Even the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) admits cannabis use “may have a wide range of health effects on the body and brain.” You will notice the lack of commitment in the word “may.”
Nonetheless, this leading authority on health issues acknowledges the connection between cannabis and improved brain and body health. Unfortunately, the CDC must wait on the long-overdue research into cannabis' medicinal benefits, delayed because cannabis has remained listed as a Schedule I drug.
Brain Function: Cannabis has an immediate impact on brain functions. Its cannabinoids bind to neurotransmitters that reach the brain's control center. Once there, cannabis can influence attention, coordination, decision-making, emotions, learning, and responsiveness. The effects depend on the balance of cannabinoids and the potency of the specific strain used.
Strains with high THC content can excite the brain, producing clarity of vision and waves of creativity. Cannabis with high THC potency can push users towards paranoia and hallucinations. On the other hand, strains with a high CBD percentage will calm and relax neural systems agitated by anxiety, spasticity, and stress. Some research evidence suggests women should not use cannabis during pregnancy. And other research has focused on potential long-term damage to the developing minds of adolescent users.
- Cancer: Cannabis will not cure cancer. However, as the CDC notes, it successfully treats the side effects of cancer and cancer therapy. For example, cannabis has the power to relieve nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of synthetic cannabis properties in Dronabinol and Nabilone to control nausea and vomiting. Moreover, doctors have treated neuropathic pain, chronic and debilitating pain from damaged nerves. Some research also indicates cannabis may influence cell regeneration which would counter cancer's growth.Damaging toxins and carcinogens in the smoke present health risks. The CDC warns that cannabis consumed as inhaled smoke can harm the lungs and cardiovascular system. However, consumers can use cannabis in forms that do not present this risk. Unfortunately, some research finds a correlation between chronic cannabis use and the occurrence of testicular cancer.
Lung disease: Lung tissues are sensitive. Any number of things can irritate the lining of the lungs. Because inhaled cannabis enters the blood system through the lung walls, it will likely irritate them. The bronchial cough that follows use offers a clue to the irritation. However, some inhalants cause more trouble than others. For example, the carbon and toxins released by burning a hand-rolled joint or blunt may irritate the lungs. But using water pipes and clean bongs and pipe bowls present less risk. Smoking anything will likely affect the respiratory system, but different people respond differently. Moreover, using cannabis edibles does not present the same threat.
Mental Health: The CDC makes concerning claims about the effect of cannabis on mental health. It claims that the daily use of high potency cannabis can cause anxiety, depression, disorientation, and paranoia. The operative word here is "can" because no one has demonstrated a causal link between cannabis use and these outcomes. Repeated use of cannabis with potent THC levels will cause paranoia in some users. It may provoke temporary psychosis or schizophrenic episodes. Such chronic use is an individual choice, with some users seeking experiences near these extremes. However, most users seek recreational experiences far short of these mental health issues or medicinal therapies. CDC claims a link between cannabis and suicidal ideation, social anxiety, and depression. Despite evidence that cannabis has proven effective therapy for many forms of anxiety and depression, they claim this. It has helped thousands suffering from PTSD and migraines. And it has become a go-to therapy for those with spastic conditions. There is enough evidence to suggest the CDC has been disingenuous in these claims.
Pain: The CDC continues to put a foot in its mouth when criticizing the use of cannabis to treat pain. It acknowledges evidence that some cannabis use reduces or relieves the neuropathic pain associated with damaged nerves. Neuropathic pain affects the quality of life of those afflicted, often crippling affecting their ability to work. So, any relief thanks to cannabis merits attention. The CDC ignores other evidence that cannabis can reduce pain associated with inflammation and spasticity. If the relief from chronic pain is only psychological, it relieves patients. The health agency also acknowledges that cannabis use does offer an alternative to opioid use. Opioid users have valued cannabis for weaning off deadly drugs like fentanyl. Studies have noted a decline in opioid use in states that have legalized cannabis.
Teens: Like the CDC, we have raised concerns about chronic use among adolescents. The fear is that it will affect developing brains. Regular cannabis use may result in difficulties in problem-solving and learning. For instance, it may affect memory and attention and reduce orientation and coordination. The agency cites extensive statistics on the use of cannabis among teens. This data presents something of a contradiction. Granted that cannabis use is - and has been - common among teens, it has not crippled them all. Most teens live everyday lives despite their acquaintance with cannabis. Teens will risk cannabis use, just as they experiment with alcohol and drive too fast. Parents and authorities should correct their high-risk behaviors, but teens will be teens. So, the CDC and researchers should be careful in judging cannabis users as inevitably chronic stoners.
The CDC raises legitimate concerns about the harmful effects of cannabis use. They do acknowledge more relative research would help. However, the Federal government’s prohibitive position on cannabis has smothered the potential for informative research.
Nonetheless, we can respect some of the CDC's caution if we underscore their repeated can and may use. These conditions undercut the concern in its voice. These limitations allow for many alternative interpretations, so we will stick with a position that moderate use of purposefully-selected cannabis strains will induce enjoyable recreational experiences or positive medicinal benefits for most people.