Let me start by saying I don’t have a definitive opinion about marijuana. I don’t support it. I don’t not support it. I have had patients in the past smoke it legally and effectively. Others ran into problems. Everyone is unique, and I’m not here to judge. But I am here to educate, and with the word “EDUCATE” stamped across the middle of my forehead, I respectfully hand over the following information just because it’s my job as a physician and psychiatrist to do so. — Kim Rosenthal, MD
Marijuana (MJ) is a drug that contains many psychoactive chemicals, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabinol (CBN), and Cannabichromene (CBC). While there are mixed views and outcomes when it comes to the safety and therapeutic benefit* of these four chemicals (as well as the many other cannabinoid chemicals not listed), there are another 400-500 chemicals in MJ that have side effects too. In general, problems associated with MJ can include:
Short term risks:
- The usual: sleepiness, altered time perception, problems with coordination, increased appetite, dry mouth, bad breath, nausea, headache, less blood flow to the brain, fast pulse, high blood pressure, and altered body temperature
- Anxiety and shakiness
- Accidental suicide
- Vehicular suicide or homicide
- Short-term paranoia
- Inhaling Aspergillus (if MJ infected)
- Inhaling pesticides/exhaust fumes (if MJ contaminated)
- Toxicicty/overdose (like accidental pediatric ingestion)
- Weight gain
- Chronic psychosis (especially in susceptible people)
- Damage to the lining of the lungs
- Chronic bronchitis
- Sometimes bullous lung disease
- Lung cancer **
- Weakened immune system
- Problems during pregnancy
- Worsening of heart/brain problems
- Lowered testosterone levels, which can lower sexual appetite and testicular size, cause infertility.
- Cause breasts in men
- Decreased IQ and memory problems (especially in people who start smoking in their teens)
- Danger associated when mixed with other drugs
*BENEFITS: There are many ongoing studies testing potential MJ benefits for cancer, seizure disorder, PTSD, anxiety, glaucoma, pain, and many other disorders. Check out this WebMD article about medical marijuana for more info.
**CANCER: Whether MJ causes cancer is a matter of debate. According to the American Lung Association, “Smoke from marijuana has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.” However, recent studies suggest the actual occurrence of lung cancer in MJ smokers is much lower than seen with tobacco. There are also suggestions that the cannabinoids in MJ, especially THC and CBD, might slow or kill certain types of cancer.
For a thorough article on side effects/risks associated with MJ (as well as some potentially therapeutic uses), look into the American Association of Family Practitioner’s article on marijuana. It’s written for physicians but worth glancing at.