3 Big Questions About Marijuana, Answered

There are loads of questions surrounding medical marijuana, but a few are more common than others. Asking the “big” questions helps cover a bit more ground, as well as giving us the chance to come up with more new and interesting questions.

So, without further ado, let’s ask and answer some of the biggest questions about marijuana.

1. Is Marijuana Addictive?

In the strictest sense, no. Marijuana is not physically addictive in the same way as alcohol and opiates/opioids are, and neither is it as psychologically addictive as cocaine or amphetamines. There is, however, a condition named “Cannabis Use Disorder”.

Symptoms of Cannabis Use Disorder include dysphoria (anxiety, irritability, depression, restlessness), gastrointestinal symptoms, decreased appetite, tolerance to THC and a dampening of the reward system of the brain and reactivity to dopamine. The body may also cease to produce many of its own endocannabinoids.

Effects of Cannabis Use Disorder can include social withdrawal, lower attainment in work or education and increased anxiety. For some, marijuana may exacerbate – though not cause – existing mental health problems. Cannabis Use Disorder is said to develop in approximately 9% of cannabis users, and approximately 10–20% of daily cannabis users. Those who start using marijuana during adolescence are more likely to develop Cannabis Use Disorder.

THC cannabis marijuana
THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana.

Another issue at play here is THC – the main psychoactive cannabinoid, and arguably the one that leads to Cannabis Use Disorder. Some have hypothesized that higher levels of THC are more likely to trigger marijuana’s “addictive” properties, especially as regular users of high THC strains tend to need increasing amounts of THC in order to get the desired effects. However, this effect can be mitigated by other cannabinoids and avoiding over-indulgence of high-THC strains and extracts.

Now, though this may sound like “addiction”, but one of the reasons why marijuana is better than prescription painkillers is that the rate of developing Cannabis Use Disorder is extremely low, even amongst daily users. Also, for the people who stop using marijuana, the “withdrawal” stage is short-lived and rarely hugely uncomfortable, and the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) bounces back rather quickly. There is very rarely any physical or psychological trauma for those who stop cannabis use suddenly.

Also, for many people, their use of cannabis might be a response to an already out-of-balance ECS i.e. they may have other underlying problems that were not being controlled when they were not using marijuana. This could be one of the reasons why so many people report marijuana as being helpful in overcoming depression, anxiety, PTSD and lots of other mental health conditions, rather than being a cause of it.

We must also look at addiction in all its forms if we are to treat the subject matter seriously. As can be seen, the chances of developing Cannabis Use Disorder are low, with many people ceasing cannabis use with little to no ill effect. However, while people are quick to start looking at (and rightly so) the potential harm caused by cannabis – mostly for the reason that it is still seen as a serious drug – they might not do so for more benign substances. Think high amounts of sugar in processed foods, which are highly addictive physically, and can cause diabetes.

Now, this can seem a little bit like “whataboutery”, but perhaps in this instance it is merited. Abusing prescription painkillers, alcohol, tobacco and even sugary foods kills and causes many more physical and mental problems for a far greater number of people daily than does marijuana use. One of the biggest issues with public healthcare is treating certain substances with an ultra-critical eye, but refusing to do so for other substances, even when the evidence suggests otherwise.

2. Will Marijuana Turn Me Into A Lazy So-And-So?

The stereotypical image of the average stoner is one of a laidback, hippie-ish person (usually male) who does nothing much but use cannabis throughout the day, do as little work as possible, and generally lounge around watching movies and eating junk food.

the big lebowski dude stoner
‘The Dude’ from The Big Lebowski is the classic stoner type.

Yet there is ample evidence to disprove this notion. There are plenty of ambitious, go-getting scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, artists, architects, chefs, musicians, movie stars, athletes, lawyers, labourers and others who use marijuana – they just tend not to talk about it!

In fact, many people in such occupations find that marijuana use helps inspire them, improves the amount of creative,output, reduce exercise-induced inflammation, relieves stress and lots of other benefits besides. Moreover, whilst such people may do the stereotypical stoner things whilst using marijuana, they might have a good reason to. Hard-working people need to relax and unwind, too, and not doing so may harm their productivity in the long-run. Everyone needs to turn-on, tune-in and drop-out once in awhile.

For an athlete, for example, their downtime is every bit as important as their training regime. Resting gives the body a chance to repair itself, and marijuana can help with this. Doubly so, as marijuana contains loads of phytocannabinoids and terpenoids that aid recovery.

To answer the question directly: No, marijuana won’t make you into a lazy person – only you can do that.

3. Are There Any Health Negatives With Marijuana?

While it is pretty much impossible to overdose on marijuana alone, and addiction rates are low, this does not necessarily mean that there aren’t any negatives with marijuana use. For some, using certain strains can make them feel dizzy, paranoid, cough excessively, cause headaches, dry out the mouth and eyes, further dehydration, cause confusion, headaches, disorientation and nausea, increase anxiety, cause disorientation, increase heart rate and affect blood pressure.

Other issues include irritation of the lungs and throat via smoke, mental health concerns such as schizophrenia, and the possibility that you are inhaling spores and moulds that you ought not to be. Now, though there’s no evidence that inhaling marijuana smoke causes cancer, it makes sense intuitively, as combustion of any plant matter is likely to produce tar.

joint marijuana cannabis smoking
The fact that marijuana is commonly smoked raises health concerns.

Also, while marijuana can possibly increase the likelihood of a mental condition being expressed, it is perhaps best considered a factor rather than a cause. Plus, many people report marijuana having a beneficial effect on their mental health, and there is even research being undertaken at the moment for the cannabinoid cannabinol (CBN) for the treatment of schizophrenia. This shows that the idea of marijuana being a cause of mental health issues is far too simplistic.

Often times, the answer to a question can bring up other questions. I have no doubt that this blog post will do the same. Feel free to ask away in the comments below and I shall endeavour to answer.

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