Marijuana remains controversial in the US, with conservatives still denying that it has any benefits at all, and the current administration threatening to crack down on states which have decriminalized it. Few people realize how much evidence has already been found for marijuana’s positive effects. Here are five examples you probably never knew.
1. Smoking marijuana can help you avoid becoming overweight. On average, people who smoke marijuana are less likely to be obese than those who don’t. This seems counter-intuitive since marijuana is notorious for stimulating food cravings. However, states which have legalized marijuana have seen declines in obesity, even when other factors were controlled for. Part of the explanation may be that marijuana users are less likely to drink alcohol to excess, a known risk factor for obesity.
2. Aside from helping to avoid alcohol abuse, marijuana can help opioid addicts beat their habit. Whether smoked or in the form of THC supplements, marijuana alleviated the withdrawal symptoms that make giving up opioids so difficult. Some might argue that this is just replacing one drug with another, but dozens of people die every day in the US from opioid overdoses, while marijuana has no such lethal effects.
3. In marked contrast with tobacco, marijuana doesn’t harm lung function, and may even benefit it. A 2012 study of over 5,000 subjects, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that marijuana smokers showed better lung function than tobacco smokers or even nonsmokers. This was true only for moderate users, however, not for heavy users.
4. Marijuana can help people with rheumatoid arthritis; it can alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with the disease, and also promote sleep and reduce anxiety. When the THC in marijuana reaches the brain, it binds with receptors there to produce an analgesic effect. While it’s true that smoking marijuana is inadvisable for arthritis sufferers, because arthritis is associated with lung problems, the fact that edibles are now widely available allows those in need to avoid this risk. There are also products available that deliver THC in other forms, such as mouth sprays.
5. Marijuana can alleviate the effects of Parkinson’s disease. In a study in Israel, Parkinson’s patients showed dramatic lessening of tremors, pain, and other symptoms in as little as 30 minutes. This was even the case with patients who had had no benefit from other pain-relief treatments. Subjects also showed improvement in fine motor skills.