Curious about what smoking weed does to your body? The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) may have a few answers for you. In January , the groups published a comprehensive review of human research on how cannabis interacts with the body. While this review has some significant limitations, it does shed some light into promising therapeutic areas for cannabis research. According to the investigation, here’s what smoking weed does to your body.
What does smoking weed do to your body?
The goal of NASEM report is to paint a clear picture of the current high-quality evidence about cannabis does to your mind and body. They also sought to highlight opportunities for further investigation and understanding.
There is much confusion over the exact impacts of cannabis on the human body, and the publication attempted to sort out fact and fiction under the accepted scientific framework.
Based strictly on the results of this review, cannabis seems to have the most therapeutic potential in the areas of:
- Chronic pain
- Spasticity and muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis
- Short-term sleep problems caused by pain and illness (moderate evidence)
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
Cannabis can also have a variety of physical effects. Here are some short-term effects of cannabis in the body:
- Red, dry eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Boosts in pleasure and mood
- Temporary increase in heart rate
- Temporary fluctuations in blood pressure
- Distortion of time
- Changes in balance, coordination, and posture
- Difficulties with memory
For more information on what cannabis does to the body, take a look at the full article here.
What does cannabis do to the heart?
According to the report, the research on cannabis as an influence for cardiovascular health is inconclusive. There is not enough evidence to determine whether or not the herb has a significant positive or negative impact on the cardiovascular system.
Based on the research available, the review addressed the following areas:
- Acute myocardial infarction (heart attack)
The researchers found no statistical association one way or another between cannabis and heart attack. There was limited statistical evidence that suggested an association between cannabis and:
- A decreased risk of diabetes
- An increased risk of prediabetes
- Triggering a heart attack caused by smoking
The ultimate conclusion? There is simply not enough high-quality evidence to decide. What little evidence is available is not nearly comprehensive enough, and there is no way to determine the overall health ramifications of the herb from this data.
Looking for more information on what cannabis does to your heart? Read the full article here.
What does cannabis do to the lungs?
The impacts on cannabis and the lungs might take you by surprise. The review cited moderate evidence that there is no correlation between smoking cannabis and lung cancer.
The research was also hard pressed to find a statistical association between cannabis and head and neck cancer, which cannot be said of tobacco.
However, the review did find one irritating side-effect. Long-term cannabis consumption can cause coughing and mucus production. Yet, these chronic bronchitis symptoms go away if you abstain from smoking. (Vaping, from a device like the Pax 3 or Firefly 2 is an alternative to actually smoking.)
There is even some evidence that the cannabis smoking can improve some lung functions in moderate consumers. Based on the research available, the authors concluded that there is no or insufficient evidence that:
- Cannabis increases the risk of asthma symptoms.
- Cannabis does or does not increase the risk of hospital admissions for COPD after smoking cannabis.
There are weak correlations between:
- Cannabis and pulmonary conditions like COPD after controlling for tobacco.
There is moderate evidence that:
- Acute cannabis use and airway improvement, but not so much with chronic use.
- Cannabis can improve forced exhalation, indicating a potential increase in lung capacity.
For more information on the effects of cannabis on the lungs, take a look at the full article here.
What does cannabis do to the immune system?
Research has shown that the active compounds in cannabis can have immuno-modulatory effects. In some cases, the herb may decrease inflammation, which could be helpful to a wide range of diseases.
However, some wonder if these effects can have a negative impact in healthy people. After all, a little inflammation is needed to help prevent infection and stay healthy.
The review took a stab at this question, and their overall consensus was that there is insufficient data to come to a firm conclusion about the effect of cannabis on immunity. The researchers found that there is no or insufficient evidence that:
- Cannabis smoking causes adverse immune activity.
- Affirms or denies an adverse association between cannabis or dronabinol (Marinol) on immune activity in HIV-positive individuals.
- Regular cannabis consumption causes an increased risk of oral HPV virus.
There is limited evidence that:
- Cannabis smoking reduces pro-inflammatory compounds in healthy people.
- Daily cannabis use can cause liver damage in individuals with viral hepatitis C.
For more information on cannabis and autoimmune disease, take a look at the full article here.
What does this research mean?
It’s important to note that while this report is an impressive endeavor, there are still significant limitations. This report limited its review to human studies only.
The federal research restrictions on cannabis mean that sufficient human research is lacking, which prevents us from understanding the precise risks or benefits of cannabis consumption.
Further, this report can only point out potential correlations and associations. It cannot determine whether or not cannabis is the cause of these outcomes, or if some other environmental factor contributes to these results.
Correlation does not mean causation. The only way to prove cause is to conduct more high-quality research expand the scope of the review to include possible mechanisms of action.
However, the research has identified a few key risk groups that should be further explored. These groups include:
- Pregnant women
- Adolescent consumers (particularly chronic consumers)
- Those predisposed to psychosis, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder
- Those predisposed to some forms of depression
Limiting barriers to research is essential for improved understanding of how the cannabis plant impacts the body. More research is also needed to how best to use and regulate the herb from a public health standpoint. Current studies are limited by self-reporting, unknown or inconsistent dosage information, sample size, or other possible confounding factors.
Further still, the bulk of the research that discusses specific ailments and other health effects of cannabis comes from observational studies, not randomized clinical trials.
This opens the door for false correlations caused by polysubstance abuse and fails to demonstrate the effect of consuming only cannabis.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest philosophical problems in scientific research is its failure to precisely connect with lived, subjective human reality.
While this report is an important, helpful, and informative tool, it is not an end-all, be-all roadmap to what cannabis does to your body. Though, the publication is an excellent guide for further research and investigation.
Want to learn more? Here are a few additional articles to read: