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420 Breakdown: 5 Health Benefits And 5 Challenges Of Cannabis Use

If you've got some weed questions, here are a few answers.

Wellness

Here's the thing about cannabis…marijuana…Mary JaneBrown Sugarweed. If you're not someone who smokes (or eats) it, I can assure you that you definitely know someone who does (even if they haven't hipped you to the fact). And if you're a Black person reading this, even if you don't "get down with the get down", I hope you are still in full support of decriminalizing it because the fact that so many of our people are locked up for dime bags while white people are thriving with their dispensaries is one of the most triggering things about the current legislation (or lack thereof) in this country. Ugh.


What's my personal take on cannabis? It's a plant. One that has psychoactive properties via three different types — Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. I know that when the flowers on these dry out, we end up with what white folks call "pot". That said, roughly 65 percent of the people I personally know are either casual or religious weed consumers. I have definitely tried it, more than once (my first time was with my late fiancé), and I personally am amazed that more people are triggered by it than alcohol (more on that in a bit). Anyway, because cannabis is still considered to be illegal in many states — which I personally find to be ridiculous on so many levels — I have to responsibly advise that any fan who lives in a state where cannabis isn't legal, they should proceed with caution.

However, because I am aware of several benefits that come from the use of cannabis and because I also have a late close friend (someone who was adamantly opposed to weed before trying it) who found much relief during her cancer journey while using it, I know that no matter how much racist propaganda is pushed, this plant can be helpful on a myriad of levels. To be fair, I also know that it comes with a few challenges that need to be considered too.

So, in the effort to make sure that there is a fair and realistic approach to something that continues to be a controversial topic, let's explore 10 of the many pros and potential cons that come from lighting one up, having a brownie, enjoying a gummy — or whatever your cannabis consumption preference may be.

We'll start with the upside of it first.

BENEFIT #1: It Can Reduce Physical Pain

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OK, so a bit of a breakdown on cannabis is both it and hemp come from the Cannabis sativa plant (although cannabis can come from the Cannabis indica plant too). And just what's the difference between the two? Basically, hemp contains 0.3 percent or less THC while cannabis contains more than that. As far as what THC (which stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is, it's what creates the feeling of being high. Then there's the CBD (which stands for cannabidiol) that's also in hemp and cannabis; however, it doesn't produce a euphoric sensation. Instead, it's what reduces pain and inflammation.

CBD is why a lot of people are huge consumers of products like CBD oil because it has a pretty good reputation for also decreasing symptoms that are associated with pain, nausea, migraine and seizures.

The reason why cannabis can be helpful when it comes to treating pain is because it has a way of mimicking the cannabinoid chemicals that are naturally in your body. When THC and CBD are consumed, they stimulate your brain's receptors and reduce your pain levels. As far as if you should go with THC or CBD, it really all depends on if you want to "feel high" or not because, again, CBD can also be beneficial when it comes to reducing pain and body inflammation, although it won't give you the "extra effects" like giddiness, a heightened intensity to sights and sounds or even great and almost immediate feelings of relaxation (although I'm someone who applies CBD oil on my feet before going to bed and BABY…it's a wonder).

BENEFIT #2: It Can Decrease Stress and Anxiety

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Weed affects different people in different ways. There is no doubt about that. So yes, it can actually trigger anxiety in some. At the same time, there are many people who say that smoking weed creates a feeling of calm, helps them to chill out and it is an effective way to get them to sleep quicker and more soundly. Probably the main thing to keep in mind here is since THC does provide a high effect that could potentially backfire and lead to high stress and paranoia, if you're looking to cannabis to solely help with stress and anxiety levels, something in CBD form is probably going to be less risky and more beneficial for you.

BENEFIT #3: It Can Be Good for Your Blood

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Now here's a benefit that a bet a lot of you didn't know. Were you aware that cannabis has the ability to regulate the insulin in your system? What this means is it can actually help you out when it comes to stabilizing your blood sugar levels, lowering your blood pressure and even increasing blood circulation throughout your system. There are even studies to support the fact that THC and CBD can help to increase insulin in individuals who have type 2 diabetes while improving their metabolism in the process; this can be good for one's blood and liver in the long run. How dope is that?

BENEFIT #4: It Can Improve Your Sex Life

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This particular point, I won't expound too much on, mostly because I've already written an article on it before (check out "7 Proven Ways Weed Makes Sex So Much Better"). What I will say is because THC gives off a feeling of euphoria, it can do wonders for you when it comes to elevating your mood and relaxing your body, so that you can orgasm quicker (or more intensely). As a bonus, it's also helpful for men when it comes to de-stressing them and also making erectile dysfunction less of an issue (if it is one).

BENEFIT #5: It’s Relatively Safer than Alcohol

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The people who are huge wine drinkers who frown on weed smokers are interesting to me. They're kind of like the vegans who frown on meat eaters even though they do things like eat fast food. OK, but I digress on that last part. When it comes to my first comparison, something that I oftentimes say is, "When's the last time you heard that someone beat the crap outta someone while they were high?" or "Who do you know who caused a car accident while they were high?" Oh, but I hear this about both of these, as it relates to alcohol, quite a bit. I've got some people in my family who victimized others via their abuse of alcohol, in fact.

And aside from the recklessness that being under the influence of alcohol can cause, long-term health risks include high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, cancer, depression and liver disease — and that's just to name a few. That's not to say that cannabis comes with absolutely no health-related issues (I'm about to get into that). Still, when it comes to comparing it to alcohol, read "Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol: It's Time To Treat It That Way" when you get a chance. It might surprise you, just how problematic alcohol has a tendency to be; especially, in comparison to cannabis.

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Now for the flip side of the coin.

CHALLENGE #1: It Can Alter Your Moods

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I'm thinking it goes without saying that it's one thing to use cannabis; it's another thing entirely to be dependent on it (and yes, many people are). And so yes, if you're relying on it to process moods or get you through the day, that's unhealthy on a few levels. For one thing, constant use of weed can increase your chances of memory loss, lack of empathy, loss of concentration or — and this is a big one — it can increase the things that are associated with any mental health issues that you may already have.

I've even read that cannabis can put teens at a greater risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia. So, if you are currently an avid cannabis consumer yet you don't feel super stable as far as your moods are concerned, the amount of it that you are consuming could very well be the culprit.

CHALLENGE #2: It Can Damage Your Lungs (or Not)

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This point is interesting because, while at the end of the day, smoke in your lungs is well, smoke in your lungs, when it comes to cannabis specifically, there are pros and cons to intaking it this way. On one hand, there are some studies which state that smoking weed can actually increase your lung's capacity while sources like the American Lung Association state that long-term cannabis use can lead to stripped lining of your lungs, bronchitis, chronic coughing and an overproduction of mucous.

Then there's the risk that you run of not smoking just cannabis but whatever other substances that may be in it which could damage your lungs too. Still, with places like Harvard and The Journal of the American Medical Association going on record saying that moderate consumption of weed really isn't "that big of a deal" when it comes to your lung health, I think the biggest takeaway here is too much of anything isn't good, no matter what it is, which is why balance is key. Oh, and that edibles keep the lung issues from being so much of an issue.

CHALLENGE #3: It Makes Your Heart Work Harder (Much Harder)

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Let's talk about cannabis as it relates to heart health for just a moment. There are many studies to support the fact that people with heart disease who are under a lot of stress, they end up experiencing heart pain way quicker than those who don't have these issues. That's because cannabis is able to raise your heart rate and dilate your blood vessels. Something else that's pretty daunting here is the fact that you increase your risk of having a heart attack by seven whopping times within an hour of smoking cannabis in comparison to if there was none of it in your system at all. That might be part of the reason why more and more studies are coming out citing that teens who frequently smoke weed are twice as likely to experience a heart attack than those who don't.

CHALLENGE #4: It Can Be Potentially Bad for Your Brain

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We've definitely gotta be careful about using things that can mess with our brain, right? As far as cannabis goes, the main thing to keep in mind is THC tends to connect to the brain's cannabinoid receptors which are connected to the nerves that are responsible for things like your memory, appetite, moods and even pain regulation. This is another reason why adapting the motto "moderation is key" when it comes to cannabis use can be a really good idea. Also, there are studies that connect long-term cannabis use to a drop in IQ points in teens.

Brain-wise, you should definitely steer clear of synthetic cannabis (a man-made hallucinogenic substance). It's linked to things like poor motor skills, low inhibitions, seizures, hallucinations, violent behaviors, paranoia and even brain damage. Synthetic cannabis can also be far more addicting than a natural form of cannabis. For the record, some reports say that 1 in 10 adults are capable of becoming addicted to natural weed. Just something to keep in mind.

CHALLENGE #5: You Can Become Psychologically Reliant

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So, let's end with something else that is a hot topic when it comes to cannabis — how easy is it to become addicted to it? What a lot of health experts believe is you are far more susceptible if 1) you've got a predisposition to it due to your parents and/or grandparents being avid users and 2) more than half of the people who do become addicted typically have a mental health issue like depression, anxiety or PTSD because while it first seems like a soothing agent, it can end up being something that users feel like they can't function without. No substance should ever make you feel that way, so if that is your current perspective on cannabis, first make an appointment to see your doctor and then consider meeting up with a therapist. Chances are, if the THC is what you're struggling with, at the very least, a CBD oil will be recommended as an alternative.

Cannabis is far too vast of a topic to be able to address everything. I hope this at least gave you more to think about whether you use it or you're someone who has been strongly against it without knowing more about it. As with most things in life, it's got a lot of good, comes with some risks and should be approached with balance. For more info on things like its legislation, various strains and where to purchase cannabis products, visit sites like Leafly and Marijuana Moment and also read articles like "9 black-owned cannabis companies you should know", "7 Black-Owned Cannabis Brands to Support This 4/20" and "Conscious Consumption: 100+ Black-Owned Cannabis Businesses to Support Right Now". Have fun. Be safe.

For more inspiration, self-care, and wellness tips, check out xoNecole's Wellness section here.

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