People all over the world use cannabis for medical and recreational purposes, however, do you ever wonder what cannabis actually does to the body and brain? In this blog, we’re taking a look at this popular drug, it’s health effects on the body and brain, and any potential concerns about it.
While cannabis has been used for centuries as a medicine and drug, there’s not much medical information on the health effects of using it. This is due to there being essentially no controlled studies on it because of the way it is classified by the federal government. The DEA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3, 4- methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.” Because of this classification, in order to do clinical research on cannabis you would need a license from the DEA, your study approved by the FDA and to obtain the researched-grade cannabis, you’d have to go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Based on this process, it has proved problematic for researches to study the potential medical benefits of cannabis.
That being said, here is what we do know about cannabis and how it effects our brain and body:
1. Cannabinoid Receptors
Compounds in cannabis interact with our brain cells which contribute both a psychoactive and therapeutic effect. Different cannabinoids have different pharmacological effects.
The primary psychoactive in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and has a psychoactive effect because of the way it engages with cannabinoid receptors in the brain. It is known that these receptors are located in the central nervous system which control: pain, pleasure, motor function, memory, mood, appetite.
The second most popular cannabinoid is CBD (cannabidiol) which can have a therapeutic effect. CBD does not directly interact with the two classical cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), instead, it affects signaling through CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly. This partly explains why, in contrast to THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. Because of its medicinal qualities, CBD remains in high demand among medicinal users.
CBD is especially effective at clearing glutamate, a toxic chemical that accumulates following traumatic brain injury. These cannabinoids used together or separately, have also shown consistent effectiveness to protect nerve cells damaged by MS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, stimulating bone growth, easing pain and nausea, killing certain kinds of cancer cells, preventing seizure, controlling muscle spasms, and killing viruses and bacteria.
THC appears to impair short term memory in two significant ways. The first being difficulty forming new memories while under the influence. The second being difficultly recalling events while under the influence and sometimes after the high wears off. The good news is that in most cannabis users, these two memory impairments are temporary and wear off around 24 to 48 hours.
In addition, cannabis may potentially fight bad memories. Preclinical research shows that THC and CBD can “disrupt the reconsolidation of negative memories“. Veterans regularly complain that pharmaceutical treatments prescribed to them by doctors, such as the highly addictive anti-anxiety medications Xanax and Valium, don’t work well and sometimes worsen symptoms.
3. Concentration and Attention
Cannabis can impair some attention and concentration for light users. However, it doesn’t appear to affect heavy users concentration within 6 hours of using it. Researchers have found that after 3 weeks since last using cannabis, attention in users returns to normal. In other studies, no concentration or attention deficiencies were found at all for subjects who were abstinent for a month to a year.
For more information on medical cannabis and the health benefits it provides, follow our blog or contact us for more information.