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article imageU.S. report reviews health impact of marijuana use

By Ken Hanly     Jan 13, 2017 in Health
A United States report on marijuana, by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, concludes marijuana use can ease chronic pain and help some sleep but it also could raise the risk of becoming schizophrenic.
However, the report warns that the current lack of information about marijuana "poses a public health risk". The experts who wrote the report said that there needed to be a national effort to learn more about marijuana and cannabinoids, similarly acting drugs. The report recommends that legal marijuana sales require that users be 18 or over. The U.S. federal government still classifies marijuana use as illegal and this imposes restrictions on research into its health benefits. The government also restricted the range of products that could be studied.
While more study may be needed, this may be as much due to the differing and contradictory conclusions of studies rather than the lack of studies. The group did a review of all the scientific research on the health impacts of marijuana and substances with cannabis-derived contents since 1999, over 10,000 studies in all. They came to 100 different conclusions. The report can be found The National Academies Press Website.
Among the negative effects the report concludes that there is strong evidence marijuana use increases the risk of traffic accidents. However, a new study from Columbia University found that traffic fatalities have fallen in seven states where medicinal marijuana is legal. If found as well that overall states where medical marijuana is legal have lower traffic fatality rates than states where medical marijuana is legal. Of course these correlations may have nothing to with marijuana being made legal and may not indicate that marijuana use reduces likelihood of having an accident. However, it illustrates a problem with there being so many studies. People for or against marijuana use have numerous studies from which they can cherry pick, citing only those that favor their point of view.
The report concluded that there was ample evidence that marijuana can treat chronic pain and that cannabis-derived compounds can ease the nausea associated with chemotherapy. With respect to treating muscle stiffness and spasms in multiple sclerosis the evidence was mixed. There was some limited evidence that marijuana and related substances could boost appetite in people suffering from HIV or AIDS. The situation is similar with respect to treating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). At present there is a study ongoing in Colorado to determine the effectiveness of marijuana in treating PTSD.
With respect to the benefits of marijuana in treating cancers, epilepsy, symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, and some other conditions there was just not sufficient research done to conclude one way or the other. The report claims strong evidence links increased marijuana use to an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. Reports suggest that there is a small risk of increased risk of developing depressive disorders. However, there is no evidence that marijuana use increases the risk of suffering PTSD or affects the symptoms of PTSD.
The report claims strong evidence from the studies that marijuana use increases the risk of traffic accidents. However, it found no clear evidence that it promoted workplace accidents or injuries or caused death through overdosing. The evidence that it hurt performance in school, raised risk of unemployment, or harmed social functioning was weak.
There is strong evidence that pregnant women who smoke pot are likely to have babies with reduced birthweight but only weak evidence that it causes any complications for the mother or the babies' need for intensive care. There is not enough evidence to show what effect it has if any on the child later. Some evidence shows no link between smoking marijuana and lung cancer, but it is linked to worse respiratory symptoms and an increase in chronic bronchitis. There is weak evidence that marijuana use can trigger a heart attack for people at high risk of an attack. As to whether chronic use increases the risk of heart attack the evidence does not show this. There is some evidence that there is a link between using pot and becoming dependent on alcohol, drugs or even tobacco.
In Canada a task force on legalization of marijuana recommended that sales should be restricted to those who are 18 or older. A personal possession limit would be placed at 30 grams. The Canadian Medical Association had recommended selling only to those 21 and over with strict limits on potency and quantity until 25. The task force said raising the age limit would drive younger users to the black market. However, the task force recommended that provinces should be allowed to set their own age restrictions. Nine U.S. jurisdictions have legalized marijuana sales to those 21 and older. Trudeau campaigned last year on a promise to legalize marijuana.
More about Marijuana, health effects of marijuana use, marijuana and pain reduction
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