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A Closer Look: How Cannabis Impacts Health

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. Some of the claims made for or against marijuana are scientifically well-grounded and some are not. How can you tell which is which?

The following summarizes the major content of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report: The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.2 The NASEM developed a report that reviews the current and existing science on cannabis use and its impact on people’s health. The report offers:

  • An in-depth and broad review of the most recent research
  • Nearly 100 research conclusions about the health effects of cannabis and cannabis-based products
  • Recommendations to expand and improve cannabis research and data collection

Definitions to know

  • Cannabis is a broad term. It describes the different products that come from the Cannabis sativa plant, including marijuana and cannabinoids.
  • Cannabinoids are a group of active chemical compounds found in cannabis, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), that get users “high.”

References

  1. National Academies of Sciences E, and Medicine,. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC2017.
  2. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 16-4984, NSDUH Series H-51). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/.
  3. Moir D, Rickert WS, Levasseur G, et al. A comparison of mainstream and sidestream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions. Chem Res Toxicol. 2008;21(2):494-502.
  4. Garry A, Rigourd V, Amirouche A, Fauroux V, Aubry S, Serreau R. Cannabis and breastfeeding. J Toxicol. 2009;2009:596149.
  5. Lisdahl KM, Gilbart ER, Wright NE, Shollenbarger S. Dare to delay? The impacts of adolescent alcohol and marijuana use onset on cognition, brain structure, and function. Front Psychiatry. 2013;4:53.
  6. Behrendt S, Beesdo-Baum K, Hofler M, et al. The relevance of age at first alcohol and nicotine use for initiation of cannabis use and progression to cannabis use disorders. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012;123(1-3):48-56.
  7. Chen CY, O’Brien MS, Anthony JC. Who becomes cannabis dependent soon after onset of use? Epidemiological evidence from the United States: 2000-2001. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005;79(1):11-22.
  8. Perkonigg A, Goodwin RD, Fiedler A, et al. The natural course of cannabis use, abuse and dependence during the first decades of life. Addiction. 2008;103(3):439-449; discussion 450-431.
  9. Silins E, Horwood LJ, Patton GC, et al. Young adult sequelae of adolescent cannabis use: an integrative analysis. Lancet Psychiatry. 2014;1(4):286-293.
  10. Hartman RL, Brown TL, Milavetz G, et al. Cannabis effects on driving lateral control with and without alcohol. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;154:25-37.
  11. Hartman RL, Huestis MA. Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clin Chem. 2013;59(3):478-492.
  12. Lenne MG, Dietze PM, Triggs TJ, Walmsley S, Murphy B, Redman JR. The effects of cannabis and alcohol on simulated arterial driving: Influences of driving experience and task demand. Accid Anal Prev. 2010;42(3):859-866.
  13. Aronow WS, Cassidy J. Effect of marihuana and placebo-marihuana smoking on angina pectoris. N Engl J Med. 1974;291(2):65-67.
  14. Mittleman MA, Lewis RA, Maclure M, Sherwood JB, Muller JE. Triggering myocardial infarction by marijuana. Circulation. 2001;103(23):2805-2809.
  15. Sidney S. Cardiovascular consequences of marijuana use. J Clin Pharmacol. 2002;42(11 Suppl):64S-70S.
  16. Hall W, Degenhardt L. Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use. Lancet. 2009;374(9698):1383-1391.
  17. Lopez-Quintero C, Perez de los Cobos J, Hasin DS, et al. Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug Alcohol Depend. 2011;115(1-2):120-130.
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