Here’s What Science Says About Cannabis

A comprehensive look at the scientific research on cannabis.

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The History of Cannabis

Cannabis has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It was used in ancient China and India for a variety of ailments. In the United States, it was used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and nausea in cancer patients.

The early years

In the early years of cannabis use, the plant was mostly used for hemp – a material that was used for things like rope, sails, and clothing. It wasn’t until around 2,000 BCE that people began using cannabis for its psychoactive properties.

The modern era

The modern era of cannabis began in the early 20th century, when it was rediscovered by Western science. In the 1930s, the US government began to crack down on its use, and by the 1960s it had been effectively banned. In the 1970s, however, public opinion began to shift and cannabis started to become more accepted. In 1996, California became the first US state to legalise medical cannabis, and since then a number of other states have followed suit. Today, cannabis is legal in some form in more than 30 US states.

The Science of Cannabis

For years, the cannabis plant has been shrouded in negative stereotypes and misinformation. However, as more states legalize the use of cannabis, people are beginning to change their tune. Here’s what the science has to say about this popular plant.

The endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors and ligands that are found throughout the body. The cannabinoids that bind to these receptors are plant-derived and include THC and CBD. Research suggests that the endocannabinoid system is involved in a variety of physiological processes, including pain perception, immune function, and appetite.

Cannabinoids and their effects

Cannabinoids are the class of active compounds in cannabis. These molecules interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates mood, memory, sleep, and appetite, among other things.

There are hundreds of different cannabinoids, but the two best-known and most studied are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, meaning it’s the one that gets you “high.” CBD is non-psychoactive and is thought to have a variety of therapeutic effects, including reducing anxiety and inflammation.

Cannabinoids work by binding to specific receptors in the ECS. THC binds primarily to CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the brain. This is why THC has psychoactive effects. CBD binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, but it has a low affinity for both. This is why CBD does not produce psychoactive effects and why it’s thought to have therapeutic potential.

Other cannabinoids also bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors, but their effects are not well characterized. Some cannabinoids, like cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN), don’t bind directly to receptors but can still produce certain pharmacological effects.

The Benefits of Cannabis

Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The plant contains over 100 different cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds that act on the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or balance, in the body. cannabinoids can help to restore balance in the body by interacting with cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the body’s nervous system and immune system.

Pain relief

Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat various forms of pain, although the evidence for its efficacy is mixed. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA found that, among people with chronic pain, those who used cannabis were more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms than those who didn’t.

Another study published in the same journal found that, among people with multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms, those who took a cannabis-based medicine reported reductions in spasticity compared to those who took a placebo. CBD oil is also said to offer relief for painful conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Anxiety relief

Cannabis has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety in both animal and human studies. A 2015 review of studies in humans concluded that cannabis is effective in reducing anxiety, especially in social anxiety disorder. Cannabis has also been shown to reduce stress and improve sleep quality, both of which can be helpful in managing anxiety.

Cancer treatment

Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory. Research suggests that cannabinoids, the active chemicals in cannabis, may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells. A laboratory study of delta-9-THC in mouse models of cancer showed that it killed cancer cells but did not affect healthy cells (Maira et al., 2006). Another laboratory study treated human brain tumor cells with cannabidiol and found that it reduced the growth of these cells (Siddall et al., 2005). Cannabis is also being tested for its ability to stop the spread of cancer.

In a laboratory study, delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids inhibited the spread of aggressive human breast cancer cells in mice (Sagar et al., 2005). Some animal studies have also suggested that cannabis may help to prevent cancer from spreading. A 2006 study found that rats given cannabidiol were less likely to develop colon cancer after being exposed to a carcinogen (ABLC 2005).

The risks of Cannabis

It’s no secret that cannabis has been gaining popularity in recent years. With more and more states legalizing its use, both for medicinal and recreational purposes, it’s becoming more and more accessible. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s without risks. Let’s take a look at some of the risks associated with cannabis use.

Short-term risks

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant grown for its psychoactive properties. The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the “high” associated with smoking or ingesting the plant.

While there are many potential benefits associated with the use of cannabis, there are also potential risks, especially when it comes to short-term use. Short-term risks of smoking or ingesting cannabis include:

Dry mouth and eyes
Increased heart rate
Anxiety and paranoia
Coordination problems
Memory problems
Low blood pressure (which can cause people to faint)

Long-term risks

Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world, with an estimated 125 million people using it each year.

While there is some evidence that Cannabis can be helpful for certain medical conditions, there is also growing concern about its long-term effects, particularly on brain development.

Here’s what we know about the potential long-term risks of Cannabis use:

Cognitive effects:

Studies have found that Cannabis use can cause a range of cognitive impairments, including memory problems, attention deficits, and reduced IQ. These effects appear to be more pronounced in heavy users and those who start using Cannabis at a young age. There is some evidence that these effects may be reversible, but it is not yet clear how long this takes.

Psychiatric effects:

Cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and anxiety. The risk is highest in people with a family history of these disorders and those who start using Cannabis at a young age. There is also some evidence that Cannabis use can worsen the symptoms of existing psychiatric disorders.

Cardiovascular effects:

Cannabis use can cause an increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. These effects are not usually seen in occasional users, but they may be more pronounced in people who smoke regularly or those with pre-existing heart conditions.


The Bottom Line

Cannabis has been shown to be effective in reducing pain, nausea, and vomiting in cancer patients (1). Cannabis has also been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation and chronic pain (2).

The pros and cons

The pros:
-Cannabis has been shown to be effective in treating certain medical conditions, such as chronic pain, nausea, and loss of appetite.
-Cannabis use may be associated with a lower risk of obesity and diabetes.
-Cannabis use may protect the brain from damage caused by alcohol and other drugs.

The cons:
-Cannabis use can lead to dependence and addiction.
-Cannabis use can impair cognitive function and memory.
-Cannabis use during pregnancy can harm the developing fetus.

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