Is it good or bad for you? Marijuana has long been the subject of many debates, where some vehemently denounce any positive benefits while others believe there’s nothing wrong with it. But how does marijuana actually affect the body? And how can it be used for medical use?
Marijuana is a mixture of dry, shredded leaves and flowers from a hemp plant. The main mind-altering chemical in marijuana is THC. Once smoked or consumed, THC travels through the bloodstream, where it connects with a receptor on nerve cells in the brain. When it touches nerve cells that govern sensory perception and pleasure, you experience the feeling of being “high.”
THC can also reach other nerve cells, which can affect your memory, concentration and coordination. Side effects include: trouble thinking and remembering; bloodshot eyes; dry mouth; increased appetite; and a faster heart rate. Usually, these symptoms wear off within a few hours of marijuana consumption, but heavy use has been linked to more serious problems. Studies have shown that frequent marijuana smokers perform lower on tests of memory, attention and learning. There has also been a notable difference in users and non-users between the size and shape of their thalamus, the part of the brain that’s involved in consciousness and information processing.
But despite the possible dangers, many people continue to use it, including those who obtain it legally through medical use. Why is medical marijuana a popular choice for those who are sick? The proof is in the research – currently medical marijuana is most used by people with serious or life-threatening illnesses. It has been used by cancer patients to alleviate the nausea associated with chemotherapy; it helps relieve pain from individuals with serious illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis; and for cancer and AIDS patients, it is used to help stimulate appetite. Beyond that, it has also been suggested to help with glaucoma, depression and anxiety.
There is no simple answer to whether medical marijuana is right or wrong. In California, the medical marijuana law states that it can be used for “any illness for which marijuana provides relief.” Ultimately, it is up to the user and their physician to weigh the pros and cons based on their illness and condition.
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