Yeah, yeah, we get it. Drugs are bad. That’s what we’re led to believe in school, at least. But the truth is, drug use is more complicated than that and not nearly as black and white as good versus bad, especially when it comes to marijuana. When we hear the word “drug,” we automatically think of something harmful and toxic. Something potentially deadly or addictive if taken in the wrong dosage. Really, we shouldn’t even call marijuana a drug based on the dark cloud that follows that term everywhere it goes. Marijuana is more like medicine. It’s not nearly as serious or life-threatening as cocaine, MDMA, meth, or other drugs on the market. But what are the long-term effects of marijuana? Is it possible to smoke marijuana every day without negative consequences? We’re about to find out what science has to say.
Plus Side: The Brain
The first positive effect of long-term marijuana use has to do with the brain. Remember a time when stoners were portrayed as dumb and spacy in movies? Well, according to science, that’s incorrect. Long-term marijuana use doesn’t kill brain cells, but instead, can health promote brain growth, also known as neurogenesis, according to The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. Don’t worry, we can’t pronounce that word either. The cannabidiol (CBD) in marijuana can boost brain function — at least in people whose brains are fully developed — by making us more creative, focused, and productive. Of course, it depends on the strain of marijuana we choose. Sativas are known for making us more awake and alert.
Want proof? Okay, here it is. Researchers found that CBD causes brain cells in the hippocampus to grow in rats and mice that were involved in marijuana-related studies. That’s why CBD is so effective in patients with mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder with drastic mood swings. The hippocampus is responsible for regulating our moods and cognitive function. But wait — it gets better! Other research studies show marijuana can act as a neuroprotectant that protects the nervous system from damage. This, in turn, could lower the chances of a person developing Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, or experiencing a stroke.
Plus Side: Balancing Your Bod
The second effect of long-term marijuana use deals with homeostasis, which is really just a fancy word for being equal and balanced. The body needs to maintain a constant internal environment in order to function properly. Marijuana can help treat a wide range of medical conditions because of the endocannabinoid system’s role in homeostasis. If you’re ever having an “off” day, or something just doesn’t feel right in your body, marijuana has the power to regulate your nervous system to make you feel better.
In fact, researcher Dr. Ethan Russo is adamant about marijuana’s therapeutic effects on pain, discomfort, and inflammation. His studies show marijuana works as a painkiller to eliminate migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia (widespread muscle pain and tenderness), and eating disorders. The body’s homeostasis is also responsible for keeping our immune system in check, thus keeping us healthy. Doctors around the world agree that homeostasis is one of the best ways to prevent illnesses and diseases from developing. When we have a fever, our body forces us to sweat and lose heat that way so it can go back to its regular temperature — it’s all about balance.
Why Not Pharmaceuticals?
But what about modern medicine? Isn’t there a prescription drug that can cure us? Yes, technically there is, but it’s hard to maintain homeostasis when these pills come with so many side-effects. It seems marijuana is the only “drug” that has so few side-effects attached to it, and the ones it does have, rarely negatively interact with other medicines. More research is coming out about marijuana’s relationship with pills as we speak! The most common side effects in medication include
- Skin rash
- Dry mouth
Pot and Pain
After researchers discovered marijuana’s powerful effects on pain, it forced the medical community to reevaluate how their patients manage it. We can’t ignore the opioid epidemic that’s going on in the United States right now. Part of that problem is doctors, surgeons, and nurses prescribing opioids so regularly — without fully evaluating how deep the pain is. In many cases, it seems like postoperative or post-surgery pain could have been reduced with marijuana instead of opioids.
And Then There’s Antidepressants
The same goes for antidepressants. Wouldn’t it be a smarter course of action if patients with depression tried marijuana first and then moved to something stronger if it didn’t work? That straight up sounds like common sense to us. Instead of combining antidepressants and opioids right off the bat, shouldn’t we start with marijuana as a safer, less addictive, all-natural alternative? Opioids should only be given in the most necessary and extreme circumstances when all else fails. It’s very possible that we’re on the verge of a medical breakthrough thanks to marijuana’s pain-killing properties.
But it can’t all be good news, can it? Right now marijuana seems too good to be true without any potential negative side-effects. Let’s be realistic about this for a second and explore both sides. It should come as no surprise that smoking, whether it’s cigarettes or marijuana, can lead to lung damage. But rest assured, marijuana is not as damaging to the lungs as tobacco, according to the University of California, San Francisco. Their study further suggested that occasional marijuana use is not linked to lung damage — only heavy usage on a daily basis.
Anything else? We already know that marijuana use can change our brain function. Depending on the strain you choose, marijuana can either make us feel awake or tired. Concentrated or drowsy. Alert or lazy. That’s one of the best things about marijuana — we can customize it to our needs. Most of us can agree that we’ve forgotten a thing or two while high, whether it’s a phone number or the title of a movie we were just talking about. Research suggests that this type of short-term memory loss can increase the longer we smoke marijuana. But then again, they based this study on rats and mice — not people. Just the same — always take care out there.
After reading all that, it seems the long-term effects of marijuana are way more positive than they are negative. So, smoke (or vape, or eat) up!