The cannabis industry perceives the drug as a plant-based medicine, brushing aside long-standing concerns about the drug’s downsides as scare tactics by prohibitionists. In addition, some studies have shown medicinal benefits, such as the reduction of chronic pain and nausea related to chemotherapy. But while scientists document the plant’s many benefits, other studies have also begun to point to a wide spectrum of risks.
Until recently, strict laws restricted possession in the United States, making it difficult to obtain marijuana even for medical research. That means there are still few studies on the plant’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, and the plant’s more than 100 cannabinoids, even though marijuana is now legally sold through medical or recreational programs in more than 40 states or districts. USA That defies the standards set for medicine, or even recreational drugs. In the US, marijuana-based products are often sold without a recommended dose, prescription, or risk assessment. They also don’t come with the dire warnings like those required for cigarettes or alcohol, leaving consumers in the dark about what the risks might be.
Some of the risks have already been well documented, such as the potential for addiction (contradicting popular belief).
But in recent months, new studies have pointed to an even wider range of concerns. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics this month looked at cannabis and pregnancy and found that women who use cannabis during pregnancy put their children at higher risk for mental health and substance use disorders in adolescence. As part of a larger study tracking 12,000 young people as they become young adults, the research builds on mounting evidence that THC crosses the placental barrier and potentially affects the fetal brain. This comes as more women appear to be using these drugs during pregnancy: a national survey on drug use and health found that 5.4% of pregnant women reported using them in 2019, up from 3% in 2002.
Renee Goodwin, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the CUNY School of Public Health, says there are still many unanswered questions about the drug’s many health impacts, including asthma, a topic she has been working on.
“The available information on whether and to what extent cannabis use has long-term impacts on physical and mental health is extremely limited,” Goodwin said.