Cannabis: Long-Term Effects

Cannabis has only recently come back into the spotlight as legalization in Canada approaches. As a result, the conversation surrounding its long-term safety has been reignited due to the fact that decades of use can now be studied via the growing wealth of online research available.

Very little research has been levied against the drug in terms of lasting damage. While studies over the years have suggested some negative effects associated with regular cannabis use, the results are inconclusive, or reveal that the negative effect is impermanent.

One of the charges raised against cannabis, is that it affects certain brain structures, in particular those associated with motivation, emotion, and emotional learning. While it’s true that research indicates a correlation between cannabis use and reduced grey matter, causality is contentious.

It has not been proven that cannabis causes a reduction in grey matter over time, and it is possible that the physiological irregularity is responsible for a predisposition to use.

As a substance that is often smoked, it is reasonable to consider whether cannabis use mirrors the long term risk of tobacco smokers. There has been no indication that use of cannabis, by any method of ingestion, is correlated with any of the conditions tobacco smokers face. While smoke inhalation does increase the risk of lung or bronchial irritation, it can be quickly remedied through discontinued consumption via smoking.

While the benefits of regular long term cannabis use is a recent field of inquiry, early findings suggest that there are potential benefits to the use of cannabis products. There is substantial evidence that cannabis can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, child epilepsy, and sleep issues. The cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are two active ingredients used in relieving the pain of muscle spasms in patients with Multiple Sclerosis. These are the cannabinoids that are naturally occurring in cannabis. It is also thought that cannabis may be used to relieve sickness in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Potential anti-inflammatory benefits have also been suggested in the form of a topical cream. Many of the derivations would deliver the intended benefit without the psychoactive effects.

Though research on cannabis is present, it is far from conclusive insofar as long term effects associated with regular use. It is worth noting, that unlike the majority of other drugs, both legal and illegal, there are no known cases of cannabis overdose resulting in death. The incidence of cannabis addiction is incredibly low, and dependency is often more habitual than it is chemical.

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