THE CANNABIS (WEED)
Unless you live on another planet, everyone knows that inhaling cannabis, or pot, is now legal in Canada.
However, beware… Legal does not necessarily mean safe and banal.
Used for thousands of years
Cannabis has been used for centuries, if not millenniums, first medicinally and then recreationally. Nowadays, it is the most popular illegal drug around the world.
Its evolution in Canada
In Canada, at the beginning of the 20th century, pot was banned and therefore abandoned for medical purposes. The interest is revived in the early 80s because of scientific developments, among others, to relieve chronic pain.
During the 2014 federal campaign, the Liberals promised the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes.
Canada has become, since October 17, 2018, the largest country where cannabis is legal and the second largest country in the world to legalize it after Uruguay.
Let's see where the effects of cannabis come from
Did you know that our body produces endocannabinoids, which are substances similar to cannabis?
Since we produce these substances, our organs have receptors for certain components of cannabis. These receptors are like keys allowing the cannabis to have effects on several of our organs.
The yin and yang of cannabis
It is interesting to know that two of the many components of cannabis act like yin and yang. The most active components of cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and cannabidiol or CBD.
Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC
THC alters many mental processes such as emotions, memory, appetite and the perception of touch.
These psychoactive effects are responsible for impaired concentration, causing euphoria, anxiety, mild tachycardia and even a psychosis condition.
Cannabidiol or CBD
On the other hand, cannabidiol (CBD) acts against anxiety, as antipsychotic effects and causes mild bradycardia.
It also has anti-inflammatory and painkiller properties.
Different varieties, different concentrations
Different varieties of cannabis bring different concentrations of THC and CBD. The effect on the consumer depends on the net effect between these two active substances and the sensitivity of the user to them.
The effect of smoked cannabis
Smoked cannabis has a much faster effect than the form absorbed by the digestive tract - a few minutes when inhaled compared to nearly two hours when ingested.
We describe 4 stages following consumption:
- "BUZZ": dizziness and vertigo
- The "HIGH": euphoria, disinhibition, increased laughter
- STONE status: calm, relaxed
- COME DOWN: back to normal
The body evacuates cannabis: a third through the kidneys and two thirds in the feces. The half-life of the product, or the time required to eliminate the substance, is 20 to 30 hours. Each step varies in duration from one user to another.
The effect of cannabis smoke on the cardiovascular system
No one has ever died of an overdose of cannabis.
The effects of inhaled cannabis on cardiovascular health could be divided into 2 parts.
The first is related to the burning of cannabis. The effects are similar to the harmful effects of smoking tobacco. Remember that nicotine makes us smoke and it's the smoke that kills; it is the same for cannabis. Unlike nicotine, which has no direct impact on cardiovascular health, cannabis has effects on it.
Cannabis smoke contains 3 times more tar and 5 times more carbon monoxide than tobacco. All the carcinogenic elements of the products of tobacco combustion are also found in cannabis smoke. They are found in greater concentration in the lungs, since the cannabis cigarette or joint does not have a filter.
In addition, consumers accentuate these concentrations by retaining, for several seconds, the puff of cannabis smoke they inhaled.
This is not to mention that cannabis has a higher combustion temperature than tobacco, bringing an additional element of burning to the mouth and throat.
The slower effect of ingested cannabis
For those who believe that the harmful effects of inhalation can be avoided, the ingestion of cannabis in various forms carries with it the risks inherent to pot in cardiovascular health, regardless of the edible form chosen.
The intestine absorbs cannabis at a slower rate than inhalation. The effect goes from 15 minutes for inhalation to 1 to 2 hours for ingestion.
The consumer who is impatient to feel the effects could overuse and end up with an overdose.
The effect of cannabis itself on the cardiovascular system
Concerning the cardiovascular system, one of the effects of THC that is best documented is the increase in cardiac work. The systolic blood pressure and the heart rate measure this increase.
Increased cardiac work
THC raises blood pressure by 5 to 10mmHg, on average, and heart rate by almost 15 beats per minute.
The impact on cardiovascular events
A study has shown that the effects on the heart’s work are up to five times more important than the effects on a person who does not consume. There are more strokes within one hour of inhaling cannabis smoke.
In comparison, a strong anger increases bythree times the work of a normal heartbeat.
On the other hand, the consumption of cocaine multiplies by 25 the cardiac events, following the strong increase it causes on the heart’s effort.
Some authors estimate the additional annual risk of a daily cannabis smoker at 1.5%.
This risk is rather low, but it adds to the latent risks in any person. It's throwing a bit of oil on the fire.
Consuming with a history of cardiovascular events
In the case of a cannabis user who has already suffered a cardiac event like unstable angina or a stroke, the risk of annual death is twice as high.
A medical study establishes the rate of mortality risk among these individuals according to their consumption habits.
Cannabis used less than once a week increases the risk of annual mortality by 2.5% over the four years following the start of the study. This risk increases to 4% among those that consume more than once a week.
It is clear, therefore, that individuals with a history of heart disease or predisposing factors to heart disease have a higher risk of cardiovascular events and should abstain or reduce cannabis use.
In addition, the risk of a stroke is doubled.
Legal does not mean in any way safe and banal
In closing, cautiousness is required. The legalization of cannabis does not mean that it is safe and banal.
The concentration of THC increases with the years
The THC content has quadrupled in recent years, from 3% in the 1980s to 12% in 2012.
This concentration is very possibly even higher now.
The imbalance with its antidote, CBD, results in greater pharmacological effects of THC.
Possible interference with medication
In addition, cannabis can impair the effectiveness of medications prescribed by a doctor by increasing or decreasing the effects expected from them.
Other studies will surely assess the inhaled form of cannabis smoke now that it has been legalized.