Cannabis, also known as marijuana, has various effects on the human body. It contains over 100 cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known.
It has been used for medicinal, recreational, and spiritual purposes for thousands of years. With the increasing legalization and acceptance of cannabis use around the world, it is essential to understand both the potential benefits and risks associated with its consumption. The effects of cannabis on the human body are complex, with numerous pros and cons that need to be carefully considered.
In this overview, we present a comprehensive list of 10 pros and 10 cons of cannabis use, supported by reliable scientific sources. While some individuals may experience significant therapeutic benefits from cannabis, others may face adverse health consequences. It is crucial for individuals to consult healthcare professionals for personalized information and guidance on the use of cannabis.
Here are some pros and cons associated with cannabis use:
- Pain relief – Cannabis has been shown to help alleviate chronic pain in various conditions, such as neuropathic pain, cancer pain, and fibromyalgia. The cannabinoids in cannabis interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in pain regulation. This interaction can lead to a reduction in pain perception and an increase in overall pain tolerance.
Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
- Reduced inflammation – CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, has anti-inflammatory properties that can help with conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis. CBD works by modulating the immune system response and suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, which can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
Source: Russo, Ethan B. “Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain.” Therapeutics and clinical risk management 4.1 (2008): 245.
- Treatment of epilepsy – CBD has been proven effective in reducing seizure frequency in certain types of epilepsy, particularly in drug-resistant forms like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. CBD is thought to work by modulating neuronal excitability and reducing inflammation, ultimately leading to a decrease in seizure activity.
Source: Devinsky, Orrin, et al. “Cannabidiol in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy: an open-label interventional trial.” The Lancet Neurology 15.3 (2016): 270-278.
- Reduced anxiety and depression – Low doses of cannabis, particularly strains rich in CBD, can help reduce anxiety and improve mood in individuals suffering from anxiety disorders and depression. CBD is believed to enhance the signaling of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating mood and anxiety.
Source: Blessing, Esther M., et al. “Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders.” Neurotherapeutics 12.4 (2015): 825-836.
- Nausea and vomiting relief – Cannabis, specifically THC, can be effective in treating nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients. THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which can help modulate the sensations of nausea and vomiting, providing relief for patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Source: Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids
- Appetite stimulation – Cannabis, particularly THC, can help increase appetite in individuals with conditions like HIV/AIDS or cancer, where weight loss and decreased appetite are common issues. THC stimulates the release of ghrelin, a hormone that induces hunger, and enhances the pleasure and reward response associated with eating.
Source: Beal, Jeanette E., et al. “Dronabinol as a treatment for anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS.” Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 10.2 (1995): 89-97.
- Neuroprotection – Cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, show potential in protecting brain cells from damage caused by oxidative stress, inflammation, and excitotoxicity. This neuroprotective effect may be beneficial in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Further research is needed to determine the full extent of the neuroprotective potential of cannabinoids and their therapeutic applications.
Source: Fernández-Ruiz, Javier, et al. “Cannabinoids: novel medicines for the treatment of Huntington’s disease.” Recent patents on CNS drug discovery 7.1 (2012): 41-48.
- Multiple sclerosis symptom relief – Cannabis can help reduce muscle spasticity and pain in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Research indicates that cannabinoids may help alleviate MS-related symptoms by modulating the immune system and reducing inflammation in the central nervous system. A study has shown that cannabis extracts containing both THC and CBD can provide relief for spasticity and other symptoms related to MS.
Source: Zajicek, John P., et al. “Cannabinoids for treatment of spasticity and other symptoms related to multiple sclerosis (CAMS study): multicentre randomised placebo-controlled trial.” The Lancet 362.9395 (2003): 1517-1526.
- Sleep improvement – Cannabis, especially strains with a higher THC content, can help improve sleep quality for individuals suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders. THC has been shown to decrease sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and increase the duration of deep sleep. However, prolonged and frequent use of cannabis may lead to dependence and diminished sleep quality over time.
Source: Babson, K. A., Sottile, J., & Morabito, D. (2017). Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. Current Psychiatry Reports, 19(4), 23.
- Glaucoma treatment – Cannabis, specifically THC, can help reduce intraocular pressure in individuals with glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. By lowering intraocular pressure, cannabis may help slow the progression of the disease and prevent further vision loss. However, the duration of this effect is relatively short, and other treatments for glaucoma may be more effective in the long term.
Source: Tomida, I., Azuara-Blanco, A., House, H., Flint, M., Pertwee, R. G., & Robson, P. J. (2006). Effect of sublingual application of cannabinoids on intraocular pressure: a pilot study. Journal of Glaucoma, 15(5), 349-353.
- Impaired cognitive function: THC can impair memory, attention, and decision-making, making it difficult to concentrate or perform complex tasks.
Source: Crean, R. D., Crane, N. A., & Mason, B. J. (2011). An evidence-based review of acute and long-term effects of cannabis use on executive cognitive functions. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 5(1), 1-8.
- Impaired motor skills: Cannabis can impair motor skills and reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents, especially when driving or operating heavy machinery.
Source: Hartman, R. L., & Huestis, M. A. (2013). Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clinical Chemistry, 59(3), 478-492.
- Increased heart rate: Cannabis can cause a temporary increase in heart rate, posing potential risks for individuals with heart conditions or a history of heart attacks.
Source: Jones, R. T. (2002). Cardiovascular system effects of marijuana. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 42(S1), 58S-63S.
- Mental health risks: Heavy cannabis use has been associated with an increased risk of developing mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and psychosis, particularly in individuals with a predisposition to these conditions.
Source: Moore, T. H., Zammit, S., Lingford-Hughes, A., Barnes, T. R., Jones, P. B., Burke, M., & Lewis, G. (2007). Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: a systematic review. The Lancet, 370(9584), 319-328.
- Lung problems: Smoking cannabis can cause respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, and may increase the risk of lung infections, although the evidence on the association between cannabis smoke and lung cancer is still inconclusive.
Source: Tashkin, D. P. (2013). Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung. Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 10(3), 239-247.
- Dependency: Long-term cannabis use can lead to dependence, making it difficult for users to quit without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Source: Volkow, N. D., Baler, R. D., Compton, W. M., & Weiss, S. R. (2014). Adverse health effects of marijuana use. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(23), 2219-2227.
- Risk of cannabis use disorder: Prevalence of cannabis use in the U.S. had increased significantly from 4.1% in 2001-2002 to 9.5% in 2012-2013. Concurrently, the prevalence of CUD had also increased, from 1.5% to 2.9% during the same period. The researchers observed that the increase in cannabis use was associated with a higher risk of developing CUD, especially among certain demographic groups, including young adults, men, individuals with low income, and those with a history of psychiatric disorders.
Source: Hasin, D. S., Saha, T. D., Kerridge, B. T., Goldstein, R. B., Chou, S. P., Zhang, H., … & Grant, B. F. (2015). Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry, 72(12), 1235-1242.
- Potential negative effects on adolescent brain development – Cannabis use during adolescence may have long-term consequences for brain development. The adolescent brain is still undergoing significant maturation, and exposure to cannabis during this critical period can lead to alterations in brain structure and function. Studies have found associations between cannabis use during adolescence and reduced cognitive performance, poorer attention, and memory deficits. Furthermore, early cannabis use has been linked to a higher risk of developing substance use disorders later in life.
Source: Jacobus, J., & Tapert, S. F. (2014). Effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 20(13), 2186-2193.
- Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome – Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a rare but serious condition that can occur in some chronic cannabis users. CHS is characterized by recurrent episodes of severe nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The exact cause of CHS is not well understood, but it is believed to be related to the complex interactions between cannabinoids, such as THC, and the body’s endocannabinoid system. CHS is challenging to diagnose and treat, as its symptoms can mimic other gastrointestinal disorders. In many cases, the only effective treatment is the cessation of cannabis use.
Source: Galli, J. A., Sawaya, R. A., & Friedenberg, F. K. (2011). Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 4(4), 241-249.
- Lower birth weight in pregnant users – Cannabis use during pregnancy has been associated with adverse birth outcomes, such as lower birth weight. A systematic review and meta-analysis of multiple studies found that prenatal exposure to cannabis was linked to a 109 g reduction in birth weight, as well as an increased risk of preterm birth. The exact mechanisms underlying these effects are not fully understood, but they may be related to the impact of cannabinoids on placental function and blood flow. Pregnant women are advised to avoid cannabis use to minimize potential risks to their developing fetus.
Source: Gunn, J. K., Rosales, C. B., Center, K. E., Núñez, A., Gibson, S. J., Christ, C., & Ehiri, J. E. (2016). Prenatal exposure to cannabis and maternal and child health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open, 6(4), e009986.
It’s important to note that individual experiences with cannabis can vary widely, and the pros and cons listed here may not apply to everyone. Additionally, cannabis research is ongoing, and our understanding of its effects on the human body continues to evolve. Always consult a healthcare professional before using cannabis for medical purposes or if you have concerns about its potential effects on your health.