As medical marijuana laws expand in North America and abroad, marijuana has gotten both good and bad press — the latter often more ideologically than scientifically motivated. But it’s true that promoting marijuana as medicine calls for an examination of both its health benefits and side effects. Here are a few facts about medical marijuana you may or may not know, regardless of whether you come down on the pro or con side:
- Proven Medical Benefits
The medicinal benefits of marijuana are quite well documented, with studies showing applications in everything from glaucoma to cancer, Alzheimer’s to anxiety. The most agreed-upon benefit is that marijuana can ease pain for terminally ill patients because it affects nerves and reduces inflammation.
- Low Risk of Addiction
Physical addiction occurs when the body responds to drug use by failing to produce adequate levels of various chemicals. There is no scientific indication that marijuana is physically addictive, though there has been some evidence that heavy marijuana users can become psychologically dependent on the drug. It’s important to note, however, that marijuana has a lower risk of addiction than frequently prescribed opiates and other legal painkillers.
- Altered Brain Chemistry
There have been many reports in the past six months that marijuana hurts the brain. Most of these articles, some of which have even been published in well-known periodicals, are based on a misunderstanding of a study that actually showed that heavy marijuana use alters brain structures. No determination has been made as to whether these alterations are harmful. The subject, however, certainly merits further inquiry.
- Inconsistent Regulation
One of the biggest arguments against the use of medical weed doesn’t actually have to do with the drug itself, but with its prescription and dispersal. Regulation can be inconsistent regarding medical marijuana use. Laws sometimes permit the use of cannabis if prescribed by a doctor without creating a safe dispensary system, or fail to follow medical recommendations for prescription laws.
Are you in favor of using marijuana as medicine? Share your opinions on medical marijuana in the comments.