Marijuana use is gaining popularity all over the world, as more studies are conducted proving it is safer than many legal drugs.
In the US, states are scrambling to legalize either medical or recreational marijuana, or both. Medical marijuana is only sold to people with serious diseases like cancer, while recreational is for anyone of age 21 years and above.
Although advocates of marijuana legalization sometimes overstate the benefits of the drug, laws are been put in place to allow scientists and researchers to better understand it. So far, two active chemicals with medicinal applications have been found.
Those are cannabidiol (CBD) — which seems to impact the brain without a high— and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which has pain relieving (and other) properties.
While marijuana has many negative effects, here are some of the benefits.
Marijuana can be used to treat and prevent glaucoma, the eye diseases that increases pressure in the eyeball damaging the optic nerve and causing loss of vision.
According to the National Eye Insitute, it works by decreasing the pressure in the eye. “Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma.”
The effects of the drug slow progression of the diseases, preventing blindness.
A recent study published by The Atlantic found that people who smoke pot are skinnier. Researchers at the University of Nebraska, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center analyzed data that found weed smokers have a smaller waist circumference than those who had never used marijuana.
According to a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2012, marijuana does not impair lung function but actually increases lung capacity.
Researchers looking for risk factors of heart disease tested the lung function of 5,115 young adults over the course of 20 years. Tobacco smokers lost lung function over time, but pot users actually showed an increase in lung capacity.
It’s possible that the increased lung capacity may be due to taking a deep breaths while inhaling the drug and not from a therapeutic chemical in the drug.
Scientists from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found a correlation between Type 2 diabetes and marijuana. One of the most common risk factors for diabetes is insulin resistance and the researchers found that the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may help the body take in insulin.
The study, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in an issue of “The American Journal of Medicine,” found that marijuana users had 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels and 17 percent lower insulin-resistance levels. That said, only current smokers experienced the positive effects, implying that the resistance occurred after immediate use.
CBD may help prevent cancer from spreading, researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco reported in 2007.
Cannabidiol stops cancer by turning off a gene called Id-1, the study, published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, found. Cancer cells make more copies of this gene than non-cancerous cells, and it helps them spread through the body.
The researchers studied breast cancer cells in the lab that had high expression levels of Id-1 and treated them with cannabidiol. After treatment the cells had decreased Id-1 expression and were less aggressive spreaders.
In “WEED,” Gupta also mentioned a few studies in the U.S., Spain, and Israel that suggest the compounds in cannabis could even kill cancer cells.
Many medical marijuana users have revealed that the drug helps relieve pain and suppress nausea. These are the two main reasons it is used to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy.
In 2010, researchers at Harvard Medical School suggested that that some of the drug’s benefits may actually be from reduced anxiety, which would improve the smoker’s mood and act as a sedative in low doses.
However, higher doses may increase anxiety and make you paranoid.
A study led by Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute suggests that marijuana may be able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The 2006 study, published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, found that THC, the active chemical in marijuana, slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that makes them. These plaques are what kill brain cells and cause Alzheimer’s.
In 2012, a study by the University of Reading found that marijuana can help those suffering from epilepsy – a condition that afflicts one percent of the world. THC has anti-convulsant properties which could potentially lead to an effective treatment with no side effects.
Does a blunt a day take the migraines away? Marijuana has anti-inflammatory properties that assist in pain relief. In fact, the effects are said to be “several hundred times more powerful than that of aspirin.” Doctors in California have treated more than 300,000 migraine cases with medical marijuana.
There has always been a stigma that marijuana makes you stupid, but researchers have since found that the stereotype was based on correlational evidence, instead of cause and effect. In fact, scientists have found that those who smoke tend to be more creative.
Marijuana has also been found to increase ‘verbal fluency‘ amongst its users.