Cannabis – Worse than Advertised
Cannabis, or marijuana, goes by many street names including pot, weed, Mary Jane, bud, ganja, reefer, dope and hash. Cannabis contains cannabidiol (CBD), as well as 9-Delta-tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), which produces the more significant psychoactive effects of the drug. There are hundreds of other biologically active components in the cannabis plant that have not been thoroughly studied but may also produce psychoactive effects. Dozens of ailments and health issues have been addressed with cannabis, and it has been coined the “Miracle Drug” by many. In 2021, legal sales of marijuana in the United States totaled approximately 26 billion dollars with some projections being upwards of 100 billion dollars by 2030.
Common Strains of Cannabis
Sativa, known for its stimulating and energizing effects, and Indica, known for its relaxing and therapeutic effects, are the two primary strains of cannabis that hundreds of hybrid strains are being created with. The ratios of Sativa to Indica and of THC to CBD determine the effect and potency of each marijuana product.
Cannabis Use on the Rise
The number of young adults in the United States that report at least one use of cannabis in the past year increased from roughly 29% in 2011 to roughly 43% in 2021. Smoking is the most common form of cannabis consumption, with other methods like edible, sublingual and transdermal gaining popularity. Since Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, twenty more states plus Washington D.C. and Guam have joined in legalizing the recreational use of pot. Along with this, fifteen other states have legalized the medical use of marijuana.
Many have argued against the legalization of cannabis due to the risks of its use, however, this group has largely been outnumbered. One of the primary arguments for the legalization of weed has been that alcohol is legal and could potentially be more dangerous, therefore marijuana deserves to be legal as well.
Medical Uses of Cannabis
Although largely not approved by the Federal Drug Association, numerous variants of cannabis are advertised for conditions including anxiety, depression, pain, libido, sleep, muscle spasticity and nausea. When used sparingly, individuals with specific conditions can experience symptom relief, however, many face significant risk, especially with inappropriate and/or chronic use.
For example, cannabis is frequently used for mood improvement, and, although many individuals report successful treatment, chronic use is associated with increased rates of depression. Chronic users are also at risk of developing tolerance, a characteristic of addiction, in which higher doses are required over time to achieve an equal level of effect.
Many individuals use cannabis to gain a boost in creativity. However, cannabis use has been shown to cause significant impairment in working memory, a side effect that is counterproductive for the creative process.
Conditions That Lead to Hospitalization
Cannabis is also leading to hospitalizations due to multiple conditions that result from its use. Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is a condition in which recurrent episodes of intense nausea/vomiting and abdominal pain are experienced in a cannabis user. These individuals are being seen more frequently in emergency departments and are sometimes hospitalized due to kidney injury.
Cannabis-induced psychosis is another serious condition that has increased in prevalence in recent years, especially in teens and young adults. Studies have shown that susceptible individuals become more likely to develop psychosis and schizophrenia after cannabis use, especially when consuming products with higher THC content.
Some have hoped for marijuana use to decrease opioid use, though medical marijuana users have unfortunately been found to be more likely to misuse other prescription drugs.
The irony is that many of these cannabis-induced conditions are extreme cases of the symptoms that cannabis is tried as treatment for. This conundrum is likely due, in part, to cannabis affecting individuals so unpredictably. In one individual, cannabis may have a calming effect. In another individual, it could induce severe paranoia or a panic attack.
Along with this, the concentration of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, has skyrocketed over time. Cannabis products in the 1990s contained only about 2% THC. Today, popular strains of cannabis have upwards of 30% THC. Most dispensaries label their products with concentration amounts, but most customers do not consult their doctor before use, and even if they do, many primary care providers are not comfortable advising patients on their marijuana use, likely due to lack of evidence in its support.
Oklahoma Cannabis Laws
Every state has their own laws regarding legal use. In Oklahoma, medical marijuana was legalized in 2018, and the state requires an individual to acquire a medical marijuana license from a doctor to be able to obtain and consume cannabis. Many of these doctor visits take place during telehealth visits in which physical examinations never take place.
The licenses are then taken to dispensaries where cannabis is purchasable in an astounding variety of hybrid strains, available in multiple forms and in different degrees of dosage. Unlike other prescriptions where the exact medicine with a specific dosage is prescribed, marijuana is based on recommendations, often from dispensary workers with no medical training.
There are limits for what an individual may possess. According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, licensed patients can legally possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana on their person, 6 mature marijuana plants and the harvested marijuana, 6 seedling plants, 1 ounce of concentrated marijuana, 8 ounces of marijuana in the residence, 72 ounces of edible marijuana, and 72 ounces of topical marijuana at one time. This is nearly 10 pounds of marijuana, without including the plants.
A Billion-Dollar Industry
In conclusion, marijuana is rapidly growing in popularity around the United States with many states pushing for further legalization each year. There is a vast variety of hybrid strains available to be consumed through numerous methods including smoking, vaping, edible, sublingual, and even transdermal. While cannabis may positively impact certain individuals when used appropriately, the risks of the drug seem to outweigh the benefits, with inappropriate use leading to dependence, hospitalizations, and long-term psychiatric conditions in many.
Cannabis is now a billion-dollar industry that is unlikely to buffer whether the research shows detrimental effects or not. However, we should be wary of a product that has been this aggressively marketed in recent years, while having strikingly little evidence to support its mass appeal.