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The side effects of cannabis

There are many reasons why cannabis can improve people's quality of life, especially for cancer patients or people with neurodegenerative diseases, epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety. But like any potent chemical, it must be handled with care if we do not want to experience unwanted side effects or develop a chronic condition. In this article we will take a look at the possible side effects cannabis can cause: short and long term, positive and negative.

Short-term effects

The psychotropic nature of cannabis is an issue that requires careful study. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the 'high' sensation, can cause momentary changes in perception, emotion and cognition. These effects can lead to feelings of euphoria, relaxation or enhanced sensory perception, and as a consequence, a better understanding of any non-verbal communication between two people, and thus greater empathy. But in high doses, it can also cause some people to experience elevated levels of anxiety, restlessness or feelings of unease after consuming cannabis. The psychoactive effects of THC can also make it difficult to concentrate, reduce our attention span and ability to retain new information.

Lack of research

It is important to mention that because the legality of marijuana has been the subject of intense discussion in recent decades, research in the field has not been extensive: no one wants to invest money in researching a substance that cannot be sold on the legal market. And the few scientific tests that have been conducted have been financed mainly by grants and universities, and by personal funds from individuals. This means that the long-term consequences of cannabis use are not yet fully known and more research is needed to determine them.

Fortunately, there is a changing tide that has been impacting regulations on cannabis use worldwide. Every year, more and more countries legalise or decriminalise the use of different derivatives of the marijuana plant for medicinal or recreational purposes. For example, in Spain, we have the possibility of accessing government-approved institutions, called cannabis associations or marijuana clubs, where we can legally consume cannabis. Particularly here in Barcelona, there is a thriving cannabis scene: the city is famous for its marijuana dispensaries and for having one of the best menus of high quality marijuana due to its ideal climate for growing the plant.

Long-term effects

Now, thanks to this change in perspective, the budget invested in scientific research on marijuana has increased considerably over the last decade, and there is much we have learned about the long-term implications of its use.

Positive effects

The positive side of the long-term effects of cannabis can be seen mainly in people transiting a health condition, such as anxiety, depression or chronic pain, as it has been shown that cannabinoids can be of great help in these situations. It can also improve the quality of life of cancer patients, alleviating the symptoms of chemotherapy, reducing inflammation, nausea and vomiting, and also decreases the frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy.

Negative effects:

It is believed that irresponsible cannabis use, especially during adolescence, may have a future impact on cognitive functions such as memory, attention and learning. It is worth mentioning that the magnitude and reversibility of these effects are still a matter of debate among researchers.

There is also the risk associated with any activity that involves smoking, regardless of the substance: respiratory problems. Our bodies are not designed to inhale smoke frequently and long-term or heavy use of this form of cannabis delivery can lead to chronic problems such as bronchitis and lung irritation.

Finally, while the addictive potential of cannabis is generally lower compared to substances such as alcohol or opioids, long-term use can lead to cannabis use disorder in susceptible individuals. And, in some extreme cases, physical dependence can occur when our brain receptors become accustomed to receiving cannabinoids from external sources periodically and decrease the body's own production of endocannabinoids. 

Overall, we can say that there are many benefits to using cannabis as long as it is done responsibly. This means being careful with the frequency and dosage of our consumption, and being alert to any signs of possible side effects or psychological dependence that we may begin to experience. If you have any doubts about the effects marijuana may be having on your body, it is always advisable to see a doctor. Also, if you feel that you are developing a strong tolerance to it, it might not be a bad idea to take a short break.




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