A lot of misconceptions and myths persist about cannabis. Nowadays when most states allow for some type of cannabis use, it’s time for you to know at least the basics.
Exactly how much do you know about cannabis? It’s unfortunate that scientific studies have largely hindered the research on plants such as marijuana and hemp, due to the decades-long prohibition regarding their use. It’s also rather disconcerting how much fake news exists regarding cannabis. Before you can form a proper opinion about the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, maybe you first ought to know some real facts instead.
The Historical Use of Cannabis as Medicine
Research on historical cannabis use among humans has uncovered the fact that people have used cannabis since about 2900 BC. That’s almost 5,000 years ago, and even in those days, people have already cultivated the plant for medicinal purposes. The problem is that throughout the millennia there haven’t been any real scientific studies and only anecdotal reports.
The earliest use of cannabis was probably in China, and the Chinese referred to cannabis as “the medicine that takes away the mind”. They used it for a wide variety of symptoms and medical conditions, including insomnia, GI disorders, and pain relief.
The use of cannabis spread slowly, though eventually by the 700s AD it as also used by healers in India, the Middle East, Greece, and Egypt. It came very late to Europe, as an Irish physician named William O’Shaughnessy is credited with introducing cannabis to the West only in the 1830s.
More modern research on cannabis shows that these plants contain chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The trichomes on the cannabis plants are the small crystals that tend to cover the buds and leaves, and these are generally sticky and shiny. The trichomes secrete the cannabinoids, and these cannabinoids are responsible for the medical and psychoactive effects attributed to cannabis in general.
Arguably the most famous cannabinoids are THC and CBD, but these aren’t the only ones. They weren’t even the first cannabinoids discovered. The first cannabinoid extracted from cannabis is cannabinol. This a metabolite of what will be known later as THC, but it is non-psychoactive.
CBD and THC were extracted from cannabis only in the 1940s. Today more than a hundred cannabinoids have been found, but these 2 cannabinoids remain the most important. The THC is the main cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicated “high” feeling, though studies indicate that THC also has therapeutic properties.
In contrast, CBD offers medicinal benefits without the high. This property has made it a popular option for those who object to the intoxicating effects of cannabis, and parents also pick this option if their child is a patient who needs medicinal marijuana.
Cannabis actually contains at least 85 distinct cannabinoids, and the research about each cannabinoid’s therapeutic qualities are still in the early stages. While there may be benefits to cannabis use and the application of these cannabinoid compounds, there are risks as well. Some studies have suggested that there’s a negative effect on brain development if a child starts taking cannabis too early.
These cannabinoids bind to the body and notably to the brain via the receptor sites in the human body. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system, which is itself a rather new discovery. The first endocannabinoid was only first isolated in 1992. Hundreds of endocannabinoids since then have been found but scientists are still unsure why the human body prepares so many of these compounds in the first place.
Delivery System Options
The traditional ways of consuming cannabis include smoking it or ingesting it. Smoking a joint or a pipe is certainly still popular, and so is eating cannabis-laced edibles such as “magic brownies”. But today there are multiple ways of delivering cannabis into your body.
- You can now use a vaping machine, which uses combustion but doesn’t burn the cannabis. Instead of inhaling smoke, you swallow water vapor. This is a better option for those who want to control the dosage accurately and who also want to avoid ingesting smoke. The results also tend to appear fairly quickly.
- Lots of food edibles can now be laced with THC or CBD oil, and you can even get pizza with cannabis. Drinks can only be infused with marijuana, with plenty of such cocktails served in specially designated cannabis cafes. It can take as long as 2 hours before you get high when you consume cannabis.
- A tincture is another option, and you can use a dropper to put a few drops of the cannabis oil under your tongue. The intoxication may start after only 15 minutes or so.
- Or you can just go with the no-nonsense approach and swallow a pill or a capsule. While this avoids the issue of unpleasant tastes, cannabis is still ingested so again it’s like taking an edible.
Each system will have different effects on you and they all have their own sets of pros and cons.
Effects of Cannabis
What does it mean when you’re high? This means you’re in an altered state of mind as the cannabis contains psychoactive compounds such as THC. Depending on the particular strain you get, you can get the kind of high you’re looking for.
Anecdotal reports indicate that you can feel more uplifted and energetic if you take sativa strains. The indica strains, on the other hand, can offer a more relaxed feeling.
Common reactions to cannabis include fits of laughter, uninhibited behavior, sleepiness, and food cravings. However, quite a few reports indicate “bad trips” such as bouts of paranoia, such as the feeling that everyone and everything is staring at you.
You may also feel sleepy, but the effects of cannabis on sleep may be similar to that of alcohol. Some studies suggest that cannabis compounds can interrupt the later stages of REM sleep.
Medical Uses of Cannabis
Ongoing studies indicate that cannabis can help with the treatment for the following medical conditions:
- Loss of appetite and nausea
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Cannabis is especially noted for offering relief from pain, and this is especially true in case of chronic pain. Some experts say that this can be a better alternative to opioid use, as many healthcare professionals believe that the US is in an opioid crisis. The main advantage of cannabis over opioid pain relievers is that unlike opioids, cannabis overdoses aren’t fatal.
So Why Is Cannabis (Marijuana) Still Illegal According to Federal Law?
This is because the fact of the matter is that scientific research on cannabis is still in its early stages. Very few studies involve humans and the studies that do use people only involve a handful of test subjects. There have been no large-scale studies regarding medicinal benefits for humans, nor have there been any long-range studies either.
In other words, we still don’t know enough about cannabis for federal regulators to sign off on its use. But it is also true that some doctors are confident enough that it can help, which is why they prescribe medical marijuana in the first place.
Factors that can Affect the Effect of Cannabis on You
The reaction you have to cannabis can be affected by several different factors. These include:
- The type of product you use
- Your surroundings
- The strain and chemical profile of the cannabis
- How much you take
- Your tolerance levels
- Your particular body chemistry
- Even how much you’ve eaten can affect the experience
- Take note that if you consume cannabis, the onset of the effects may be delayed. The fastest you can expect is 30 minutes, though it’s more likely that you will have to weight for almost 2 hours. These effects can last for 4 to 8 hours.
- It’s very difficult to gauge the dosage of edibles because not all labels offer accurate information. It is also a very ineffective system, as only about 5% of the cannabis compounds actually get into the bloodstream. At the same time, the 2-hour delay for the effects can tempt you to eat too much, which can then lead to over-intoxication.
- You can never get the same effects each time if you use cannabis regularly. Every now and then, you can get “bad trips” such as bouts of paranoia or dizziness.
- It’s more likely to get a “bad trip” if you consume cannabis in a setting that makes you feel stressed or anxious. It’s better if you’re in more relaxed surroundings, and if you’re with people you’re with friends.
- If you’re more than 50 years old, you may experience the negative effects of cannabis. The same is true if you have a pre-existing medical condition for which marijuana isn’t a treatment option.
- It’s best to treat marijuana like medicine, which means you shouldn’t mix it with alcohol. By itself, consuming cannabis is already unpredictable. It even harder to gauge the possible effects when you put alcohol in the mix. The same goes for other drugs too.
- Store your cannabis in a secure place so children won’t be able to use it.
If you do get into trouble, first try to feel calm and breathe deeply. Try to relax. If the symptoms persist, call 991. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Also, check out these 7 Major Industries Disrupted by Cannabis And CBD