Medical Marijuana

Cannabis: Good or Bad for Health?

Cannabis, Good or Bad for Health?

Does cannabis treat some diseases? It is not known. There is little evidence. Is its use dangerous? It is not known. There is little evidence. These are the conclusions of the most comprehensive study ever done on the health effects of cannabis. The new work, published by the United States National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, is the most rigorous of those done so far on the subject. The American government commissioned it to shed light on lawmakers. They are receiving all kinds of conflicting pressures on this issue. But the report leaves things at the starting point. Beneficial? In some respects, yes; in others, no. Harmful? Maybe yes, maybe no. Satisfied and short: science is not in a position, today, to answer these questions unequivocally.

A Common Controversy on Cannabis

Cannabis has long been at the center of bitter controversy. The common controversy is whether its use is good or harmful to health. For some, it is a dangerous substance that, like any other drug, creates dependency and carries a series of risks that cannot be overlooked. On the other hand, others defend recreational use because it has nothing to do with heroin, synthetic drugs, and even alcohol. They believe a friendlier and more social drug, which does not make users sick.

Cannabis has long been at the center of a bitter controversy over whether its use is good or harmful to health.

These totally confronted positions have been nuanced in recent years with the arrival of the third point of view, one that defends that, used properly. Under medical supervision, cannabis is useful to treat some diseases. Outside the debate, most countries’ authorities have remained firm when considering that cannabis is a drug. And, as such, it must be prosecuted. Who has the reason? Is it a drug or medicine? Does it affect good or harm to health? Is it useful to treat some diseases and symptoms? Or does its consumption involve a risk?

Effects of Cannabis

In recent years, these and other questions have been asked by many researchers, who have left behind abundant scientific literature on the effects of cannabis. This means that, unlike what happened two decades ago, there is now a lot of information. But it is one thing to have a lot of data and another to have unequivocal answers. It is clear to the authors of the report prepared by the United States Academy of Sciences that, after reviewing the most important works on the subject published since 1999, they have concluded that neither the benefits nor the problems of cannabis have remain proven beyond doubt.

What Does Research Say?

The American institution’s report marks a before and after in the study on the effects of using cannabis or some of its derivatives on health because the committee has reviewed more than 10,000 works. The result: the most comprehensive and rigorous study ever published on the impact of cannabis on health. That they have failed to dispel the doubts does not mean that the study authors – a team of sixteen experts in different fields, from neurology to psychiatry to epidemiology and oncology – have not reached any conclusions. On the contrary, they have reached close to a hundred. They have not been able to state categorically that the use of cannabis is therapeutic, as many say, but not that it can cause all kinds of physical and mental disorders, as others say.

The publication of the report comes at a time when some countries are considering the possibility of decriminalizing the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, an intensified debate since, now a year ago, a group of scientists from different countries published ‘The Lancet’ a controversial article in which they called for the decriminalization of drugs. Scientists claimed that the current policy on prohibitions does not work to combat addiction, puts users at risk, and fuels crime and organized crime. The current report does not enter the legal arena but alerts to the growing trend to advertise the alleged benefits of cannabis. The authors say that, around them, an industry similar to that of vitamins is growing, which encourages people who are concerned about health to consume products that, in reality, are not of any use.


These are the main conclusions of the study:

Therapeutic effects

According to the committee, there is evidence that cannabis or its derivatives can be used to achieve a significant decrease in pain. They also improve people with multiple sclerosis spasms if they take cannabis derivatives orally; the same derivatives decrease nausea and vomiting suffered by people who undergo chemotherapy treatment.


The study analyzes the arguments of those who claim that using cannabis increases cancer risk. It concludes that this statement cannot be demonstrated. With current data in hand, it cannot be said that it increases the risk of cancers associated with tobacco, such as cancers of the lungs or neck.

Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes

Some data seems to point to the possibility that cannabis smoking may be a factor that stimulates heart attacks. Still, it cannot be reliably stated, nor is there irrefutable evidence that it causes strokes or diabetes.

Respiratory diseases

As with tobacco, the data shows that smoking cannabis regularly causes an increase in episodes of chronic bronchitis, chronic cough, and phlegm. Instead, there is no evidence to show that it causes other respiratory illnesses, such as obstruction or malfunction of the lungs or asthma.

Immune system

There is no evidence to show that the use of cannabis or its derivatives has any positive or negative effect on the immune system. On the other hand, although limited, some data suggest that its use could have a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect.

Mental health

It appears that cannabis use could lead to an increased risk of developing schizophrenia and anxiety. Besides, it appears to a lesser degree, depression. Furthermore, users who consume more cannabis have more suicidal thoughts than the rest of the population.


According to the study, a person who has used cannabis before driving is more likely to have a traffic accident. It has also been shown that many minors consume accidentally in places where use is allowed.

Memory problems

One of the most common accusations of cannabis detractors is that its use creates memory and attention problems. The study concludes that this is really so and points out that it could negatively affect students’ academic results. Besides, there is a negative impact on their ability to establish normal social relationships.

Consumption during pregnancy

Some data suggest that smoking cannabis during pregnancy could reduce the baby’s weight. But there are not enough elements to conclusively conclude that its use by mothers directly affects children.

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