6 Unknown Facts About Recreational Marijuana – How Can It Affect Your Health?
Twenty-one states now have legislation allowing adults to smoke weed for any reason. That’s excellent news. But it begs the question–how could recreational marijuana affect your health? Countless studies and patient reviews indicate marijuana benefits sleep, pain, anxiety, and muscle spasms. Still, other research points to potentially harmful outcomes depending on dosage and frequency of use.
Here we’ll review six unknown facts about recreational marijuana and how it can affect your health.
Marijuana has the potential to relieve chronic pain.
Research indicates marijuana (recreational or medical) effectively targets pain through its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to bind with neural receptors that boost dopamine and target the body’s pain response. Reportedly, people who use marijuana for pain experience little to no serious adverse side effects compared to traditional pharmaceutical analgesics like opioids.
Research on marijuana and chronic pain includes:
- A study compared the effects of a single dose of THC with codeine. The results found that 10 milligrams of THC gave the same pain relief as a 60-milligram dose of codeine.
- In a 2022 study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research, researchers found associations between CBD use and improvements in patients’ arthritis symptoms, with an 83% reduction in pain, 66% improvement in physical function, and 66% improvement in sleep quality. Additionally, patients were also able to make reductions in other medications like opioids.
2. Marijuana may help treat MS symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that impacts our central nervous system (CNS), including the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The exact cause of MS is unknown, but scientists believe something triggers the immune system to attack the CNS, damaging the wire-like protective layer that insulates our nerve fibers. This damage leads to nervous system dysfunction, causing numbness, tingling, memory issues, fatigue, and spasticity–a muscle stiffness that causes uncontrollable contractions, tightness, and pain.
Cannabis research indicates that the plant can help calm muscle spasticity based on its ability to interact with brain receptors that control movement.
- In a recent survey of more than 100 regular marijuana users with multiple sclerosis, nearly every participant reported that marijuana helped relieve spasticity and limb pain. In an earlier survey, paraplegic patients stated that smoking marijuana relieved phantom limb pain and headache.
3. Marijuana might help combat insomnia.
Marijuana contains potent levels of THC that make people feel calm and sleepy. Research indicates there are a few reasons for its sleep-promoting benefits. For example, when THC binds to receptors in the brain, it sends messages to increase sleep-promoting adenosine levels and suppress the brain’s arousal system. THC also stimulates brain cells to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical that helps people unwind from a stressful day and fall deeply into sleep.
- Higher dopamine levels could also alter the sleep-wake cycle by mimicking melatonin, our natural sleep hormone, and possibly increasing its production.
- Surveys found that most patients reduced their reliance on prescription sleep medications due to THC’s efficacy. In one study, 39% reduced or eliminated prescription drugs, and 71% reported improved sleep conditions. These surveys analyzed medical marijuana patients, but recreational marijuana offers the same benefits because it contains identical compounds.
Anecdotal, Delta-9 gummies effects are even better for sleep than smoking marijuana. That’s because edibles deliver powerful sedative sensations and last up to 12 hours, providing a long-deep sleep.
4. Marijuana can either ease or aggravate anxiety for some people.
Recreational marijuana’s anxiety-fighting or inducing properties comes from THC’s influence on the amygdala. The amygdala is an almond-sized brain region that activates our fight or flight response and impacts fear, pleasure, and anger. An overactive amygdala can lead to chronic stress and anxiety, while a regulated one promotes calm and relaxation.
A Journal of Neuroscience study found that THC can minimize the amygdala’s reaction to mundane social threats. This action can help calm the nervous system so we don’t overreact to stressful situations. Still, marijuana affects everyone differently. For some people, THC (especially at high doses) can overstimulate the amygdala, leading to increased fear and paranoia.
Along with THC, CBD is a well-known anxiety-relieving compound in most recreational marijuana strains. A review of preclinical research shows that CBD exhibits a broad range of functions, including its ability to reduce anxiety, panic, and compulsive actions. It also can decrease arousal, conditioned fear, and overall stress.
5. Marijuana May be Harmful to the Lungs.
Recreational marijuana offers significant health benefits with very few downsides. That said, the act of inhaling cannabis can be damaging long-term. For example, research shows smoking marijuana results in more tar than cigarettes. Small, uncontrolled studies suggest that heavy, chronic marijuana smoking may also increase the risk of some respiratory cancers. However, general population studies did not find a correlation between an increased risk of lung cancer and marijuana use. Smoking marijuana, similar to tobacco, is also associated with airway inflammation and bronchitis symptoms.
6. Excessive Use Could Lead to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is a condition that causes people to suffer from cycles of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain after using marijuana products. This condition is rare and typically only occurs in heavy long-term users. Researchers believe CHS may result from chronic overstimulation of our body’s endocannabinoid receptors, disrupting our natural mechanisms of controlling nausea and vomiting. Fortunately, marijuana smokers can avoid CHS by taking regular tolerance breaks and avoiding strains with excessively high THC levels.
There’s still much to learn about marijuana and its short and long-term health effects. Still, marijuana is well-tolerated in most people, helps chronic pain sufferers get off debilitating meds, and supports better sleep and mood. With responsible, moderate use, recreational marijuana can be a powerful health tool for various physical and mental conditions.