The Good, Bad and Unknown About Marijuana's Health Effects
It can almost certainly ease chronic pain and might help some people sleep, but it may also raise the risk of getting schizophrenia and trigger heart attacks.
Those are among the conclusions about marijuana reached by a federal advisory panel in a report released Thursday.
The experts also called for a national effort to learn more about marijuana and its chemical cousins, including similarly acting compounds called cannabinoids.
The current lack of scientific information "poses a public health risk," said the report , from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Patients, health care professionals and policy makers need more evidence to make sound decisions, it said.
For marijuana users or those considering it, "there's very little to guide them" on amounts and health risks, said Dr. Marie McCormick of the Harvard School of Public Health, who headed the committee.
Several factors have limited research. While the federal government has approved some medicines containing ingredients found in marijuana, it still classifies marijuana as illegal and imposes restrictions on research. So scientists have to jump through bureaucratic hoops that some find daunting, the report said.
A federal focus on paying for studies of potential harms has also hampered research into possible health benefits, the report said. The range of marijuana products available for study has also been restricted, although the government is expanding the number of approved suppliers.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for a variety of medical uses, and eight of those states plus the district have also legalized it for recreational use.
The report lists nearly 100 conclusions about marijuana and its similarly acting chemical cousins, drawing on studies published since 1999. Committee members cautioned that most conclusions are based on statistical links between use and health, rather than direct demonstrations of cause and effect.
The review found strong evidence that marijuana can treat chronic pain in adults and that similar compounds ease nausea from chemotherapy, with varying degrees of evidence for treating muscle stiffness and spasms in multiple sclerosis.
Limited evidence says marijuana or the other compounds can boost appetite in people with HIV or AIDS, and ease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, the report concluded. But it said there's not enough research to say whether they're effective for treating cancers, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy, or certain symptoms of Parkinson's disease, or helping people beat addictions.
There may be more evidence soon: a study in Colorado is investigating the use of marijuana to treat PTSD in veterans.
Turning to potential harms, the committee concluded:
-- Strong evidence links marijuana use to the risk of developing schizophrenia and other causes of psychosis, with the highest risk among the most frequent users.
-- Some work suggests a small increased risk for developing depressive disorders, but there's no evidence either way on whether it affects the course or symptoms of such disorders, or the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.
-- There's a strong indication that using marijuana before driving increases the risk of a traffic accident, but no clear link to workplace accidents or injuries, or death from a marijuana overdose.
-- There's limited evidence for the idea that it hurts school achievement, raises unemployment rates or harms social functioning.
-- For pregnant women who smoke pot, there's a strong indication of reduced birthweight but only weak evidence of any effect on pregnancy complications for the mother, or an infant's need for admission to intensive care. There's not enough evidence to show whether it affects the child later, like sudden infant death syndrome or substance use.
-- Some evidence suggests there's no link to lung cancer in marijuana smokers. But there's no evidence, or insufficient evidence, to support or rebut any link to developing cancers of the prostate, cervix, bladder, or esophagus.
-- Substantial evidence links pot smoking to worse respiratory symptoms and more frequent episodes of chronic bronchitis.
-- There's a weak suggestion that smoking marijuana can trigger a heart attack, especially for people at high risk of heart disease. But there's no evidence either way on whether chronic use affects a person's risk of a heart attack.
-- Some evidence suggests a link between using marijuana and developing a dependence on or abuse of other substances, including alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.
© 2017 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.
Posted: 2017-01-19 @ 9:26am PT
Just more “Reefer Madness” nonsense. Cannabis has been in continuous use by humankind for over 5,000 years. Before the government “Reefer Madness” campaign of lies and deceit began, cannabis was widely used for recreation and medicine and was well understood for its many medicinal benefits and properties.
Pharmaceutical companies used cannabis in medicines widely sold in U.S. pharmacies to treat epilepsy, pain, insomnia, migraines, glaucoma, and rheumatism. Between 1840 and 1900, U.S. scientific journals published hundreds of articles touting the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.
Cannabis is now completely legal "again" in California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Washington, DC and the sky hasn't fallen. And these cannabis legal states still function as they always have with some notable exceptions.
Instead of drug cartels and gangs getting billions of cannabis dollars, legitimate responsible businesses are handling the funds, providing new jobs for thousands of citizens. Teen use is either unchanged or down.
These states are getting healthy chunks in new taxes. Gangs and drug cartels are moving out to places where cannabis is still illegal. Multiply the success by 50 states. Millions of new jobs, billions in new tax revenue and no more draconian police war on folks for cannabis consumption. Enough with the lies, just legalize.
Posted: 2017-01-15 @ 10:39pm PT
"-- Strong evidence links marijuana use to the risk of developing schizophrenia and other causes of psychosis, with the highest risk among the most frequent users."
This is wrong. There is correlation but no causation. The research interpretation ought to say that those with pre-existing schizophrenia and other psychosis, self-medicate with marijuana. That these mental illnesses get worse is not due to smoking marijuana, but marijuana opens psychology to full expression. This is a good thing, as we are all sick of all the suppression. Blaming marijuana for developing psychosis or schizophrenia is the most inane thing I have ever heard. Marijuana is the best medicine for all mental illness, especially the head buzz. They use studies whose focus is to find negative cases. All federal research funding goes to negative studies. Look for the negative and you find the negative. I support the article's claims that researchers want to conduct positive studies.
Posted: 2017-01-15 @ 1:24am PT
Maybe I am the only one who can testify that marijuana is the very best medicine for my stage three emphysema and my extreme osteoarthritis. The cannabis plant treats my anxiety also more effectively than any F.D.A. drug my doctors can prescribe. It is too bad for me that marijuana is illegal in my state.
After smoking a marijuana cigarette I am able to run for an hour and a half at an eight minute mile. There is no medication on the market that can help me like marijuana.
The reason that marijuana is illegal at the federal level is because of Big Pharma because they cannot make money on something that a patient grows in their home or in the back yard. The lobbyists pour millions of dollars into the politicians' pockets to keep this drug illegal. This is why marijuana will continue to be forbidden.