Why are cannabis health risks so rarely discussed?

Published Dec 3, 2020 10:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Artur

Cannabis is legal in Canada, and many states in the U.S are also following suit by legalizing weed for medical and recreational use. Research and studies of cannabis are still restricted to some degree in the United States, as marijuana is a Schedule I substance and has "no currently accepted medical use." On a state level, cannabis is becoming increasingly available.

Studies conducted indicate a correlation between cannabis and pain relief, as well as the potential to help those living with epilepsy have fewer seizures. However, some cannabis health risks are rarely discussed today. Adverse effects can include the compromising of cannabis smokers' lung health. One can only wonder why cannabis health risks are not more freely discussed today as we are on the brink of cannabis legislation evolving globally.

Thirty-three states in America allow medical cannabis, and eleven states are licensed for recreational cannabis use. There are many thoughts on the use of cannabis from the public because scientists have not enough scientific information to answer people's questions about the health values of cannabis. The following are some of the most common health risks associated with using cannabis.

Addiction

Cannabis is less addictive than opioids, nicotine, or tobacco, but none the less it is an addictive substance, and the risk of becoming reliant on cannabis only increases with the amount of exposure to high-level THC products. A higher dose of THC increases the likelihood of anxiety, agitation, psychosis, and paranoia, which is why cannabis edibles have the potential to cause adverse effects when ingested. Cannabis has proven to be stronger today, and for those that start using cannabis before 18 years old, the rate of addiction is 1 in 6.

Lung health

There are health concerns surrounding cannabis where the lungs are concerned. The risks that smoking has on lung health are enough to encourage the American Lung Association to caution the public on lung health risks when smoking cannabis.

Cannabis smokers seem to hold their breath for longer after a deeper inhale than cigarette smokers. This action gives a greater exposure of the lungs to tar. It is clear from studies that have been conducted that smoking cannabis damages the human lung. Smoking cannabis can lead to:

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Injure the cell lining of the airways
  • Chronic cough
  • Phlegm production

Interestingly, there has been no concrete evidence that these health risks occur more frequently with cannabis smokers than the general public, which clearly indicates that more research is needed in this area of health issues and cannabis use.

Heart racing

Cannabis, when inhaled, can increase your heart rate severely. Minutes after inhaling cannabis, heart rate has been shown to increase by between 20 and 50 beats a minute, lasting anywhere between 20 minutes to up to three hours, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The report has indicated that smoking weed could trigger one having a heart attack through limited evidence.

Loss of balance

The cerebellum and basal ganglia activity, the two brain areas that help regulate coordination, reaction time, balance, and posture, are affected by the use of cannabis.  Using cannabis can throw off your balance and become a health issue if you fall, and as a result, are injured.

Last words

The cannabis industry is undoubtedly on its way to becoming a billion-dollar figure industry. However, the sector does not come without its share of health risks that do not only include lung health concerns. Research is not as in-depth as it should be due to the Schedule I classification in the United States, so we aren’t entirely sure whether or not there are any other potential health concerns.

The question comes to mind, why is both the good and bad surrounding the plant named cannabis not discussed more openly. Is it education and information needed to spread the word about the health risks? Stigma is also still raising its ugly head when the word cannabis is heard, so perhaps federal legalization is the ultimate answer to the question.

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