A new scientific study looking into the toxicity levels of various pharmaceuticals and drugs has found marijuana to be far less toxic than all the other items tested. These includes other illegal drugs and legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.
Widely varying claims about marijuana’s medicinal values have been discussed and debated to no end, despite definite backing and proof from medical research and study. Marijuana is governed through Federal that restricts, not regulates, and this has caused issues for those looking to benefit from the medicinal value of the herb rather than abuse its use.
Marijuana in the United States
Marijuana is made from the both the dried leaves and the flowers of Cannabis sativa, ie. the hemp plant. Statistics from the National Institute of Drug Abuse reveal that, in respondents aged 18 to 25, more than half (exactly 51.9%) have used marijuana. This is slightly lower is respondents over 26 (45.7%), and lower again, at 16.4%, for ages 12 to 17.
More than ½ of US states prohibit the use of marijuana in any way, recreationally or medically. As of 2015, 21 states and the District of Columbia had passed medical marijuana laws (MMLs), that recognized and permitted medicinal uses.
A number of studies have reports of positive, medicinal effects from the use of marijuana for pain relief, as a sleep aid, and to promote overall comfort. In one survey, conducted by Trip, et. al. (2014), marijuana use was revealed to be effective for improving mood, muscle spasms, pain levels, and sleep quality in patients with prostatitis and chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Another study, done in 2015 by Degenhardt, et. al., showed marijuana used in conjunction with other prescribed opioids was effective as pain relief for chronic, non-cancer pain. These, and other studies, offer further support to the popularity of marijuana use for acute and chronic pain relief.
Other studies, on the other hand, have looked into the possible adverse effects of marijuana. This includes one published in 2014 that focused on the negative health effects of marijuana (specifically smoking it), and with a focus on the increased risks of lung cancer. As this study was focused on smoking the herb, it cannot prove cannabis itself as negative for health, rather the smoke in this particular method of administration.
Risks of Marijuana use
Is marijuana use really as dangerous as laws can make it out to be? Although they are of course different, the intoxicating effects of marijuana are not thought of as any more severe than that those of a, totally legal, mild/moderate alcohol intake. According to a study published in 2015, by Lechenmeier and Rehm, in which they assessed the comparative risks of various different “mind-altering” substances, cannabis was shown to be the least risky. Of the other substances included in the study (alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and other drugs such as heroin), the most risky was alcohol.
The study was based on an approach called the Margin of Exposure (MOE), which is a ratio between the estimated average human intake and the benchmark dose (toxicological threshold). This is basically taking how much of a substance humans typically take in, and comparing it with the point at which the dose becomes dangerous. This is a far better judge of the risk level of a substance. This is very different from other studies, as they were looking to find a causational relationship between substance use or abuse and mortality.
The results are conclusive: The highest spot was given to alcohol, other spots were filled by drugs such as heroin, nicotine, methamphetamine or amphetamine. The last spot was were marijuana was placed, which put it as over 100x less toxic than alcohol. Maybe we need to reconsider our approach with this and many other herbs.