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Dope, grass, pot, ganja, dagga, reefer – call it what you may – marijuana has, over the last four decades of its use in Western society, attracted both good and bad press, which can be confusing. It is important, however, to be familiar with its uses and side effects in order to be empowered to say ‘no’ to this illicit drug.
The two essential species from which marijuana is derived are Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, with ‘sativa’ meaning ‘long history of cultivation’; in fact, this plant, which is native to northern India and Iran, has been grown for over 10 000 years. It is not to be confused with hemp, which is the term used to describe varieties of the Cannabis plant and its products (fibre, oil and seeds) that have a purely industrial use such as textiles, paper, clothing, biodegradable plastics and even construction.
Dope is the most widely used illegal drug. It is used both recreationally and therapeutically although the US National Institute on Drug Abuse categorically states: ‘Currently, smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease or condition’.
The indica and sativa subspecies are purported to offer different therapeutic qualities. Sativa strains give the user a euphoric high and may relieve stress while the indica strains act as muscle relaxants and general analgesics, which also helps with sleep. Therefore a patient suffering from depression may benefit from the satvia plant while a cancer patient seeking relief from the pain of chemotherapy could benefit from the effects of an indica plant.
Anecdotal evidence further suggests that marijuana may be a useful anti-convulsant, anaesthetic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and bronchiodilator. It has been reported to aid with glaucoma, anorexia (it stimulates the appetite), arthritis pain, asthma, cerebral palsy, spasmodic coughs, insomnia, menstrual cramps, migraines, nausea, nervousness in the elderly, nightmares, pain, paraplegia, epilepsy, piritis (chronic itching), and relief for the terminally ill.
The therapeutic use of marijuana does have some support from various scientific health sources:
Having cited some of dope’s potential health benefits, however, it is extremely important to make it clear that it has not been legalised for obvious reasons. Marijuana is an addictive drug. According to The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration (SAMHSA): ‘A new federal report released… concludes the younger children are when they first use marijuana, the more likely they are to use cocaine and heroin and become dependent on drugs as adults. [...] Increases in the likelihood of cocaine and heroin use and drug dependence are also apparent for those who initiate use of marijuana at any later age.’3
Marijuana can also cause psychological side effects such as severe insomnia, anxiety, depression, paranoia and personality deviations.
Side effects, however, are not restricted to the psychological as very recent research4 carried out at the University of Auckland in New Zealand has shown a link between dope smokers and an increased risk of stroke in young adults. Lead researcher Dr Alan Barber says: ‘People need to think twice about using cannabis because it can affect brain development and result in emphysema, heart attack and now stroke.’
In addition to the above marijuana can decrease testosterone levels in men and reduce sperm count. The Chinese say marijuana use weakens the kidneys and the liver. As it stimulates the appetite, dope can result in unwanted weight gain.
Repeated clinical evidence shows that marijuana is an adrenal stressor.5 Anyone who smokes marijuana at least once a week for several months or more will undoubtedly show signs of hypoadrenia (a state when the adrenal glands are over-stressed and not functioning properly). This evidence alone shows that it’s damaging to smoke dope even once a week. Furthermore it is dangerous to believe that you can restrict your intake to merely once a week as with every recreational drug once is rarely enough; and those with particularly addictive personalities could find themselves craving the drug every day and then more than once a day and before they know it they have become a substance abuser.
The following may help those who are trying to stop taking marijuana:
QUITTING AND WITHDRAWAL
Withdrawal symptoms include cravings, depression, hyperactivity, insomnia, irritability and anxiety.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a drug that is emerging as a useful agent in the treatment of psychiatric disorders, including addiction. A study6 published in the American Journal of Addiction investigated the use of 2 400 mg/a day of NAC in 24 dependent marijuana users who wanted to reduce their intake. Treatment with NAC proved successful with study participants reporting a drop in the number of their daily or weekly ‘hits’. In addition to this the users reported reduced compulsivity and emotionality regarding the use of marijuana.
Precaution: Asthma is a risk factor for adverse reactions to NAC and special caution should be exercised in its use in brittle asthmatic patients.7
In conclusion, the best answer here is: don’t start using marijuana, either recreationally or therapeutically. It is addictive and withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant. Do not justify its use through the medical application for a particular illness: you run the risk of bringing on a whole lot of other unwanted ills, both psychological and physical.
Natural Medicine editorial team.
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