The legalization of cannabis has been a topic of much debate and intrigue, particularly in the United States where, as of February 2020, 33 states have legalized its medical use, and 11 for recreational purposes. This trend raises important questions about the safety and potential risks associated with cannabis use.
According to Alvin Powell, a staff writer at Harvard, despite its growing acceptance, there’s still a paradox: extensive public exposure contrasts with limited medical understanding of cannabis. This gap in knowledge extends to the long-term cognitive effects of cannabis. Studies have shown that long-term users experienced an average IQ decline of 5.5 points from childhood, alongside deficits in learning and processing speed. The frequency of use appears to correlate with the degree of impairment, suggesting a possible causative relationship.
The conversation around cannabis also encompasses its legalization benefits, like removing it from the illegal market for taxation and regulation. However, as societal norms evolve and new products emerge, science is still racing to keep up. In a Johns Hopkins Q&A, the complexities of cannabis legalization are discussed, highlighting the need for more comprehensive research.
For those choosing to use cannabis, Harvard Health advises caution. Methods like using under-the-tongue tinctures, edibles, topical products, or dry herb vaporizers are recommended over smoking, which can inflame the lungs. The importance of not driving for at least four hours after use is also stressed.
The widespread use of cannabis also brings forth health concerns. Cognitive effects such as impaired thinking, memory issues, and poor coordination are notable, as are physical health risks like increased cardiovascular disease and respiratory infections. Furthermore, high doses can lead to hallucinations.
Despite its legal status in many areas, marijuana remains the most commonly used mind-altering drug in the U.S., second only to alcohol. Its legal definition is tied to THC concentration, distinguishing it from hemp, which contains lower THC levels.
Understanding the effects of marijuana on reward processing and brain development, especially with early THC exposure, is crucial. This impacts the opioid system, which is responsible for pleasure sensations. However, marijuana smoke shares many harmful components with cigarette smoke, posing risks to heart health and potentially leading to diseases like cancer.
In conclusion, while the legalization and use of cannabis are on the rise, it’s clear that the scientific and medical communities are still grappling with understanding its full impact. Whether it’s cognitive, physical, or developmental effects, the need for more research and a cautious approach to cannabis use remains paramount.