By Dr. Nina Radcliff, MD

Many experts agree that the tension between a widespread belief that cannabis is an effective treatment for a myriad of
ailments and a lack of scientific knowledge on its effects, has been exacerbated in recent times by significant lobbying
efforts with drives toward legalization. The rise in use and legalization is prompting major public health concerns. Here, we
look at some scientific evidence about the health risks of marijuana use that continues to fuel concerns.
People often use the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” interchangeably, but they don’t mean exactly the same thing.
The National Institute of Health explains:
—The word “cannabis” refers to all products derived from the plant Cannabis sativa.
—The cannabis plant contains about 540 chemical substances.
—The word “marijuana” refers to parts of or products from the plant Cannabis sativa that contain substantial amounts
of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the substance that’s primarily responsible for the effects of marijuana on a
person’s mental state.
—Under U.S. law, cannabis plants that contain very little THC plants are considered “industrial hemp” rather than

Medical Marijuana

Experts agree that cannabis is directly useful for treating only a small number of conditions. And today, for most of
these, there are better alternatives. Specifically for multiple sclerosis, it may be a temporary treatment for those who suffer
from nausea and vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy. Additionally, research on cannabis for other conditions is in
early stages and, in some cases, nonexistent.
There is no evidence that marijuana improves stomach ailments, anxiety, or depression — common reasons cited for
medical marijuana use. It’s the “high” that cannabis offers that users claim provides temporary relief. However, the cost is
that it can worsen the underlying problem and becomes a dangerous form of self-medicating.

Cannabis Usage Harms

—Respiratory: Lungs were only meant to breathe oxygen, not smoke tobacco, marijuana, or other items (vaping,
hookah). Cannabis clearly injures the delicate lining of respiratory airways which has been shown to lead to chronic
cough, phlegm production, wheezing,
and bronchitis/inflammation of the airways.
—There’s accumulating evidence that regular cannabis use can alter brain function, especially in networks that support
working memory, attention, and cognitive control processing.
—Addiction, also referred to as marijuana use disorder, can lead to dependence, which is when a person experiences
withdrawal symptoms if the drug is not in their system. Symptoms include craving, withdrawal, lack of control, and
negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities.
—Gateway drug: Cannabis use has been shown to alter the brain’s reward system, making it more likely that the user
will self-administer other harmful drugs — and develop an addiction to them.
—Memory impairment occurs because a marijuana compound, THC, alters how the hippocampus (the area in the brain
that processes information and forms memory) is altered. And the effects can last for weeks after!
— Violence: Cannabis use increases aggressiveness, paranoia, and personality changes (more suspicious,
aggressive, angry). Interestingly, up to 31 percent of homicide victims tested positive for marijuana use. While the cause
of this is not understood, it is alarming.
—Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is a condition that leads to repeated and severe bouts of vomiting and retching. It’s
extremely unpleasant and can lead to severe dehydration that can result in kidney failure, and even death.
—Smoking high-potency marijuana regularly has been associated with a five-fold increase in psychosis, the loss of
contact with reality. A person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed, and they may have difficulty understanding what
is real or not.
—Erectile dysfunction: The inability to get and keep an erection, known as ED, has been shown to double with the use
of cannabis. Additionally, it creates hormone imbalances which can negatively impact sperm quality and gynecomastia, an

abnormal increase in breast gland tissue in boys/men.
—Blood sugar levels can drop immediately after consumption and can last for several hours. This is particularly
dangerous in those who take medications for diabetes. The combination of a medication to lower blood sugar levels and
the addition of cannabis can be dangerous, even deadly.
—Weight gain results from appetite stimulation
—Dangerous interactions with certain medications (e.g., blood thinners and sedatives) can occur
—The use of cannabis has been linked to an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.
—Research shows that marijuana use affects timing, movement, and coordination, which can harm balance and
athletic or motor performance.
—Marijuana can cause permanent IQ loss that is significant—as much as 8 points! This does not come back, even
after quitting marijuana.
—Science confirms that marijuana users are more likely to have relationship problems, worse educational outcomes,
lower career achievement, and reduced life satisfaction.
Marijuana use comes with real risks that can impact a person’s health and life with negative and long-term effects. As
recreational and “medicinal” use increases, my hope is that people use discernment and look at how various industries
have pushed profit over public health.

* * * * *

This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions
and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional. Dr. Nina has used all reasonable care in compiling
the current information but it may not apply to you and your symptoms. Always consult a doctor or other health care
professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

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