Harm Reduction

We need to talk about the negative effects of cannabis

The cannabis debate is a very passionate one. Dualities rise when discussing the subject, it is common to see users and advocates deny the negatives effects of the consumption. At the same time, prohibitionist minds have trouble believing in the therapeutic effects – even when science shows the opposite. Come and learn with us some of the possible negative effects of this substance!

The debate on cannabis has always been very passionate: both for those who are in favor of it and for those who are against it. Basically, this dichotomous view between the good and the bad that the consumption of this plant can cause make bridges between these polarities impossible. Thus, there is a great difficulty in uniting these two sides to have a healthy talk about the possible therapeutic benefits and the risks that this plant can offer. In the end, they are two sides of the same coin.

Anyone who knows us knows that there is nothing we love more than to exalt our dear plant, but it is also our responsibility to bring true data. We need to be aware of the negative sides of cannabis use in order to enjoy the best of it!

We know that it can be incredible for anyone who has numerous diseases – such as chronic pain or even degenerative problems, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. At the same time, it can improve the quality of life of healthy people who suffer only from stress and everyday concerns. However, there are forms of use that can present risks even for healthy people, or for individuals who are part of some risk groups (something that we will talk about later in the text).

As the physician and physicist Paracelsus said in the 16th century, “the difference between medicine and poison is the dose”. Today, we would add the origin and quality of the substance to that sentence as well.

We came here to make a very special invitation: let’s open the debate about the possible negative effects of cannabis on our body? Come to understand more about them here in this post, in addition to learning some tips for responsible use to manage risks and pleasures!

Alert: we need to remember that some of this research was done within prohibitionist contexts, this means that in many cases there was no quality control of the plant, which completely changes the quality of cannabis available to users and can make it more harmful. But we don’t want to scare you with this data – not least because even the UN has already approved the removal of our herb from the list of drugs considered most dangerous! It is certainly much safer than the War on Drugs, but we also need to find a middle ground not to make the use of it negative for us.

Facts about cannabis use in Brazil

Brazil is not close to being one of the world’s largest cannabis consumers: in 2012 surveys, we saw that about 3% of the population has a relationship with the plant, while Europe has a 5% index and the United States leads with 10%.

At least 1.3 million people considered themselves addicted to the plant. One third of the adults interviewed have tried to quit and failed, while 27% experienced withdrawal symptoms during the attempts.

Cannabis bud

Although withdrawal symptoms are milder than other legal substances, such as alcohol or even coffee, some unpleasant sensations can be experienced – even more so if the use is continuous.

And even when we get high, it’s not all flowers! People who use the herb chronically report that when they stop using it, they feel:

  • Irritability;
  • Changes in mood;
  • Difficulty sleeping;
  • Decreased appetite;
  • Cravings;
  • Restlessness and / or various forms of physical discomfort.

It is worth remembering that each person is unique, and the effect of cannabis on each individual’s body is extremely subjective. The effects experienced may vary, and generally involve relaxation, pain relief, changes in mood, more or less energy (depending on the strain), increased appetite and creativity, among others. But they can change a little (or a lot) when we think of sporadic or continuous use.

Effects on sporadic use

When a person uses cannabis sometimes, such as on weekends, in the context of parties or even in seasons, we say that this use is sporadic. In this case, the negative effects, or also the famous “bad trips”, are usually linked to two main factors: belonging to some risk group (teenagers, prone to anxiety and / or psychosis) or to the famous triangle: substance, the set is the setting. Something that has to do with the substance is the concentration of THC, which the higher, the greater the chance of experiencing unpleasant sensations.

One of the worst side effects of THC is anxiety and paranoia. Although small amounts of THC can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, large doses can cause exactly the opposite effects. This is due to its biphasic effects, which means that it can have two opposite effects depending on the dose.

In addition, some people are genetically predisposed to feel anxiety about cannabis as a result of brain chemistry.

If you are susceptible to the anxious effects of cannabis, definitely try strains with more CBD, or consume only when you are in a comfortable place, such as at home or with friends.

Other negative effects may include: dry mouth, dry, red eyes, hunger and munchies (not necessarily negative), drowsiness and lethargic feeling and negative effects on recent memory – which are temporary in sporadic use by healthy adults.

In the long run, things change

When you make more sporadic use of cannabis, the negative effects are much less noticeable. But with continued use, especially when it starts in adolescence, it can change. This is a great reason why, even in states where the plant is legal, generally the minimum ages for use vary between 19 and 21 years.

A New Zealand study conducted in part by researchers at Duke University showed that people who started smoking the plant continuously in their teens and had a cannabis use disorder lost an average of 8 IQ points between 13 and 38 years old. These lost skills did not fully return to those who stopped marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana as adults did not experience noticeable declines in IQ.

In another recent study with twins, those who used the substance showed a significant decline in general knowledge and verbal ability (equivalent to 4 IQ points) between the preteen years and early adulthood, but no predictable differences were found between twins when one of them used marijuana and the other did not. This suggests that the decline in IQ in marijuana users may be caused by something other than weed, such as shared family factors (eg, genetics, family environment).

That is, although it is too early to say that cannabis is the only cause that causes a delay in brain development, we cannot say that it has nothing to do with it!

But continued use can also have negative effects for adults. In the long run, it can cause:

Cannabis bud full of trichomes
  • Respiratory effects

Cannabis smoke irritates the lungs. Therefore, people who smoke the plant daily or almost daily may have cough, bronchitis, mucus and wheezing. Both active and secondhand smoke contain the same carcinogenic chemicals as tobacco smoke.

In addition, vape products may contain nicotine, cannabis or other substances, such as flavoring agents and additional chemicals. Although vaporization products have grown in popularity, we have seen outbreaks of vaporization-related lung diseases. Therefore, we advise you to always prefer dry herb vaporization!

  • Effects on mental and brain health

Heavy use of cannabis can damage your memory. This damage can last for a week or more after the last time you used it. In addition, cannabis, especially in high doses, can cause temporary psychosis (not knowing what’s real, hallucinations and paranoia) while you’re high.

The importance of a more temperate debate

We believe that one of the biggest problems in the cannabis universe is precisely the dichotomy of the debate: on the one hand, we see avid supporters who find it difficult to see the possible risks associated with use; in the other, those who are against it cannot see medicinal and therapeutic benefits even if science shows otherwise. And it is not quite like this: we know that every substance use can be accompanied by benefits and disadvantages, especially if the use is accompanied by disinformation.

When we don’t talk about the negative effects of cannabis, we fall even more into the hands of the prohibitionist movement! This is because we fail to put the herb on a realistic level in the lives of users, who may rather experience sensations and symptoms not so good after use. Falling into any “deification” of substances is not a good thing, and let’s explain the reasons!

A man who talks a lot about this is one of our main references in the cannabis world, professor and researcher Sidarta Ribeiro. According to him, any type of excessive and early use can be characterized as something problematic. For people who are part of risk groups, such as those with a tendency to psychosis, it can be a trigger – and we, who defend the legalization of this special plant, need to be aware of this precisely to protect the most vulnerable and not to transform militancy into something harmful and toxic.

The groups at risk of cannabis, according to him, are four:

  • Pregnant and lactating women: there are no particularly negative studies on the use in these situations, but endocannabinoids are necessary for the development of the embryo. That is why, according to Sidarta, it is reasonable to abstain – as from the use of alcohol and tobacco. After all, as we do not have the capacity to sequence all genes to know if the mother is in danger, we still cannot necessarily say whether this new life generated may be in danger.
  • Adolescents: early use is linked to an amotivational syndrome. Cannabis use is very different when life is normal and when it is not, and it can contribute to the feeling of doubt that is normal at this stage and still generate even greater prostration.
  • People with a tendency to psychosis: to those who already have a genetic tendency, with cases in the family, psychosis and schizophrenia, it may not be appropriate to recommend the use.
  • People with a tendency to depression: studies do not reach a consensus on this controversial subject. Some phytocannabinoids can have antidepressant effects, while others can worsen the condition. So it depends a lot on the variety of cannabis – and recommending use without that observation can do more harm than good.

It is necessary that, at least for these cases, there is a genetic or further investigation. After all, everyone can experience not-so-good trips with cannabis, the difference is how each person uses that experience or how the moment occurs afterwards. A bad trip can be used well, but many can contribute to the development of something deeper – that’s why professional monitoring is so important. This is a very difficult scenario in a prohibitionist system, which distances the user both from the sphere of public health (for fear of reprisals) and from self-care (where our beloved HR strategies enter).

High THC and concentrates

The cannabis we use today is no longer the same as people used it 30 years ago. Cannabinoid concentrations have increased dramatically due to crosses and new strains, created to help yield and crop efficiency. A flower that used to have 7% THC today can have 30%, and that all changes how the plant will affect our body not only at the time of use, but also in the long term.

Precisely because of this, our concern is greater with teenagers who start smoking early and can already be exposed to precisely these high amounts of cannabinoids and high potential for THC. This can be quite challenging and directly affect users in this age group, especially if they are in any of the other risk groups already mentioned. And one of the greatest care we need to take is with concentrates, such as oils, hashish and extractions in general!

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Cannabis extractions

On Thursday (03/12), we had a live about it on our Instagram @girlsingreen710. You can go watch it, she’s saved over there! Together with Clarissa Werneck, we talked about the legal market in Colorado and how the sale of extractions impacted mainly young people. This is one of the questions that we also need to think about legalization – how can we think of a regulatory model for concentrates that can be therapeutic rather than harmful?

In addition to all this, we need to talk about the concentrates made with chemical solvents. We have already brought a lot about it here on the blog and, for us, solvent-free hashish is always the best option – precisely because it does not involve dangerous substances. Some types, like BHO, use butane or other risky means to isolate the trichome heads from plant material.

The problem is: after that, the concentrates must go through a rigorous purging process. If it is done incorrectly, the result can cause numerous health problems for those who use it – including research shows that using them can cause lung injuries that mimic pneumonia. Therefore, you must always be aware of the quality of what is consumed and keep an eye on where your hash comes from!

The problem of prohibitionism

The effect of cannabis comes mainly from three means: the substance itself, the body that receives the substance, and the social context in which the use takes place. In prohibitionism, the uncertainty of what is consumed and also the paranoia of using something that is illegal are factors that contribute a lot to the effect in more psychological spheres, and can hinder experiences that could be good due to the set and setting.

In the three axes, prohibition increases the risks. It is only possible to protect the user when he knows exactly what the substance is, who he is when using the substance, and is in a safe environment, without being able to undergo repressions and punishments for use.

It is not possible to have a frank and open conversation about benefits and risks within a prohibitionist environment. The right moments and the right substances are essential for us to be able to measure their effects of use, and any conversation or use within our context can be quite risky!

Outdoor cannabis plants

The cannabis risk discourse must be well constructed, as well as the benefits. All this knowledge, in the mouth and in the hearts of the activists, can help to change the minds of those inside the prohibition movement! Every argument based on scientific evidence can not only win supporters, but also be respectful of that cause. You don’t have to be a user to defend the regulation of this substance so important for different groups in society – and the dialogue can only be positive.

So we need the RD!

Harm Reduction is what can help us decrease the risks of any substance – including cannabis. Therefore, knowing the tips and following them is one of the best ways to protect yourself from undesirable effects.

We talk about them all the time, but it’s always good to remember, right? So:

  • The first strategy to reduce the damage is to guarantee the source of your cannabis. If your plant is not of quality, making safe use of it becomes much more challenging. Self-cultivation is a great option – but we know that not everyone can have that privilege!
  • If you use brick weed, a common reality in Brazil, the best way to ensure that it is safer for consumption is to wash the plant and remove any type of impurity. And no smoking moldy plants!
  • Use FILTERS, preferably biodegradable (reduction of environmental damage in mother nature is also important). In addition, it is necessary to demystify the fact that the filter decreases the amount of THC absorbed. What it does is change the consistency of the smoke a little, which in no way implies less intense effects!
  • Use quality silks, otherwise the paper can be bad for you.
  • Use a long cigarette tip to help cool the smoke.
  • Vaporizing instead of carburizing is also a way to reduce damage.
  • Don’t smoke roaches! If the brick weed is already not the best, imagine smoking it with all the combustion particles from previous burns? We don’t even need to say anything else, right. Send the tip to Jah. Better throw it away.
  • Edibles are also a way to reduce damage, as there is no combustion and, if your cannabis is not of such good origin, our body has several ways to filter these impurities.
  • If you use it continuously, it is important to take breaks.

Even cannabis itself can help!

Yes, cannabis can help to reduce the risks of its own negative use and unwanted effects! People who use CBD-rich oils to stop smoking high concentrations of THC. They can still be used when you get too high and want to ease the trip.

What to do if you have a marijuana bad trip

If you have smoked a lot, or are experiencing feelings of paranoia, there is an interesting witchcraft that we discovered here and we want to share it with you.

This trick does not involve cannabis, but it has a lot to do with our well-known terpenes. One is to use black pepper: chewing three to five balls helps to release alpha-pinene, the terpene known to make us alert. The secret is to let the sensation of the pepper affect your nose, we tested it here and it worked!

What is never worth leaving Harm Reduction and self-care aside when using our plant!

One of the harvests of banning cannabis is precisely the lack of quality control in what is being consumed. Thus, it becomes much more difficult to make the therapeutic / medicinal use of this substance.

It is essential that people who are part of these risk groups know exactly what they are consuming. Thus it is possible to make the therapeutic / medicinal use of this substance. An example can be psychosis, when we think about CBD and THC. CBD can be used as an antipsychotic, while THC can be something that triggers a psychotic crisis. In that case, cannabis could be seen as a demon or a salvation – but it is essential that we know exactly what is being consumed.

The radical discourse that romanticizes cannabis departs from reality and can harm the individual.

So, are we going to talk more openly about this use?

Did you like this post? Tell us here if you feel that your cannabis use is within this risk group, and how we can help you! After all, the fight against prohibitionism is also a fight against the problematic use of this substance, which can also do many people good.

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