Reefer. Grass. Weed. Whatever you call it, it’s the most popular illegal drug in the world, gaining support for legalisation not only for medicinal purposes, but for recreation too.
We already know smoking it can give you the munchies and make you feel, well, pretty good. But what does marijuana actually do to us?
The drug’s official designation as a Schedule 1 drug — something with ‘no currently accepted medical use’ — means it’s pretty difficult to study for obvious reasons, but a growing body of research link cannabis with several health benefits.
Thanks to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a new report released in January helps sum up exactly what we know and don’t know about the science of weed.
It can help relieve pain.
Pot contains something called cannabidiol, or CBD – and it’s thought to be responsible for many of marijuana’s therapeutic effects, including pain relief. It’s also thought to be able to potentially treat certain kinds of childhood epilepsy.
According to the report, cannabis can also be an effective treatment for chronic pain, saying pain is ‘by far the most common’ reason people request medical marijuana.
The study also suggests that weed can relieve the discomfort of arthritis or the pain of inflammatory bowel disease.
Marijuana may also be helpful in controlling epileptic seizures.
Epidiolex, a drug which contains CBD, may become the first of its kind to win approval from the FDA for the treatment of rare forms of childhood epilepsy.
The company that makes it, GW Pharma, is studying CBD for its potential use in people with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of childhood-onset epilepsy associated with multiple types of seizures, the Independent reports.
Last march, the company released the phase three trial data that showed positive results.
But it can also distort your balance and sense of time.
It’s well known that feeling like time has sped up or slowed down is one of the most common side effects of smoking weed, but pot can also throw off your balance.
The drug influences activity in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, two brain areas that help regulate balance, coordination, posture, and reaction time.
And since weed makes your blood vessels expand, it can also make your eyes red.
Weed may also interfere with how you form memories.
Don’t be fooled, marijuana can mess with your memory. It changes the way your brain processes information, but scientists still aren’t sure exactly how this happens.
Still, studies suggest that pot interferes with short-term memory. But researchers tend to see more of these effects in infrequent users, rather than stoners.
And in some people, weed could increase the risk of depression and social anxiety.
One study from the Netherlands suggests that smoking weed could raise the risk of depression for young people who already have a special serotonin gene that could make them more vulnerable to the disorder.
While scientists can’t say for sure whether marijuana causes depression, or depressed people are more likely to smoke, these findings are strengthened by the NASEM report, which found evidence that cannabis use was linked to a small increased risk of depression.
The report also found substantial evidence of an increased risk among frequent marijuana users of developing schizophrenia.