Cannabis (i.e. marijuana) is a euphoriant derived from plants, and has been the centre of much controversy and unrest recently. With an abundance of conflicting information available, what are the real uses of cannabis and are there any risks?
There are over 100 different cannabinoids; however, two of these are responsible for the effects of cannabis, namely tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the cannabinoid which causes the psychoactive effects, making the user “high”. Conversely, CBD is thought to control and moderate this “high” caused by THC. Moreover, CBD has also been linked to a reduction in the negative effects which may occur due to THC, such as anxiety and paranoia. Additionally, cannabinoids can be classified into two broad categories, namely recreational and medicinal.
Medicinal cannabis is used with the purpose of relieving symptoms of a disease, as opposed to recreational cannabis, which is used for the psychoactive effects. Common uses for medicinal cannabis include the following: in children with severe epilepsy to minimise severity; to minimise nausea in individuals undergoing chemotherapy for cancer; and to stimulate appetite in persons undergoing AIDS treatment. One primary concern is the lack of research on the long-term effects of medicinal cannabis use. Therefore, medicinal cannabis is prescribed when the potential risks outweigh the benefits.
The risks of cannabis use, whether used for recreation or medicinal purposes, are inconclusive, yet must still be kept in mind, especially when used for vulnerable individuals for medicinal purposes. Repeated cannabis use may negatively impact brain health, as has been demonstrated by several articles which show its effect on the cortico-striatal networks that are responsible for movement. This may thereby affect coordination and athletic performance. However, studies on athletic performance are mixed, with results indicating an improved performance while others show a poorer performance in users.
Certain studies have also shown that synthetic cannabinoids possess a higher risk of adverse events, since their formulation may contain harmful substances as well. Cessation of cannabis use may cause withdrawal-like symptoms in heavy users, such as insomnia, nausea and depression; however these are mild and last less than a week.
Therefore, further research is needed to elucidate the risks and potential uses of cannabis. Currently, several studies are researching different cannabinoids and clinical trials are looking into what other diseases can benefit from cannabis.
One other factor that should be considered is the awareness of the public, especially our youth. Is the reality of the risks accurately portrayed locally? Several news organisations and even student organisations have taken it upon themselves to convey accurate information to the public. Moreover, is the discussion on cannabis use, its implications and its legalisation unbiased? Cannabis use, for recreational u medicinal uses, may occasionally be painted in a negative light and thereby misleading individuals, as opposed to providing clear, unbiased arguments. When it comes to discussing such debated topics, it’s natural to pick a side. Yet the end goal should always be to educate and safeguard the public.