In the first installment of the Cannabis 101 series, I attempted to answer the ‘big’ questions about why cannabis is our favorite plant. In this post, I’m going to try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions related to cannabis and health. The answers are based on research that is continually being expanded along with my own personal experience.
Can Smoking Pot Cause Cancer or Lung Damage?
Let’s keep this simple, even if it’s not. Can cannabis cause lung cancer? In a word; no. Can smoking pot cause lung damage? In a word, maybe. Pot does not cause cancer… except maybe it does. In this older article from the CDC, the CDC states that many of the same cancer causing substances in tobacco are present in weed. They did start the article with the caveat; “More research is needed” which is telling us: “We really don’t know,” at least not enough about cannabis and health.
Many of the same substances found in tobacco and cannabis are also in any burned plant material. The main difference between tobacco and cannabis is quantity. If you smoke weed, you smoke a lot less weed then you would tobacco. A pack a day is not the same as 6 to 10 puffs on a pipe or bong or whatever. If you’re indirectly consuming vapor by dabbing or vaping, the smoke might not be directly from a flower, but it is smoke and it is entering your lungs. Can any of these cause cancer? Perhaps, but it’s not been shown at this point. To use that old expression; “We need more research.”
There has never been a direct diagnosis of cancer from smoking cannabis. This study from the National Institutes of Health states that it increases the risk of cancer. And this study published by webmd.com shows no link to cancer even in those who started smoking pot as teenagers. The authors of the study were even surprised by the results. But no, weed apparently doesn’t cause cancer when smoked. A more recent article, from 2019, is more ambivalent about whether smoking weed causes cancer. Apparently, the risk is low. If you don’t want to consume smoke, read below for some options. Edibles have their problems as well… not so much from a disease process, but more of an overdose issue.
Can You Overdose on Weed? Does Too Much Weed Harm Your Health?
Yes, you can indeed overdose on marijuana. It won’t kill you or cause any long-term health problems though. Weed simply is not life threatening in any quantity. If you overdose, you might, while under the influence, become highly paranoid or you may become disoriented, but you won’t die. Cannabis is one of the few drugs on the planet that behaves this way. Even aspirin can kill you if you ingest enough. There is not one documented death that can be directly attributed to over-consumption of pot. Not one. Ever.
What Should I do if I Smoke Too Much Weed?
If you do overdose, wait it out as best you can for a few hours and you’ll be fine. The characteristics of the plant are such that it’s really self regulating and you stop before you get to the overdose level. If you’re smoking for pleasure and not to relieve pain, spasms, or whatever, you’ll just stop smoking when you get to the point where you can say; “I’m really stoned.” It’s the nature of the plant and the nature of ingesting the plant.
What Should I do if I Overdose on Edibles?
Most ‘overdoses’ come from ingesting weed (in some form). That’s eating it. Edibles have always been difficult for me. It’s almost impossible to accurately dose them and it takes at least an hour to notice any effect. Now there are a new version of edible cannabis. It’s called nano weed edibles. They’re supposed to enter your system almost immediately, which would help give a more accurate dose. Note that you cannot overdose by swallowing a big bud or putting it in your salad. In fact, you can’t even get high that way. Weed needs to be heated before the THC can be released into your system.
Are There Really Medical Benefits with Weed?
Cannabis in my generation was mostly consumed to get a buzz as in: “Wanna get high?” If the answer was affirmative (it usually was) out would come the plastic bag full of weed…or maybe not so full…and joints were rolled or pipes were filled. Over the years our relationship with this magical plant has changed. A lot. We found out that marijuana wasn’t just a way to alter our consciousness. It had many other benefits too! Now we consume for both the pleasure of consumption and the health benefits we can derive from cannabis.
What Health Conditions Can Marijuana Help With?
Below is a small list of conditions that might be affecting your health. The list is from webmd.com. Cannabis can help alleviate the discomfort that goes along with these diseases. Although there are a multitude of stories in the nethersphere about how cannabis can cure cancer and all manner of diseases, there is no conclusive research that proves marijuana can cure any disease. No real cures have been identified as of yet. Weed has been shown to alleviate a host of discomforts caused by the conditions below.
Cannabis does have real benefits for cancer patients. The nausea and lack of appetite from chemotherapy have been demonstrated to be relieved with marijuana. Many brain diseases, such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy show improvement with cannabis use, whether CBD cannabis or THC cannabis. Doesn’t matter which.
Here’s a short list of diseases that have shown to have at least palliative effect from the effect of marijuana:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Appetite loss
- Crohn’s disease
- Diseases effecting the immune system like HIV/AIDS or Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Eating disorders such as anorexia
- Mental health conditions like schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Wasting syndrome (cachexia)
Some of the above conditions have research associated with them, some don’t. If you want to use cannabis to alleviate some of symptoms of a disease you might have, be aware that different strains have different effects on some of these ailments. For insomnia, Dos-i-Dos does the job for me. For other people, it doesn’t do anything. Perhaps for them, Blueberry does the job. It’s just hard to tell because of the differences in the strains and each strain’s 300 or 400 different compounds.
We’re continuing to add to our admittedly small body of cannabis knowledge. It’s going to take a while to catch up. There is one thing that will bring clarity to research and the medicine of pot; Remove it from Schedule 1. Make it easy for scientists to do research. Then we’ll know.