Over the past few years, a smoke-filled tidal wave of cannabis hit the shelves proclaiming a cure-all miracle, I watch hope escalate and sometimes go up in flames when what is promised is not delivered. Now some individuals love the idea of a bit of pot to resolve a health challenge, but most are questioning Cannabis– CBD as that magic formula. Time to get to grips with what it is all about.

WHAT WE SEE TODAY IS WHAT WE GET, OR IS IT?

The Cannabis as we know it has changed slightly from the one smoked around a campfire. It contains 2 chemical components which are primary to the apparent effect thereof. One is the THC, TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL [try to say that fast…] which is the happy side of the drug, then the CBD, CANNABIDIOL, the one which is not the cause of outward happiness but rather inward ease. These are the components removed by heat or activation to maximize potency. The CBD, when taken in, is stored in the lipids of our fat cells where its responsibility is to work with the immune system and our mental state. There it resides for days to weeks and can affect brain activity – basically driving is not a great idea if this replaces your cup of coffee in the morning before hitting the road to work.  

Now let us look at how the potency of this drug has grown over the years, from the ’60s where flower power was reigned by smoking a bit of pot along the way. Cannabis then had a THC content ranging from 0.5 to 3%, by the ’90s it rose to around 6 to 8%. Today there is a rainbow spectrum of concentration, from 20% THC to more than 90% [ever heard someone mention that CBD quality is important?]. The supposedly helpful CBD, however, has been reworked in favor of the THC ingredient, with THC claiming the first spot these days at around 95% of the medical marijuana and punted as a quality CBD oil by some ‘quick-in-quick-out’ suppliers. 

Basically, cannabis potency, as we used to know it, has increased significantly. Specifically speaking the THC component, releases huge dopamine kicks from the brain and as my mother always used to say, “too much of a good thing ain’t good“. After all, our physical bodies are all about balance, and yes that includes the brain… let us not close our eyes and mind to the one side effect which is an addiction, it seems ok at age 70 but what about our teenagers? It is a Schedule 1 drug, the funny thing is so is heroin and LSD. Interestingly enough, in communities where cannabis is like coffee and tea to you and me, they found that it actually impacted the immune system negatively.

WHERE THERE IS SMOKE THERE IS FIRE

If you have possibly been looking for answers in a personal health challenge, I am almost positive that someone somewhere has, or will still advice the use of CBD. It has been promoted EVERYWHERE, from health coaches to health shops, to naturopaths based on the fact that it is a cure-all product, there to help with sleep, apparent mental focus, fewer aches and pains all that without the usual high. Logically thinking, we all KNOW that cannabis effects the brain, regardless of a label of CBD or marijuana. When people are encouraged to take it willy nilly without the proper and precise dosage instructions and not made aware of ‘how to’ come off it, therein lies the danger. Side effects include but are not limited to somnolence [sleeping all the time] and sedation, suicidal behavior and hepatocellular injury [yup, your liver is not taking this weed thing too well!].  

Let us take a look at that pleasure kick we get from dopamine again.  Firstly, dopamine is our friend, a neuro compound that regulates movement, emotions, attention, and learning. It identifies the rewards and then motivates action towards the rewards. It is our pleasure reward system. The THC in cannabis instigates the release of dopamine from the brain, whooop whoooooop Now, let us do this for a period of time, a couple of weeks, months and or years, and we end up with one serious imbalance, in fact, our brain becomes numb to the commands and dopamine levels drop, this starts affecting cognition, memory and causes learning difficulties. Then added to a study has shown that the use of this drug has an influence on epigenetics, resulting in it having an impact on generations to come. What we do in effect FOR OURSELVES, is not so, it carries on and on and on…

And here comes the hitter, if like me you may not be a socialite, kinda like your own space, taking this on a regular basis showed an increase in panic disorder, bipolarity, depression, anxiety and social phobia leading to overall decline in mental health; it may seem like a full-blown party to start with but may end up as a one-man-band. Remember I mentioned the high potency of the THC component, well, a 2015 study in Lancet Psychiatry looked carefully at the first time episodes of psychotic actions of over 400 adults in South London and 24% were tied to the use of ‘high-potency cannabis, ie. 25% THC content cannabis. With this, aging of the brain has been identified with the long term use of cannabis. Then let us look at the effect on our heart, it both raises blood pressure and heart rate, again a study on a group prone to coronary artery disease showed with over 4000 patients that cannabis triggered acute myocardial infarction [basically – heart attacks]. I am almost certain for each negative study there WILL BE a positive one, the problem is we are not aware of the negatives and this is by no means indicating that I am for or against its use, only my absolute dog-headed determination to become aware of the full picture. In the short term all seems well and dandy, it is the long term effect that ALWAYS INTERESTS ME.

As a side note, the same can be said for any medical intervention we use, take statin drugs, for example, a drug purported to relieve and prevent heart disease, but start using this delightful devil and all hell breaks loose in a body. Both my parents were on statins for close on 20 years and both passed as a result of heart disease, in that time, every other possible medication was added as a result of the domino effect statins had on their bodies.

The same could be said for cannabis, it starts as a seemingly healthier alternative, but is it? Or is it purely a great alternative for the here and now, regardless of the outcome in 10 years? I know of people personally using it that will not go without, I also know of people who used it for medicinal cures and are no longer with us. With the evidence stockpiling over its efficacy or not, some say that the negative side effects outweigh the positives.  

Looking at the rise of cancer and the use of CBD related to this is also interesting, in a 2012 case-control study, marijuana users ended up with twice the chance of testicular cancer. It was shown in a 2016 review that THC and CBD could ‘swing’ both ways, causes regression or progression of breast cancer in mice. Then a 2004 study showed the risk of brain cancer increased by 2.8 fold for those using marijuana at least once a month. The nail in the coffin so to speak showed up in a 2007 study sowing that THC was, in fact, an activator of cancer-promoting receptors and CBD gave only modest protection.

FASHIONABLE – WITHOUT QUESTION!

There are truly specific cases in which the use of this guided, specified, controlled and quality checked can be of benefit for a handful of health challenges, this I am not arguing. But, [sorry there is one] labeling cannabis and all the ways and means of consuming it, whether by; ‘delightful’ joint, THC infused soda [wtf – yup, it is in that too], skin products [really!? yes, really], a brownie, vaping and or dabbing a concentrated THC resin – into one bracket with zero standardization and quality control, never mind the MISLABELING [most often not mislabelling rather missing quality control, incorrect ingredient mix and misinformation is the culprit] is a cause for HUGE concern. Place this mix in a ‘clean’ bottle with a pretty label and just like that, you have a product for the desperate and unaware public legalized by many countries worldwide. Ever wondered about the contamination? It was found that 80 to 90% of the retailed cannabis sold in California included a not so helpful dose of pesticides, fungus, and molds.

Cannabis may not be the cure all promised
Cannabis may not be the cure all promised.

The vital part of this discussion is; anyone stepping into the ‘use zone’ needs to ensure it is done under a doctor’s supervision to ensure it can be adapted to YOUR situation, and correctly terminated when required. Become informed about the latest studies, not just those in favor but those that show both sides of the coin, take note of the sweeping claims and investigate the full truth [little of that is available and even when available depending on your situation you may turn a blind eye, each to his own and I cannot stress how I, or anybody for that matter cannot feel the pain and relief thereof, so, that being said, the call to use or not to, sits squarely on an individuals shoulders – not the government, not the supplier]. Get informed, read up on SAM, which is an organization encouraging medical research but frowns upon outright legalization.

Clear the understanding in your own mind that yes, it does have a role to play, in many cultures, it was used with great optimism and effect, but today concentrates and extracts are by no means the same mix.

REFERENCE:

Di Forti M, Marconi A, Carra E, et al. Proportion of patients in south London with first-episode psychosis attributable to use of high potency cannabis: a case-control study. Lancet Psychiatry 2015;2(3):233-8.

Lacson JCA, Carroll JD, Tuazon E, Castelao EJ, Bernstein L, Cortessis VK. Population-based case-control study of recreational drug use and testis cancer risk confirms association between marijuana use and non-seminoma risk. Cancer 2012;118(21):5374-83.

Ladin DA, Soliman E, Griffin L, Van Dross R. Preclinical and clinical assessment of cannabinoids as anti-cancer agents.  Front Pharmacol 2016;7:361.

Efird JT, Friedman GD, Sidney S, et al. The risk for malignant primary adult-onset glioma in a large, multiethnic, managed-care cohort: cigarette smoking and other lifestyle behaviors.  J Neurooncol 2004; 68(1): 57-69.

Ryberg E, Larsson N, Sjogren S, et al. The orphan receptor GPR55 is a novel cannabinoid receptor.  Br J Pharmacol 2007;152(7)1092-101.

Wise Traditions. In food, farming and the healing arts. A publication of The Weston A. Price Foundation. Vol 20 Number 1. Spring 2019. p24-37

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