Medicinal Marijuana and Addiction

With the ever-expanding use of medical marijuana, some health care professionals and governmental leaders expressed concern over the issue of addiction and medical marijuana. The same type of concern routinely, and appropriately, is expressed in regard to certain prescription medications, particularly different types of pain killers.

In response to these concerns, the Institute of Medicine undertook what is considered by many medical experts to be the most important study on the subject of marijuana use and addiction. Researchers determined that only 10 percent of all marijuana users ever meet the clinical standard established for dependence of addiction. The study included both medical and recreational users of marijuana.

The study also noted that dependence was likely less among the medical cannabis users than their recreational counterparts. This is due to the management of the use of marijuana by healthcare providers.

Medical Marijuana and Cancer Risks

A number of authoritative longitudinal studies all concluded that prolonged use of medical marijuana does not pose an increase of cancer-risks associated with smoking tobacco products. These cancers include colorectal, lung, melanoma, prostate, breast or cervical. These studies included one that analyzed the health of individuals who smoke marijuana regularly over the course of 20 years.

Medical cannabis actually is becoming more closely associated with cancer treatment in some jurisdictions around the globe. For example, it is proving to be an effective means of controlling the nausea commonly associated with chemotherapy.

Medical Cannabis Use and Cognitive Functioning

The use of medical marijuana does temporarily impact a patient’s cognitive abilities for a short period of time. Specifically, its use seems to impair slightly short-term memory. However, this impact on cognitive functioning ceases after the immediate effect of marijuana dissipates. Research suggests that there is no long term impact on cognitive functioning because of the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The only caveat involved adolescents and medical cannabis. Some researchers are recommending that they not be provided medical cannabis until they reach majority because their brains are still developing. At the present time, there simply is not enough reliable research on what long-term impact marijuana for medical purposes may have on an adolescent who is still experiencing brain development.