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Medical marijuana has a plethora of benefits from assisting with chronic pain to helping eliminate some forms of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. But even the most helpful of things in life can be dangerous if not used in moderation or with the right precautions.
Whether you currently smoke weed or are thinking about starting, there are some things you can do to reduce the risks of using cannabis.
Don't operate machinery or drive under the influence of cannabis.
You don't have to be a long term marijuana smoker for your reaction time, judgment, and concentration to be affected.
Not only can it be dangerous to drive under the influence, but it is illegal to be under the influence of anything—even cannabis—while driving or operating machinery. Marijuana affects everyone differently. Some may have no known adverse effects while others may.
According to a 2009 study, the effects of marijuana on driving are more varied than in those who drink and drive. The tolerance levels and absorption of THC when smoking can be drastically different from one person to the next.
Avoid mixing other drugs such as tobacco with cannabis.
Some love the idea of being "cross-faded" or "spliffed", but, for others, there can be negative side effects.
Smoking tobacco with cannabis at the same time isn't the best idea because tobacco can increase the vaporization of THC in marijuana significantly.
Mixing alcohol and cannabis can also increase your absorption of THC. Additionally, using both at the same time can potentially make you more likely to experience alcohol poisoning, panic or paranoia, and "greening out", which can make you feel ill after smoking marijuana. That's just one of marijuana's effects if you're not careful.
Mixing two of the same classes of drugs or two different ones (e.g., stimulant and depressant) can increase the risk of side effects such as the above. Again, everyone is affected differently based on genetics, tolerance, and so on.
Avoid smoking cannabis early in life.
A study conducted by Canadian researchers said that individuals under the age 16 should not smoke marijuana given the effects marijuana can have on developing brains in early adulthood.
According to the law, individuals cannot legally purchase and smoke marijuana unless they are 21 or older in states where it is legal. However, the younger one smokes, the greater the long term effects may be on one's health and smoking frequency. What's most critical, however, is the effect of smoking below the age of 16.
If you have a family history of certain mental illnesses, steer clear of cannabis products.
You may have heard that medical marijuana is used for anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness. However, others may tell you that using cannabis can exasperate or trigger the onset of certain disorders.
However, there is a lot to consider when deciding if smoking cannabis can have a negative effect on mental illness: the amount smoked, the age one began smoking, and the like.
Some research has shown that there is no correlation between anxiety and mood disorders and cannabis usage. It was found, however, that cannabis users are seven times more likely to experience psychosis and other psychotic symptoms, that is, if they are genetically predisposed to it.
Avoid smoking cannabis if you are genetically predisposed to lung cancer.
Another way to reduce the risks of using cannabis is to avoid smoking marijuana if you have a family history of lung cancer or other lung conditions.
Smoking anything — marijuana, tobacco, and the like — can have a negative impact on the lungs. According to the American Lung Association, smoking cannabis has health risks for the lungs as it can create air bubbles in long term, heavy cannabis users.
Refraining from smoking cannabis altogether is your best bet to reducing the likelihood of lung problems such as bronchitis, asthma, and lung cancer
Use other cannabis products such as edibles to avoid smoking-specific symptoms.
Smoking anything can have health risks and symptoms. As for cannabis smokers, developing a cough or dealing with dry mouth and throat are not uncommon, especially for long term smokers.
Avoiding problematic symptoms may be one reason why you should drink cannabis tea. Opting for edibles is another alternative. However, do note that eating cannabis versus smoking it can have differences:
- Eating marijuana offers a stronger and longer-lasting high.
- Smoking cannabis allows THC to be absorbed quicker (especially great for fast pain relief and combating insomnia).
- Edibles are more discrete than smoking marijuana.
- Consuming edibles is better for digestive-related disorders such as Crohn's disease.
Avoid synthetic cannabinoids (e.g., Spice).
Synthetic cannabinoids are artificially created in labs to mimic THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Unfortunately, cannabinoids such as Spice or K2 have health risks potentially worse than those of cannabis alone.
The high from cannabinoids is similar to that of cannabis, sometimes even greater, and many like that they're easier to come across. However, some have a heavier, drier cough and frequent headaches from synthetic marijuana. Although, other cannabinoids may not have noticeable symptoms.
You may have heard reports of hospitalizations or even deaths caused by cannabinoids. Bloody urine, bleeding gums, coughing up blood, bloody noses, and internal bleeding were a few side-effects. A high from synthetic cannabis just isn't worth the potential health risks.
Don't overuse cannabis products.
An important guideline to live by is, "Everything in moderation." Apart from cannabis, washing your hair too often, consuming too much sugar, or even working out too much can also have health risks. With using or smoking cannabis, the same applies.
The American Addiction Centers discuss the dangers of long term marijuana use, which can include:
- Memory problems
- Bronchial passage damage
- Greater risk of a heart attack for those with heart disease
- Long term memory problems for unborn babies or breastfed infants
- Risk of addiction
- Worse periodontal (gum) health
Attempt to avoid or limit cannabis use while attending school.
Cannabis usage has been known to not just have health risks but also effects on learning and memory. When in school or attending college, it is best to abstain from or reduce the usage of marijuana to keep concentration, memory, and agility sharp.
Depending on how cannabis products affect you, you may want to avoid taking them while studying or right before an exam, presentation, or other important assignment. Some can focus and think better; others have the opposite experience.
Refrain from using cannabis products altogether.
This probably isn't the answer you want to hear, but refraining from cannabis usage completely is your safest bet if you don't wish to potentially experience any of the above symptoms, disadvantages, or health risks. Avoiding cannabis altogether is also one of the best ways to get weed out of your system.
For many, cannabis products can provide more pros than cons while it may be the reverse for others. You hear of studies and reports claiming marijuana to be all safe or all dangerous. In reality, cannabis usage is not black and white and can affect everyone differently.
That said, if you feel that having to reduce the risks of using cannabis is too tedious yet are still afraid of the negative side effects, it's not a bad thing if you choose not to opt for cannabis. You do you!
Disclaimer: Use cannabis products at your own risk. Check with a health care professional if you have any concerning symptoms after cannabis usage, and take extra precautions if you are genetically or personally predisposed to certain physical or mental health problems.