Research, Treatment

Addressing the Common Misconceptions of the Adverse Effects of Cannabis

April 8, 2021 10:30 am ET
Addressing the Common Misconceptions of the Adverse Effects of Cannabis

Thanks to the effort of misguided propaganda and stigmas attached to cannabis, many individuals have misconceptions in terms of the potential negative effects associated with cannabis. This is a direct result of the propaganda and influence from individuals who have insufficient education, irresponsibly consumed cannabis, or paired cannabis with other substances and have chosen to blame cannabis for the adverse experience. However, insufficient education is the number one reason behind ignorant or naive beliefs concerning cannabis, as well as being the reason behind websites that make unfounded, or disproved, claims about cannabis in hopes of turning people away from cannabis. Cannabis use doesn’t come without risks. But with the proper education, these risks can be easily minimized or even avoided altogether. 

However, the information available on cannabis can be overwhelming, contradictory, and even confusing. This is why self-education from credible and unbiased sources is of the utmost importance. It is also important that cannabis consumers be responsible in order to avoid the risks of presenting with adverse side effects. Another noteworthy fact is that the potential adverse effects of cannabis will never include the risk of death- unlike any other medical or recreational substance. 

Setting the Record Straight on the Adverse Effects of Cannabis

With that being said, let’s have a look at five of the most common side effects of cannabis consumption which are considered to be adverse but which can also be avoided through proper education and responsible consumption. 

  • Cannabis as a Gateway Drug 

For far too long, cannabis has been said to be a gateway to the use of other recreational drugs with information being split between ‘yes it does’ and ‘no it doesn’t’. While the jury is still out on the relationship between cannabis and drug abuse, studies have shown that cannabis is effective in assisting with curbing drug abuse and addiction. In the Veriheal article, Is Cannabis a Gateway Drug That Promotes Drug Abuse? the topic is further explored but suggests that cannabis use in relation to other drug abuse is related to access to drugs from dangerous sources as well as using unreliable products which could be laced.

Additionally, the Le Guardia Committee report found that the use of cannabis does not lead to morphine, heroin, or cocaine addiction. The mere fact that cannabis is effective in helping combat substance abuse, including the convincing research that suggests as much, is worth considering that this myth may in fact be a result of propaganda from those opposed to cannabis. Additional evidence of debunking cannabis as a gateway drug can be accessed in the Veriheal article called ‘How The La Guardia Committee Report Helped Debunk The Gateway Theory’. 

  • The Dangers Of First/Second/Third-hand Smoke On Your Health

Before we begin with easing concerns of first-hand, second-hand, and third-hand smoke, let’s quickly define them. First-hand smoke is when cannabis is inhaled directly by means of smoking, second-hand smoke is when a standby individual inhales the exhaled smoke from the person smoking the cannabis, while third-hand smoke refers to the reactive chemicals which remain in the air or are deposited onto surfaces. First-hand smoke should not be a concern since this is a method in which cannabis is commonly consumed in, while second-hand smoke will not impact those nearby when there is appropriate ventilation. Additionally, the ozone, or air, eliminates traces of third-hand smoke over time. Therefore, the only validated concern over these adverse effects should be when smoking in a small room with no ventilation which has non-cannabis consumers inside too. 

  • Overdosing On Cannabis

The fact is, cannabis can be consumed in portions considered as too much or overdosing. However, overdosing on cannabis does not lead to serious risks such as death but is rather associated with the potential to present with increased anxiety, paranoia, loss of coordination, pale complexion, and dizziness. Overdosing on cannabis, much like most other adverse effects associated with cannabis can be avoided by consuming less cannabis as well as consuming cannabis with lesser potency. In fact, the American Addiction Center has suggested that most people who ‘overdose’ on cannabis are done alongside other harmful substances. Additionally, a judge wrote in the 1988 petition from DEA that one would have to consume around 15,000 pounds in around 15 minutes in order for consuming too much cannabis to run the risk of being fatal- which is impossible to achieve. Therefore, fearing overdose of cannabis as an adverse effect is just unnecessary but high potency and quantity should be avoided for risk of adverse effects such as anxiety

  • Hyperemesis

Hyperemesis induced by cannabis is a rare condition characterized by repeated and severe spells of vomiting. While cannabis has become world-renowned for its ability to act as an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting agent, the risk of hyperemesis is real. However, it is also not something to fear as it is easily prevented. Hyperemesis is hypothesized to be caused by daily consumption, usually in higher quantities than necessary for medicinal purposes. Therefore, based on the extreme rarity, easy preventative measures, and lack of understanding into the relationship between cannabis and hyperemesis, this potential adverse effect should not be feared to the point where one avoids cannabis despite the many other, more probable, and certain benefits. Additionally, cannabis has even been found to be beneficial for a type of hyperemesis presented in pregnant women

  • Munchies

Some individuals believe that munchies induced by cannabis aren’t real or harbor some feelings of fear towards it. An example of the association between fear and munchies includes the fear of picking up unwanted weight. However, the munchies are beneficial for medical patients who are suffering from a lack of appetite as well as having the ability to suppress appetite. The key to whether one’s appetite will be stimulated or suppressed lies in the compounds within the cannabis being consumed. Strains high in a cannabinoid known as THCV are noted for suppressing appetite and the others will stimulate it. Either way, cannabis consumers have been found to have slimmer waistlines due to the fact that it stimulates metabolism. Essentially, the increase in appetite is negated by the increase in metabolism rates. 

How to Identify Credible Cannabis Sources

With the amount of misinformation about cannabis in the ether, it would be pertinent to become educated on how to identify credible sources. When researching education on cannabis, make sure to use sources with the following identifiable factors which make it credible. According to Kent State University, credible websites for education will have the following:

  • An author.
  • A date.
  • Listed resources that include books, scholarly articles, or published studies. 
  • Has its own domain.
  • Makes use of clear, concise, and professional language. 
  • Bonus: Is open to comments, suggestions, and contributions. 
  • Bonus: Is reviewed by a medical, or other, professional.
  • Bonus: Will be transparent about and display funding to help determine bias.

Additionally, a study published on ResearchGate explains that the credibility of information is also boosted by the authority which posts the information as well as the trustworthiness associated with that authority. The team of researchers including Nan Jin and Zhao Wum stated that websites or companies who do not pay attention to unreliable information which they may include in their articles and publications may be making damaging claims and misleading readers. This is why it is extra important to make sure you are educating yourself with credible information- especially in an industry where so much information is hypothesized. 

Responsible Consumption Will Reduce Adverse Effects

By following the following tips, you will be consuming cannabis responsibly, thus reducing the risks of associated adverse effects of consuming too much, or irresponsibly. 

Tips for responsible consumption:

  • Start with small quantities (5mg of THC or less) and wait 1-2 hours before consuming more. Avoid cannabis products with high potency as it is commonly associated with increased anxiety
  • Purchase from reliable sources such as dispensaries or grow your own (when allowed). 
  • Educate yourself on cannabis including what to look for on labels as well as on different consumption methods
  • Consume cannabis in an environment that makes you feel safe. 
  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery. 
  • Avoiding mixing cannabis consumption with other medications, drugs, and alcohol. 
  • Do not consume cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding without speaking with a professional beforehand. 
  • Eat before, or shortly after, consuming cannabis.
  • Make use of mindful practices with cannabis. 
  • Set boundaries for yourself and do not concede to peer pressure. 

Based on the large amount of contradictory, lack of researched, and confusing information available on cannabis, it is easy to believe in certain assumptions. However, more research is coming to light which assists with debunking these concerns or myths. Cannabis consumers can easily avoid adverse effects when well educated and taking preventative measures. 

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