Is Long-Term Cannabis Use Harmful? Unraveling the Evidence

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Is Long-Term Cannabis Use Harmful? Unraveling the Evidence

The debate around the long-term effects of cannabis use continues to evolve, especially as its legalization spreads across the United States. While 33 states have legalized it for medical use and 11 for recreational purposes, the medical community remains cautious about its potential consequences.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cannabis use among older adults (aged 65 and older) in the U.S. has nearly doubled from 2.4% to 4.2% between 2015 and 2018. This increase might suggest a reduced stigma and increased acceptance, especially for medical purposes. However, questions about safety and addiction persistHarvard Health.

Harvard Health highlights that long-term cannabis users might experience significant cognitive deficits. A notable finding is that long-term users’ IQs declined by an average of 5.5 points from childhood, with notable deficits in learning and processing speed compared to non-users. The frequency of cannabis use seems to correlate with the degree of cognitive impairment, hinting at a potential causative linkHarvard Health.

However, it’s crucial to approach these findings with a level of skepticism. While THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical, impacts brain regions vital for memory formation, the long-term effects, particularly for medical use, remain under investigationHarvard Health.

In terms of physical health, marijuana can influence heart rate and blood pressure, posing risks for individuals with heart disease. The risk of a heart attack is reportedly higher in the hour following marijuana use. Yet, the relationship between marijuana use and heart health requires further explorationHarvard Health.

Finally, withdrawal symptoms from cannabis, which can include aggression, anxiety, insomnia, and even physical symptoms like headaches and vomiting, indicate the potential for addiction. This aspect of cannabis use, often underplayed, demands attention, especially for those considering reducing or stopping usageHarvard Health.

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In conclusion, while cannabis might offer benefits, particularly in the realm of medical use, its long-term effects, especially on cognitive and heart health, warrant cautious consideration. Further research is needed to fully understand and mitigate potential risks.

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