Health Effects of Cannabinoids

The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids

New Scientific Study Examines the Efficacy of Cannabis and Cannabinoids to Improve Our Health

The advent of legal medical marijuana dispensaries and, later, the emergence of decriminalized recreational cannabis in a growing number of states throughout America, have changed both medical and public perceptions.

An in-depth scientific study has shed light on the medicinal value of cannabis. Entitled “Alternative Herbal Health Services”, the study reviews the therapeutic and health effects of marijuana and is based on scientific evidence.

However, the study, which was undertaken by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, has identified two major problem areas that have emerged since the legalization of recreational weed:

  1. Information gleaned from research into cannabis is not relayed to the very people responsible for controlling its use and distribution. This includes health care providers, policymakers, state health officials and stakeholders responsible for the laws and procedures that control the use of marijuana.
  2. No guidelines or acceptable standards have been set to control dosages and the safe use of marijuana.

Adding fuel to the heated debate surrounding the decriminalization of weed are factors such as changing public opinion, insufficient scientific research, and battles at legislative-level.

Cannabis Chemical Compounds

Cannabis contains in excess of 104 cannabinoids, with THC and CBD the most commonly known. THC is the compound that results in feeling “high”, while CBD is the compound generally used in medicinal cannabis prescriptions. CBD regulates appetite, extinguishes anxiety, and improves motor responses. Marijuana strains can provide up to 25 percent THC and about 20 percent CBD.

Cannabis Consumption Methods

There are several ways in which to ingest marijuana and these include:

  • Inhalation – marijuana can be smoked as a joint or in a pipe. It can also be vaped
  • Ingestion – edibles that include food, candies and beverages such as flavored teas
  • Topicals – marijuana is easily absorbed through the skin and is available in creams, patches, sprays and suppositories

Potency Levels

Interestingly, the study found that potency levels of marijuana cultivated in America is far higher than in the 1990s when its importation into the country was illegal. This was established in data obtained from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that showed that potency levels increased from 4 percent to 12 percent between 1995 and 2014.

Legal Dosages

With the decriminalization of marijuana came legal dosages of THC (the compound producing the “high”) set by various States. For example:

Colorado – 10mg

Oregon – 5mg

Washington State – 10mg

The study points out that the average joint smoked in the US has an 8.25mg content, so unless you live in Oregon that is well within the legal limit.

Marijuana Intoxication  

When “high” on weed, users report sensory enhancement to music and colors, and that all-well-known attack of the “munchies”. However, getting “high” is also known to result in dry mouth, altered perception and impaired motor skills. Other negative side-effects are high blood pressure, panic attacks, paranoia and hallucinations.

The study warns that the ability of someone “high” on weed could become a public safety issue because their abilities to drive a vehicle when intoxicated with weed will become impaired.

Drugs Containing Cannabinoids

Three drugs containing cannabinoids have been licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  1. Dronabinol – this is the generic name for synthetic THC and is used to treat chemotherapy patients. It fights nausea and vomiting, and is an appetite stimulant that can also be used to treat people suffering from AIDS.
  2. Nabiximols – this contains equal amounts of THC and CBD and is used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis patients, as well as cancer sufferers. This cannabis-based drug is now available in 15 countries, but has still to be introduced to the US.
  3. Epidiolex – this is used to treat children with epilepsy and its concentrated CBD oil content works effectively as an anti-seizure treatment.

Ongoing Research

Extensive testing and experimentation on animals is being undertaken with synthetic cannabinoids. Scientists are particularly interested in the effects of this compound in products being sold via the internet. These products include blends of herbs and spices that are spray treated with synthetic cannabinoids. Apparently there are now in excess of 140 varying synthetic cannabinoids contained in herbal marijuana mixtures.

Synthetic Cannabinoidal Side-Effects

Side effects produced with the consumption of products containing synthetic cannabinoids include:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting

This information was obtained from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Consumer Risks

According to the study, the biggest risks faced by consumers, and producers, are contaminants such as growth enhancers and pest control chemicals.

The study reveals that these contaminants can be introduced via very small pieces of lead or glass beads that are added to increase the weight of the product. Other contaminants such as psychotropic substances and cholinergic compounds are also sometimes added to enhance poor quality weed.

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