Wading Through Pot Claims

Dear Editor,

Marijuana entrepreneurs make a lot of healthcare claims.  At the same time, adverse effects are being hidden.  The money is affecting research and policy.  We have been flooded with low-level research and biased user surveys.

Healthcare experts continually debate clinical benefits.  Only two benefits have been widely accepted: weight gain and nausea control for severely sick patients.  Early on, promoters claimed that pot treated glaucoma.  The results were inconclusive.  Pot increased pressure in some patients and decreased pressure in others.  As a result, this claim is much less prevalent today.  Other popular claims include chronic pain management and seizure reduction.  However, the marijuana high increases the placebo effect.  More effective alternatives are often available.  In the end, research must compare pot to established treatments to gauge long-term risk and reward balance.

Pot has many adverse side effects.  Despite the marketing, marijuana is addictive.  It contains many unknown ingredients.  Inhaling smoke from fire and substance use results in free radicles being absorbed into the lungs.  Researchers are investigating the link to lung cancer.  Marijuana is associated with increased psychosis, depression, and anxiety.  Supporters argue that pot only increases psychiatric disorders when individuals are predisposed.  Even if this argument is true, no one knows if they are susceptible until they develop the disease, when it is too late.  As use becomes more popular, more individuals will smoke larger amounts.  We will see greater adverse health outcomes.

Generally, pot contains two active ingredients CBD and THC.  CBD has been associated with the two proven medical benefits.  THC is associated with the high.  Botanists developed a plant that contains high amounts of CBD and virtually no THC.  Despite initial claims of pot being medicinal, few medical marijuana plants were purchased.  Even licensed medicinal pot dispensaries ignored the high CBD, low THC, version.  Meanwhile, pot growers have successfully increased THC in successive plant generations.  As a result, today, marijuana is more addictive than when the medicinal and recreational pot laws were signed.

The pot user’s feeling of improvement is often due to the high, which biases patient surveys.  The few proven benefits have better, less risky alternatives.  Increased popularity will cause greater adverse effects.  It is tempting to be swayed by the continuous flood of biased low-level research.  However, we need to hold off on major policy changes until more reliable research is conducted.  Our health depends on it.

Alan Burke