

Effects of Marijuana on Cardiac Health

Graph of a heart rate
Heart Rate with a Spike

The use of marijuana entails an immediate upsurge in heart rate. A person can experience a 60% hike in heart rhythm within a couple of minutes. Increased heart rate in the absence of enduring physical activity is itself a problem.

But marijuana’s detrimental effect doesn’t just stop there. While drastically increasing the heart rate, it also causes a relatively quick drop in blood pressure. And severe drop in blood pressure is no doubt unhealthy. According to medical research, this lethal combination of the two different cardiac conditions increases the chances of a heart attack four-fold.

It is important to mention that the study was primarily done on healthy individuals. Just imagine what it can to to people who are already suffering from a cardiovascular issue are more prone and vulnerable to the dangers associated with smoking week.

Detrimental effects of marijuana on the Musculoskeletal System

Drawing of the human ribsLongtime use of marijuana can affect the musculoskeletal system as well. Researchers at The University of Edinburgh, UK have found out that people who regularly use marijuana experience deterioration of bone density that disturbs their BMI. They also found out that it can lead to the development of the chronic condition of Osteoporosis in the later stages of life.

Scientists are still working on finding out the exact reason why marijuana consumption has a detrimental effect on bone density and whether it’s a direct or indirect impact.

Marijuana Consumption, Lungs and Cancer

Marijuana can be consumed in multiple ways. Many people use it in the form of oil extracted from its flowers and buds. Then there are people who make edible products out of it. However, the most popular way to consume it is to smoke it.

More than 90% of people who consume weed for recreational reasons smoke it. This makes use of cannabis as harmful as tobacco smoking since both involve inhalation of carcinogens in the form of tar and other detrimental hydrocarbons. Apart from damaging the health of the respiratory system, the continuous use of marijuana also increases the risk of lung and oral cancer.  

Marijuana Smoke Can be More Dangerous than Tobacco Smoke

In principle, marijuana and tobacco smoke have the same detrimental effects. However, the way marijuana is usually smoked makes it more dangerous.

    • Unlike cigarettes, pot is often smoked without filters, which increases the content of combustion byproducts in the smoke.  
    • People hold marijuana smoke in their lungs for longer in comparison to cigarettes. This means the entire respiratory system remains exposed to harmful substances for a longer time.

Effects of Marijuana During Pregnancy

Pregnant WomanSeveral research studies have shown that the use of marijuana by women during pregnancy can affect the cognitive development of the child in the womb. Newborn children can face many problems throughout life due to marijuana consumption by mothers during pregnancy.

Some unsubstantiated studies also show that the use of marijuana can lead to a reduced capacity of the immune system to fight diseases. Inconclusive studies also indicate marijuana users are more susceptible to developing head and neck cancers in comparison to non-users.


The above discussion clearly shows that using marijuana has never been healthy. It can be used in certain medical conditions where its benefits outweigh the risks; however, is important to mention that marijuana products for medical uses must be free of the psychoactive substance THC.

The discussion has also established that the habitual use of the whole marijuana plant is the recipe for many medical issues. Don’t go for self-medication with marijuana. Always consult physicians who are licensed to recommend marijuana-based products.  

No wonder Bill Clinton didn’t inhale!

The Complicated Link Between Marijuana and Schizophrenia

Man looking sadThe relationship between medical cannabis and psychosis is a heated issue. Despite the fact that many research studies have been conducted on how cannabis affects the human brain and if the drug can be used to treat or manage certain mental health issues, scientists have been unable to reach a definitive conclusion. This is mainly because the research studies have provided mixed results.

While scientific research has not reached a conclusion, there have been a few anecdotal claims regarding the drug’s efficiency for treating and managing various health problems, including some mental health issues. The contradictory evidence has made the issue of cannabis legalization and its use for treatment even more controversial.  

Before analyzing the link between marijuana and schizophrenia, let’s try to understand what schizophrenia is.

What is Schizophrenia?

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation explains schizophrenia as “a chronic brain and behavior disorder that affects a person’s thinking, feelings, and actions. The person can have trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy, expressing and managing emotions, and making decisions. The disease can also affect the patient’s thought processes, they may hear imaginary voices and may believe that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them.”

Due to the debilitating effects, a person suffering from schizophrenia can become socially withdrawn, unresponsive, and emotionless.  

Contrary to public perception, schizophrenia is different from split personality or multiple personality disorder. Unlike a person suffering from a split personality, patients of schizophrenia are non-violent – they do not pose any threat to people around them.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Despite all the advancements in the field of medical science, the exact cause of this severe brain disorder is still unclear. Healthcare professionals and researchers are of the opinion that multiple factors can contribute to the development of schizophrenia. These are:

    • Genetics
    • Biology of a person’s brain— some abnormalities in the chemistry or structure of the brain can trigger the development of the disease.
    • Immune disorders
    • Certain viral infections
    • A variety of psychological factors

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is not as common as other brain disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association, less than one percent of people in the U.S. suffer from chronic brain disease. However, its symptoms are severe and disabling.

Patients with schizophrenia experience and exhibit the following behavioral changes during the early stages of the disease:

    • Change in appearance and personal hygiene
    • Strange body positioning
    • Social withdrawal
    • Being indifferent to important situations
    • Distorted thinking and speech
    • Hallucinations
    • Hearing voices
    • Disorganized or inappropriate behavior
    • Lack of emotions as well as the inability to express
    • Extreme apathy
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Inability to sleep
    • Lack of drive or initiative
    • Patients with schizophrenia constantly feel as if they are being watched

While these are some of the most common signs of schizophrenia, not every patient experiences the same symptoms; they differ from person to person, making the treatment even more difficult. Some people may develop the symptoms slowly, over months and maybe years, while others can develop them abruptly.

Treatment of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is an incurable disease. However, there are medications and treatments available that can help manage the disease by reducing the severity of symptoms.

There are a variety of treatment methods that are used along with antipsychotic medicines. These include behavioral therapies, supportive psychotherapy, and other psychological treatments. In addition to reducing the severity of symptoms and improving the quality of life, these treatment methods also help prevent the relapse of the disease.

Cannabis and Schizophrenia – Understanding the Link Between Them

Does Schizophrenia Drive More Pot Use?

Man rolling up marijuana The link between cannabis and schizophrenia is complex and historically fraught. Scientists have been trying to understand the complex relationship between cannabis and psychosis for a long time.

During the 1960s and 70s, scientists believed that people who use marijuana are more likely to develop a number of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia; however, it was found that the disease can increase the likelihood of drug use – patients with schizophrenia are more likely to use marijuana than a healthy person due to their unique neurobiology. Dr. Suzi Gage, a research associate at the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, said, “The evidence suggested that schizophrenia risk predicts the likelihood of trying cannabis”.

Does Pot Use Drive One to Schizophrenia?

A research study conducted in 2007 found that using the drug just once can make a person 40% more vulnerable to psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, but if we look at the real situations, among the millions of people who use pot (both legally and illegally), those that fall ill to any type of diseases is quite low. That said, we are not including those who start pursuing more dangerous drugs because of their use of marijuana; such as cocaine, heroin, and opioids, and once one is using these narcotics,  it is certainly a situation that may then lead one to schizophrenia, but we will leave that for a separate article.

There are many factors and evidence that challenge the research findings of marijuana use and schizophrenia. Many scientists refute the claims on the basis of the fact that while the use of marijuana has generally increased, the number of people suffering from schizophrenia has actually decreased. This leads many scientists to reach the conclusion that the relationship between the two factors isn’t causal but coincidental.

There are multiple factors that need to be considered to understand the link between marijuana and schizophrenia. Some of them are the age of the person, the amount of drug, how long the person has been consuming the drug and genetics.

Many modern research studies have found that the use of cannabis can lead to schizophrenia in people who have a genetic vulnerability, i.e., a family history of the disease.

Due to the different and often conflicting evidence, there is a lack of consensus among healthcare professionals and researchers. Also, the link between cannabis and schizophrenia is not clear yet.

According to the findings of a study that was conducted over more than 2000 healthy individuals and was published in Molecular Psychiatry in 2014:

“Although considerable evidence implicates cannabis use as a component cause of schizophrenia, it remains unclear whether this is entirely due to cannabis directly raising risk of psychosis, or whether the same genes that increase the risk of psychosis may also increase the risk of cannabis use.”

Cannabis for Treating Schizophrenia

While still in its early stages, there are some studies that have found that the use of marijuana may actually help patients with schizophrenia.

Some researchers at the University of Wollongong found that Cannabidiol (CBD) – a compound that is often termed as the magical compound of the cannabis plant – can provide symptomatic relief to people suffering from a brain disorder.

According to Dr. Katrina Green, the lead researcher, CBD can offer neurological support to cope with a number of mental disorders, ranging from schizophrenia to Alzheimer’s.

Bottom Line

In view of the diverse and contradictory evidence, researchers have reached the conclusion that the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia is not clear-cut. On the other hand, the research regarding the effectiveness of medical cannabis in providing relief from the symptoms of schizophrenia is in its preliminary stages. It is too early to establish the claim; a thorough investigation is needed to confirm the findings.

What’s all the Buzz about Medical Cannabis? Here’s What You Need to Know

Discount Medical Marijuana Store ColoradoBy now, you must have heard about medical cannabis and the ongoing controversy about whether it should be used or not.

Alternatively called medical marijuana, it refers to the use of the cannabis plant, its extract, or some of its chemicals to treat various health conditions.

While cannabis is widely used for a variety of medical purposes and there has been an outcry for its legalization in many parts of the world, it is still considered a Schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

So far, the FDA has only approved cannabis use for treating two rare types of epilepsy – Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. This makes marijuana still one of the most widely used illegal drugs.

Marijuana Plant 03A Brief History of Medical Cannabis

The use of cannabis, for both recreational and medical purposes, can be traced back to at least 4,000 years. Researchers have found that it was being used for medicinal purposes long before the emergence of modern medical science.

There is also evidence that cannabis was popular as a medicinal drug in 19th century Europe and the United States. It was widely used for treating health issues like birth labor, migraine, insomnia, throat infection, and menstrual cramps. The trend continued until the drug was declared it illegal in the early 20th century. This happened mainly due to the difficulties in determining the correct dose of the drug for different patients, which increased the likelihood of developing dependence and drug abuse.

The use of medical marijuana resurfaced in the late 20th and early 21st century.  This time, it gained much more popularity. Researchers and scientists considered it as a potential alternative drug for treating diseases that traditional medications had failed to treat.

Since then, numerous scientific research studies have been conducted all over the world to investigate the beneficial properties of cannabis. There have been experiments to figure out different pharmaceutical preparations of the drug, and many clinical studies and trials have been conducted to study the effects of marijuana on humans.   

Since the research is still considered to be in the early stages and there is some evidence that the drug may cause some negative effects, it has been established that it should be used only when and as prescribed. Also, it should only be used in a form of approved cannabinoid-based medicines in order to benefit from its therapeutic properties.

While cannabis has been used for both recreational and medical purposes since ancient times, the drug did not gain legal status in any part of the world until 2013.

Why Medical Marijuana Has Been All The Rage Lately?

Following are the major reasons for the demands of the legalization of cannabis in many parts of the world:

    • Inefficacy of many first-line medications
    • Severe side-effects of many traditional medications
    • The inability of scientists to find cures and treatments for many diseases
  • Evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, regarding the effectiveness of marijuana for providing relief from many diseases.

Cannabidiol – The Magical Compound in Cannabis

The Cannabis plant contains more than a hundred different chemical compounds, called Cannabinoids. They have the ability to interact with the naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors in the human brain. The level of each cannabinoid and the combination of different cannabinoids give each strain of cannabis plant its unique properties.

Cannabidiol (CBD), the second most common cannabinoid molecule found in the cannabis plant, known to provide relief from various illnesses. CBD is also considered safe for consumption because it is non-intoxicating and does not make you feel high.

Many studies and clinical trials have been conducted to investigate the health benefits of CBD, its behavioral and psychological effects, and pharmacological interactions. But, all the studies that have so far been performed are either in-vitro studies or conducted on animals. Due to this reason, large-scale clinical application of CBD-based drugs, and cannabis, in general, has not been achieved yet.  

While there are some issues in the clinical application of drug-based medicines, researchers have stated that CBD can bring a revolution in the pharmaceutical industry.  

Health Issues that Cannabis Has Been Found to be Helpful

Cannabinoids based medications have been found to be helpful in the treatment and management of many health issues. Some of these are:  

  • Epilepsy CBD (Cannabidiol) and CBDV (Cannabidivarin), two of the cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, are found to be effective in managing symptoms of epilepsy.

According to the researchers, cannabinoids have shown anti-convulsive properties during lab studies. Also, as mentioned earlier, FDA has also approved the use of medical cannabis for two forms of epilepsy.  

  • Chronic Pain Cannabis has been used as an effective alternative treatment for different types of chronic pain, such as neuropathic pain, post-operative pain, and pain due to diseases like fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. A survey conducted in California showed that more than 90% of the participants, suffering from chronic pain, cancer, and migraine, experienced pain relief when treated with medical cannabis.

Some other diseases medical cannabis has been found to be helpful for are:

    • Gastrointestinal issues, such as Crohn’s disease
    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    • Brain diseases, such as depression, Alzheimer’s, PTSD, and Multiple Sclerosis
    • Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
    • Skin diseases, like Eczema and Psoriasis  
    • Chronic pain and inflammation
    • Arthritis
    • Anxiety
      • Glaucoma
    • AIDS/ HIV (it helps to manage symptoms, such as loss of appetite, sleeplessness, neuropathic pain and mood).

Alexander Strokes, a researcher from Hawaii, has found that a compound derived from cannabis can help treat heart disease. According to him, it activates a brain receptor that encourages the heart to work harder to pump blood. He also secured a patent for this compound, in early 2018.

According to Marcel Bonn-Miller, substance abuse specialist at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania:

“The greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and muscle spasms due to Multiple Sclerosis.”


There is much scientific and anecdotal evidence with regard to the effectiveness of marijuana in providing symptomatic relief and an alternative treatment option for various health conditions. However, there is contradictory evidence as well. The drug can have negative effects, can cause addiction, and may increase the risks for developing some diseases, not to mention the proven side effect of distance distortion.

Due to these contrasting views, cannabis is still not considered a first-line treatment by medical practitioners. Wherever the drug is being prescribed, it is currently being used as an alternative medicine to treat diseases for which there are no standard treatments available.

With the contrasting pieces of evidence on one hand and much public demand for legalization on the other, including its use as a recreational drug, legislators are having a hard time deciding its official status.  Indeed, the County of Health Officials of New York (among many others) is very concerned about its use, especially as a recreational drug.

We will continue to keep you up to date about the cannabis issue. Stay tuned for our ongoing series on the medical, political and financial reactions of using marijuana both medically and recreationally in this current climate of the cannabis controversy.