Since it was first discovered in ancient China, marijuana has had its place in pharmacopeia for centuries. However, its long history of being used doesn’t necessarily mean that its safe for anyone to use or abuse. With its legalization across Canada, now is a particularly important time to communicate that cannabis’ legal status doesn’t imply that the substance is ‘harm-free’. While there are medical benefits of smoking marijuana, these benefits are noted in specific conditions where marijuana is predominantly used as an alternative to more conventional medication. In this article, we would like to focus on some of the lesser known risks associated to the consumption of cannabis in order to make you a more educated user.
Cannabis Use Disorder:
Cannabis Use Disorder develops in roughly 10% of regular marijuana users users, and may be associated with cognitive impairment, poor school or work performance, and psychiatric conditions like mood disorders.1 This condition is characterized by an inability or willingness to cut back, smoking more often and for longer, and spending excessive time finding or using the drug.
Contrary to popular belief, marijuana does have addictive qualities, and users can experience withdrawal symptoms. This can include; carvings, irritability, anxiety, difficulty sleeping. While these symptoms aren’t lethal, they can be pretty uncomfortable. Discomfort and craving may cause you to want to smoke again, which can lead to the development of problematic use and dependance.
Severe Marijuana Dependence:
Severe cannabis dependence has been associated to the development of anxiety and depression as well as psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. However, it is difficult to determine causality. Its also possible that individuals already predisposed to mental health problems are using marijuana to self medicate.
Research into the longterm physical effects of marijuana is still ongoing, but there seems to be an association between smoking marijuana and the following: hyper inflated lungs, chronic bronchitis, and an increased risk of respiratory infections like pneumonia.
There are treatments for marijuana dependence that largely focused on reducing usage often through a combination of medication and behavioural therapy. With Canada’s legalization of marijuana in effect, we encourage you to ask your physician or pharmacist about the possible interactions between cannabis and any medication you are taking. Additionally, please check with your physician to know whether your health condition allows you to use cannabis.
(1) Gorelick, David A. “Cannabis Use and Disorder: Clinical Manifestations, Course, Assessment, and Diagnosis.” UpToDate, www.uptodate.com/contents/cannabis-use-and-disorder-clinical-manifestations-course-assessment-and-diagnosis.
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