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Marijuana Side Effects / Marijuana Toxicity

Published on September 10, 2014

Does marijuana have any side effects?

I am a great proponent of medical marijuana as well as using it simply for relaxation, recreation, and de-stressing. However, that does not mean it is a perfect substance without any side effects. As a medicine, marijuana is without equal carrying less danger than aspirin or any other pharmaceutical on the market. The upside is far greater than the downside when it comes to its use as a medicine.

Many doctors who come out against the use of marijuana as a medicine have conflicts of interest motivating them meaning—they have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. We can understand why pharmaceutical companies get jealous and possessive about their turf. News sources report that a new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal finds that states that have legalized medicinal marijuana have significantly fewer deaths from painkiller overdoses. States that had legalized medical pot experienced around 1,700 fewer painkiller overdose deaths in 2010 than what would have happened if those states didn’t make medical marijuana legal and available.

“We found there was about a 25% lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after implementation of a medical marijuana law,” said lead study author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber.[1]

“As Americans continue to embrace pot—as medicine and for recreational use—opponents are turning to a set of academic researchers to claim that policymakers should avoid relaxing restrictions around marijuana. It’s too dangerous, risky, and untested, they say. Just as drug company-funded research has become incredibly controversial in recent years, forcing major medical schools and journals to institute strict disclosure requirements, could there be a conflict of interest issue in the pot debate? VICE has found that many of the researchers who have advocated against legalizing pot have also been on the payroll of leading pharmaceutical firms with products that could be easily replaced by using marijuana. When these individuals have been quoted in the media, their drug-industry ties have not been revealed,” writes Lee Fang in a well-researched presentation for Vice News.

One can use marijuana safely for a long time and not suffer anything near the damage of using alcohol or most pharmaceuticals. Life is difficult enough on our planet and it is about to get even more difficult. Marijuana can help us endure but sometimes it does its job too well covering up stress that in reality needs to be dealt with. That is one good reason long-term users should take occasional breaks from using it. Such abstinence is a break against dependency and needing higher doses or consuming more than is healthy for an individual.

“ I am 55 and I have been smoking pot off and on for the last 30 years… I had no idea of the withdrawal I would experience. Two days in, I thought for sure I had some dreaded disease. One minute I would be freezing, the next sweating. The loss of appetite doesn’t bother me because pot always helped me keep on an extra 5-10 lbs. from the munchies and sweet tooth. Not sure how long it will take, but I do look forward to the day when this has all passed.”

Long-term use or overuse of marijuana has been linked to adrenal fatigue, sexual dysfunctions and it has effects on the brain cells that cause short-term memory loss. Marijuana itself usually does not cause liver damage but most marijuana contains various impurities and other plant material that can be damaging to the liver. One way to tell if it is bothering your liver is if you start feeling dizzy and having trouble walking when high. Another way is if the liver itself and the area above it on the rib cage becomes sensitive to the touch.

CBD Oil Side Effects

Ideally, we should seek a life of purity and health. Medicine can mimic this by using natural healing medicines, including marijuana, not dangerous synthetic chemicals. Marijuana does hold short-term danger for some people and long-term risks of addiction. However, when one sees that one can treat cancer with marijuana, using it as a form of natural chemotherapy, and compare the safety of using it instead of radiation and mainstream chemotherapy, then one can appreciate that there is no contest.

Regular chemotherapy helps very few and almost guarantees a nasty death and a life of suffering while it is being administered. In contrast, one should have no fear in using marijuana in concentrated forms to treat a broad range of diseases including cancer. Even when using a gram a day of a high grade hemp oil (50 percent THC, 45 percent CBD) the body gets used to it, if one takes the dosage up slowly. When people talk about addiction to marijuana it is more psychologically oriented in relationship to frequent daily trips to a slightly changed reality that for most is comforting and often creative. When one uses marijuana as a medicine, not as a tool to run away from reality there is little danger of physical addiction.

Medical cannabinoids have a remarkable safety record, particularly when compared to other therapeutically active substances. In 2008, investigators at McGill University Health Centre and McGill University in Montreal and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver reviewed 23 clinical investigations of medical cannabinoid drugs (typically oral THC or liquid cannabis extracts) and eight observational studies conducted between 1966 and 2007. Investigators “did not find a higher incidence rate of serious adverse events associated with medical cannabinoid use” compared to non-using controls over these four decades.

Marijuana has remarkably low toxicity and lethal doses in humans have not been described. This is in stark contrast to a number of commonly prescribed medications used for similar purposes, including opiates, anti-emetics, anti-depressants and muscle relaxants, not to mention legal substances used recreationally including tobacco and alcohol,” writes Dr. Gregory T. Carter, Clinical Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Notice Dr. Carter said low toxicity not no toxicity.

Cannabinoids are usually well tolerated, and do not produce the generalized toxic effects of conventional pharmaceuticals but that does not mean we do not have to be careful with its long-term use. At Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, where a great deal of National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded research takes place, researchers have found that abrupt marijuana withdrawal leads to symptoms similar to depression and nicotine withdrawal. Meaning that no matter how helpful marijuana is as a medicine it is not without its own toxicity and addictive properties. Marijuana is a complex substance affecting each person differently.

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Marijuana Toxicity / Rising Potency

Marijuana, depending on the growing, storage, and handling conditions, can contain fungal contaminants that can be problematic in already immune-compromised people. Most people who are healthy have immune systems that can deal with these fungi, but if your health is compromised, the ingestion of the fungi often found in marijuana leaves and buds can become a problem and even develop into an infection that can be dangerous.

Damp marijuana is the perfect breeding ground for aspergilla and many thousands of other molds (and bacteria). Aspergillosis is the most common fungal infection in marijuana smokers caused by aspergilla fumigates.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are less apt to sell contaminated products and often do testing independently.

Synthetic or imitation marijuana is called Spice, K2, and many other names. It contains crumbly dried plant material sprayed with chemicals that mimic the active ingredients in marijuana. Usage is becoming widespread especially in adolescents and users can develop high blood pressure, a very fast heart rate, vomiting, seizures and hallucinations. Deaths have been reported and these substances are not recommended.

The amount of THC in marijuana samples confiscated by police has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. In 2012, THC concentrations in marijuana averaged close to 15 percent, compared to around 4 percent in the 1980s. For a new user, this may mean exposure to higher concentrations of THC, with a greater chance of an adverse or unpredictable reaction.

Increases in potency may account for the rise in emergency department visits involving marijuana use. For frequent users, it may mean a greater risk for addiction if they are exposing themselves to high doses on a regular basis. However, the full range of consequences associated with marijuana’s higher potency is not well understood.

Cadmium concentrates in tobacco and marijuana leaves and accumulates in the body when smoked over a long term leading to hypertension, kidney degeneration or disease, heart disease, depressed immune systems, cancers of the lungs and prostate; it also affects bones. In healthy people excess cadmium can be excreted in the urine if adequate levels of zinc are maintained in the body—15-30 mg daily in a supplement, will offer some protection against cadmium problems.

Marijuana has a large benefit curve that varies greatly depending not only on a person’s presenting condition but also on their character and inner strength. Marijuana usually gives more than it takes from the body, mind, and emotions when used as a medicine. Over time though, sometimes a great deal of time, this curve reverses, and it may begin to take more than it gives meaning marijuana side effects can creep up to disturb the body, mind and spirit. What can we expect from a substance that greatly affects our brain wave patterns? If a person keeps taking marijuana over years, he may become dependent, addicted and eventually may lose the ability to cope with its toxicity. This dependency varies widely from one person to another and for some never becomes a threat to their health or quality of life.

THC Medical Uses and side effects

THC has many hidden medical uses. It can keep a person’s heart safe during a major coronary blockage. According to a study published in Biochemical Pharmacology, administering a tiny dose of tetrahydrocannabinol (a.k.a., THC) can help reduce damage done to your heart if you’re suffering from myocardial ischemia, which is what happens when your heart’s arteries are partially or completely blocked.[2]

Some people notice an increasing sense of restlessness when they get high. This is direct feedback from their bodies telling them that something’s wrong. Most people just go ahead ignoring the body’s feedback signals. This in and of itself creates a biological stress inside a person-creating trauma. The body has to cope; we give it no choice when we ignore negative symptoms. A price is taken out of the central nervous system creating what John Mini M.S.C.M./L.Ac. calls Marijuana Induced Stress Trauma.

Dr. Gabriel Cousens writes, “While marijuana may have many palliative qualities, the psychoactive species have some serious downsides. These are well outlined in the 800-page book titled Marijuana Syndromes by John Mini. His research validates what I have observed since the ‘60’s. As he points out, "Marijuana’s side effects increase over time" and are cumulative. He has clinically observed that "marijuana’s effects can have a drying and toxic quality. They tend to take a general progression from the lungs to the digestion and immune systems, then to the blood, heart and circulatory system, then on to the liver and nervous systems and finally to the sexual, endocrine systems and brain over time."

Marijuana does not have to do physical damage to a person’s nervous system to affect the way it functions. The more a person denies their feelings and what their body is telling them to do, the deeper the traumatic split goes into the nervous system.

A large part of marijuana’s direct influence affects the stomach and pancreas. This is what gives people the munchies. Various digestive issues may enter into the picture along the way that can be equally difficult to treat if one continues abusing marijuana. The higher the THC content in smoked marijuana is, the greater is the effect of hunger (munchies)—this will exacerbate the problem of obesity and insulin resistance.

Yet a study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2013 shows that “current marijuana use was associated with 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels . . . and 17 percent lower HOMA-IR (insulin resistance). We found significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences."[3]

Murray Mittleman, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author, told Timemagazine last year that "the most important finding is that current users of marijuana appeared to have better carbohydrate metabolism than nonusers. “Their fasting insulin levels were lower, and they appeared to be less resistant to the insulin produced by their body to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.”

Marijuana Warnings & Contraindications

Unstable people can become unglued after smoking marijuana though the effects are normally temporary. Cannabinoids can exacerbate schizophrenic psychosis in persons predisposed to such. Cannabinoids impede cognitive and psychomotor performance, resulting in temporary impairment. Chronic use can lead to the development of tolerance.

Tachycardia and hypotension are frequently documented as adverse events in the cardiovascular system. A few cases of myocardial ischemia have been reported in young and previously healthy patients. Inhaling the smoke of cannabis cigarettes induces side effects on the respiratory system. Cannabinoids are contraindicated for patients with a history of cardiac ischemias.

That said a low risk profile is evident from the literature available. Serious complications are very rare and are not usually reported during the use of cannabinoids for medical indications.

Appetite stimulation can be dangerous for diabetics, especially for those needing to lose weight. Currently research is attempting to find an effective CB1 (cannabinoid receptor antagonist) that will counter the effects of THC of increasing hunger in type-2 diabetics. Decreases in blood sugars (hypoglycemia) can go unrecognized due to the psychoactive effects of the THC. Untreated low blood sugar leads to the loss of consciousness and seizures.

If You Decide to Stop Using Marijuana

Things can appear to be fabulous when they’re not.
Things can appear to be scary and negative when they’re not.
John Mini M.S.C.M., L.Ac.

You may decide that the effects on your body are becoming more detrimental than continuing to use marijuana. There are many treatment options available and programs spring up all over the place with pharmaceutical drugs and numerous supplements to help people get off marijuana. Many people will find it easier to enter these programs but you can also safely withdraw at home.

John Mini tells us that “you can tell if a person is physically addicted to marijuana if s/he hasn’t had marijuana for a while and s/he feels withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can come in the forms of depression, irritability, anxiety, trouble sleeping, emotional neediness or nausea.”

Margaret Hanley, PhD from Columbia University makes these recommendations if you decide you want to stop using marijuana:

“If one wants to detox on one’s own, it is good to go into it prepared to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as disrupted sleep, decreased food intake, irritable mood, decreased sociability, and marijuana craving. Most symptoms peak around 3-4 days without smoking, but symptoms can last for over a week.”

THC is stored in the fat tissues and can even remain there for over a month. To help to detoxify an adequate exercise program that burns fat and increase in water intake will help to flush out the THC by – products from your body. Drink as much good quality water as possible. This kind of natural remedy can dispense these by-products from your system in less than a week, but may take longer in long term heavy marijuana users.

Avoid any pharmaceutical medicines. Take a source of good natural whole food vitamins and minerals. Acupuncture will help as well as daily or even multiple magnesium massages each day during the worst periods of withdrawal.

Today many sources of hemp oil and other marijuana products are becoming available. CBD is legally available almost everywhere though needs to be ordered from a state where it can legally be produced. Many clinics are quietly recommending high-grade hemp oil to cancer patients. A full cancer treatment, three month sixty gram supply is recommended. Quietly is the watchword of the day because local health and medical boards are still jealously guarding their turf looking for any and all reasons to crucify places where natural medicine is practiced.

[1] Marcus Bachhuber, M.D., researcher, Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center; John Thomas, J.D., M.P.H., professor, Quinnipiac University School of Law, Hamden, Conn.; Bradley Flansbaum, D.O., M.P.H., hospitalist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Aug. 25, 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine

[2] An ultra-low dose of tetrahydrocannabinol provides cardioprotection.

Waldman M1 et al; Biochem Pharmacol.; 2013 Jun 1;85(11):1626-33. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2013.03.014. Epub 2013 Mar 26.;

[3] The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults; Elizabeth A. Penner, MD, MPH et al; The American Journal of Medicine; Volume 126, Issue 7, Pages 583–589, July 2013;

Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Professor of Natural Oncology, Da Vinci Institute of Holistic Medicine
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine
Founder of Natural Allopathic Medicine

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