The myriad effects of weed on the body have long been a discussion for scientists, but now, with sweeping legalization making study easier, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, or NASEM, published a review in January 2017. The results analyzed hundreds of earlier studies to consolidate all the data. Although limited somewhat, this review offers insightful information.
Now, we have a deeper understanding of just how cannabis affects the human body exactly, providing new avenues of research into potential new therapies. According to the review, consuming marijuana influences your body in many ways, and greatly too. This is true regardless of your reason for using it, so if enjoying pot recreationally, it will still affect you. No one is immune to a potent joint.
Results of NASEM Review
The goal of the report by NASEM was to gather sufficient evidence showing all the different ways that marijuana affects body and mind, as well as to identify new opportunities worthy of further research. Past propaganda creates much confusion still about the influence that weed has on humans. This report separates fact from fiction. According to its findings, consuming pot leads to these temporary effects:
- Causes red eyes
- Dilates the pupils
- Improves mood and feelings of pleasure
- Increases heart rate temporarily
- Causes temporary fluctuations in blood pressure
- Distorts time
- Changes balance, coordination, and posture
- Creates memory difficulties
- Causes fatigue
Such mild and short-term side effects are moot when the report finds weed effective at treating:
- Severe and chronic pain
- Side effects of chemotherapy, including vomiting, nausea, and appetite stimulation
- Multiple sclerosis and related symptoms, including spasticity and spasms
- Temporary sleep imbalances caused by pain or sickness
When it came to pot’s influence on heart health, the report was inconclusive. One cannot come to any definitive conclusion without sufficient evidence of either positive or negative effects. Of course, it did address the clear and abundant effect it has on stroke, diabetes, and heart attack, but the results found no statistical association with weed on cardiac arrest. It also restricted statistical data to prove that:
- Pot lowers diabetes risk, but it heightens the risk of prediabetes.
- No evidence exists to show weed either causing or preventing stroke.
- Smoking pot might trigger inhalation-induced cardiac arrest, but not other methods of consumption.
In its conclusion, the review stated insufficient evidence to make concrete decisions. The data already in existence is not particularly comprehensive, making understanding the overall effects of cannabis difficult from the information available. More research is crucial and fortunately underway. Much discovery about cannabidiol, or CBD, shows interesting promise, particularly for cardiovascular health.
The effects of Recreational marijuana on the lungs are surprising. The review found absolutely no correlation between smoking weed and lung cancer. It also provided zero evidence of just one statistical association between cannabis and cancers of the head and neck, facts easily proven with tobacco. Yet, it is clear that inhaling pot long-term can lead to mucus overproduction and fits of intense coughing.
However, if you quit smoking, these effects are temporary and go away quickly. Data even exists proving that inhaling can actually boost the performance of the lungs, especially in those who smoke moderately. The review team, basing their conclusion on available data, claimed insufficient evidence to show any negative relationship between weed smoking and respiratory disorders. Most notably, it stated:
- Cannabis use does not increase the risk of suffering asthma-like symptoms.
- Smoking pot does not increase the likelihood of hospital admissions for COPD.
Although they do exist, evidence of associations between smoking cannabis and pulmonary issues, such as COPD, are weak at best, especially after tobacco controls. Some data exists showing how heavy cannabis use enlarges the airways, but this does not apply to chronic consumption. The review also found inhaling improving forced exhalation, indicating the potential for increasing lung capacity.
The Immune System
Studies indicate that marijuana and its active cannabinoids have valuable immunomodulatory properties, in effect anti-inflammatories. This proves incredibly useful in treating a horde of health complaints. Yet, in spite of this, many wonder if this could prove harmful to healthy people without inflammatory issues, since some inflammation is necessary to prevent infection and maintain health.
Researchers investigated this question in this review, concluding that more study is crucial before coming to any decisions about how cannabis affects immunity. Current data is simply insufficient to draw any definitive conclusions. There is no evidence whatsoever showing any adverse immune response to weed in patients with HIV or full-blown AIDS.
Scientists also do not know if frequent inhalation of marijuana increases the risk of contracting the HPV virus, an oral disease. Some data exists showing that it decreases pro-inflammatory response in healthy people, but that it might harm the liver in patients with hepatitis, particularly viral hepatitis C. Despite these limitations, research does show cannabidiol, or CBD, affecting immune function most positively.
Although this NASEM review did a comprehensive study of all available data on the effects of cannabis on the human body, it is imperative to know its limitations are notable. The report exclusively focuses on human studies, but those are extremely rare. Because weed remains federally illegal, scientists face many restrictions when it comes to research. For this reason, there is just not enough evidence.
Furthermore, the report only highlights potential correlations and associations, being unable on its own to identify precisely whether marijuana is responsible for these outcomes or other environmental factors. Causation is not correlation. The only sure way to be certain is to grow the science with more detailed, quality studies, specifically those that include possible mechanisms of action.
Scientists also need to investigate some risk groups more, such as those pertaining to pregnant or lactating women, teenagers, or those predisposed to mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, psychosis, schizophrenia, even depression. Despite many studies showing cannabis extremely effective at treating most mental disorders, more research is paramount, especially into CBD-rich strains.
With cannabis now legal across California, there is only one tried and tested way of knowing just how it will affect you: You have to do some experimenting with different weed products and strains. You have more available to you than ever before, with the highest potency in history, so take advantage of experts happy to advise you. What is certain is that, as studies discover more, cannabis is good for you.