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What are the risks of cannabis? How does it affect the population in general?

There is no free lunch. And despite how wonderful the cannabis plant’s medicinal and therapeutic uses are, it doesn’t come without possible negative side effects.


No matter your age group, ethnicity, gender, or tolerance for the plant you need to be educated on the possible risks associated with inhaling or ingesting it for recreation or medicinal purposes.


While cannabis use can be traced back as far as 3000 BC — therefore creating a storied history that proves the relatively low-risk nature of the plant — medical science has a duty to investigate all of the beneficial and possibly harmful effects of its use.


In this article, we’ll outline just some of those risks and how concerned you might need to be.


Mental Health Problems

The most worrying risk associated with cannabis use is its role in the complicated, multi-factored nature of mental health disorders.


With cannabis legalization is accelerating across the globe, widespread cannabis use among larger populations has pushed the relationship between cannabis and possible mental health implications to the forefront of research concerns.


For instance, for those with existing symptoms of bipolar disorder, daily marijuana use is believed to exacerbate the problem.


This might, however, sound more dire than is the case.


Because for people without bipolar disorder, according to a report in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “There is limited evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder, particularly among regular or daily users.”


Of more general mental health problems, even without a history of prior mental illness, symptoms like depersonalization, de-realization, dream-like euphoria, disorientation, delusions, hallucinations and paranoid ideation have been reported with cannabis use.


It is very important to note that the absolute risk for developing psychosis is low. It is, however, increased by 40% in individuals who have used cannabis during their lifetime.


As you can see, science is nowhere near settled when it comes to the relationship between cannabis use and mental health problems.


Medication Complications

Not all forms of cannabis can negatively interact with medications. It depends on the strain and delivery method of the cannabis, the particular medication, and the general state of your health at the time.


However, speaking to cannabis oil consumption, because it is consumed and processed by your liver there is a greater potential for interactions with medications you may be taking.


Possible medications cannabis oil consumption can negatively interact with are:


  • antibiotics

  • antidepressants

  • antianxiety medications

  • anti-seizure medications

  • blood thinners

  • chemotherapy drugs

  • muscle relaxers

  • sedatives, or sleep aids


Respiratory Disease

A 2014 study explored the relationship between marijuana use and lung disease. It was found that it was plausible that smoking marijuana could contribute to lung cancer.


With that said, it has been very difficult to find definitive evidence that connects the two.


Like with any inhalent, one of the risks of smoking cannabis frequently is the development of a chronic cough and increased phlegm production.


Poisoning

One of the riskiest methods of cannabis use is the consumption of edibles.


Unlike smoking or taking cannabis oil sublingually (under the tongue), edibles use your digestive tract to enter your bloodstream which means the cannabinoids must pass through your stomach and eventually liver.


This route means there is a delay from when you consume the cannabis to when you start to feel its effects. And because of this, “overdosing” or becoming intoxicated is a lot easier.


If you find yourself exhibiting effects of cannabis intoxication--disorientation, nausea, dizziness, increased anxiety--please abide by three rules:


  1. If you feel you need immediate professional medical help, call or have someone call 911.

  2. If the situation is not an emergency but the symptoms persist in intensity for more than a day, schedule an appointment with a doctor and seek professional help.

  3. Do not operate any heavy or dangerous machinery or place yourself at risk for falls.

Cannabis Addiction

Medically referred to as “cannabis use disorder” (CUD), the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) defines it as,


A problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least 2 of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:


  1. Use of cannabis for at least a one year period, with the presence of at least two of the following symptoms, accompanied by significant impairment of functioning and distress:

  2. Difficulty containing the use of cannabis- the drug is used in larger amounts and over a longer period than intended.

  3. Repeated failed efforts to discontinue or reduce the amount of cannabis that is used

  4. An inordinate amount of time is occupied acquiring, using, or recovering from the effects of cannabis.


Listed above are only 4 of 11 criteria for brevity sake. You can view the remaining 7 here.


Put simply, these are the signs you might be suffering from CUD,


Behavioural changes:


  • Distorted perceptions

  • Impaired coordination

  • Difficulty in thinking and problem solving

  • Ongoing problems with learning and memory


Other signs of marijuana abuse, misuse and addiction include:


  • Red, blurry, bloodshot eye

  • Constant, mucus-filled cough

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Hunger

  • Dry mouth

  • Anxiety, paranoia, or fear

  • Poor memory

  • Poor coordination

  • Slow reaction time

  • Loss of control


Take note, that many of these symptoms are the exact short-term effects marijuana users expect and want. It becomes cannabis addiction when these symptoms start to negatively impact your life.


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