Public Health and Marijuana

  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marihuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, with 37.6 million users in the past year, and marihuana use may have a wide range of health effects on the body and brain.
  • Like any other drug, marihuana’s effects on a person depends on a number of factors, including the person’s previous experience with the drug or other drugs, biology (e.g., genes), gender, how the drug is taken, and how strong it is.
  • The marihuana plant has chemicals that may help symptoms for some health problems.
  • More states, including Michigan, are making it legal to use the plant as medicine for certain conditions but there isn’t enough research to show that the whole plant works to treat or cure these conditions.
  • Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marihuana plant as medicine.
  • Because marihuana is often smoked, it can damage your lungs and cardiovascular system (e.g., heart and blood vessels).
    • These and other damaging effects on the brain and body could make marihuana more harmful than helpful.
  • Another problem with marihuana as a medicine is that the ingredients are not exactly the same from plant to plant. Right now, there’s no way to know what kind and how much of a chemical you’re getting.
  • Two medicines have been made as pills from a chemical that’s like THC, one of the chemicals found in the marihuana plant that makes people feel “high.”
    • These two medicines can treat nausea if you have cancer and make you hungry if you have AIDS and don’t feel like eating.
    • But the chemical used to make these medicines affects the brain also, so it can do things to your body other than just working as medicine.
  • Another marihuana chemical that scientists are studying, called cannabidiol (CBD), doesn’t make you high because it acts on different parts of the nervous system than THC.
    • Scientists think this chemical might help children who have a lot of seizures (when your body starts twitching and jerking uncontrollably) that can’t be controlled with other medicines.
    • Some studies have begun to see whether it can help but more science is needed to determine if it is or not.