Marijuana will be legal in Illinois, what should you know about it that you might not already? I have talked to a number of people about this, mostly informally and I have found that everybody has an opinion. Many have an idea of marijuana use on inflated notions of it’s benefits, on not understanding it’s true risk, and on fearing it over past notions of it’s effects. I don’t have all the answers but I can offer up a few things that I have learned in looking into the issue.
As I have come to understand it the human brain is in a constant level of development throughout life but the most crucial time is from conception to age 22. Studies have found that marijuana use in the teenage years through early adolescence has an effect on brain development, and not in a good way. So the only thing that is 100% clear to me is no child under the age of 22 should be exposed to marijuana, specifically anything with the psychoactive THC in it. We could say this about anything that alters brain function including alcohol. There is also limited evidence that marijuana use as adults can alter brain function, something to consider if you are considering using the stuff. When considering it’s use if you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, you might already have a risk for dementia so it might not be a good idea for you to use marijuana.
Marijuana use disorder occurs when someone uses it for so long they form an addiction of sorts. This is not an addiction like that which occurs with opiates. Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. Studies suggest that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, rising to about 17 percent in those who start using in their teens. Marijuana use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life. Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted. Dependency can be a problem but it isn’t as huge of an issue as it is with other drugs and again if someone starts using the drug in their teen years dependency is more likely.
I think that we can all agree that smoke of any kind is harmful to our lungs, this includes marijuana smoke. I know people want to claim it is better than cigarettes but that isn’t a great maker to measure against. Whether from burning wood, tobacco or marijuana, toxins and carcinogens are released from the combustion of materials. Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke. From a health perspective this translates to similar health issues as seen with cigarette smoking. There has been noted a increased risk for cardiovascular events including high blood pressure and stroke. There have been found changes in lung tissue due to inhaling marijuana smoke what this means clinically is uncertain as the field of study is new. Marijuana smoke contains four times more tar in it than cigarettes and marijuana is smoked unfiltered which means more of those possible carcinogens are entering your lungs. Studies have not found marijuana smoke as a cause for lung cancer but they also have not been able to rule it out either. Additionally the research is unclear if smoking marijuana will cause COPD. If smoking marijuana casually is your thing it appears there is less risk for long term lung damage but there is a risk. If you make it a daily habit there will likely be consequences to the health of your lungs and cardiovascular system.
Who should smoke marijuana?It is not for me to determine but make a few suggestions based on my observations. It is clear to me that the chronic pain patient that has had no success in pain management from ANYTHING, chiropractic included, could benefit from smoking marijuana. Getting relief from anything other than opioids is a good thing even with the risks or potential risks of marijuana. If someone has a condition where marijuana is an option for management and the side effects of marijuana use are better than the side effects of the pharmaceutical option, than marijuana may be a better option. I cannot condone smoking marijuana just because you like the high just as I cannot condone drinking alcohol just to get drunk. I will try to not comment on recreational use, it’s legal in IL., if you are over 22, like drinking it’s in your court to decide what to do.
People will do it and as long as they do it responsibly that is all I ask. The issue that is at hand for the marijuana smoker is interaction with law enforcement. There is no current way to accurately test for the psychoactive elements in the body outside of a blood test. THC can be present in blood anywhere from 3-30 days depending on how much and how often a person smokes. Marijuana users run a risk when they drive or work in an industry that drug tests. You might be sober but still test positive, how do you defend yourself? Is it worth it? Get pulled over, sober, but smell like pot, they make you do a blood test at the station, you fail because you smoked a joint two days ago, now what do you do? How much might it cost to defend yourself? Will you win? Was it worth it? Just like having a couple of drinks at dinner and driving, not drunk but could blow over .08. Were those drinks worth it?
Marijuana use has it’s risks. There have been some benefits found in the literature to certain populations of people but not to all. No one under 22 should touch the stuff, I say the same for alcohol, your future means more than that high. If you have a health issue that marijuana might provide some relief to, maybe it’s worth considering the risks/reward equation. If you have chronic pain due to cancer you should look into it. If you have chronic pain that nothing, and I mean nothing, has helped than look into it. A good alternative is CBD oil and products containing CBD oil. The THC level in CBD oil is practically 0 so one might get all the benefit from marijuana without as many risks. Under my license in Illinois I cannot prescribe medications nor can I tell a patient what medication they should or should not be taking. If you are considering marijuana for a medical purpose please talk to the right healthcare profession involved with your care first. Read the research and make an informed decision.