Cannabis is quite the hot-button topic these days.  Everyone is talking about it!  In many ways, it’s about time, but unfortunately this enthusiasm often leads to distortions of the truth in both overly positive and overly negative ways.  Let’s take a moment to explore the top 10 myths about cannabis. 

A brief note about conflict of interest (COI):  Many of the people who write or speak about the pros or cons of cannabis have a financial interest in their advice.  From dispensary groups to NFL players who own CBD manufacturers, you need to dig a bit to be sure you’re getting unbiased advice.  I do not manufacture or sell cannabis products.  As a physician and cannabinoid specialist, my only purpose is the health of my patients.

1) Cannabis is safe

No medicine is safe.  This is a fact and by definition.  A medicine is a chemical that causes changes to the way your body is working.  If your body is working poorly and the right chemical is administered, it may correct the problem.  If you’re not sick, or the chemical isn’t the right one, or it’s given incorrectly, well, all hell can break loose.  

Cannabis is no different.  It clearly causes physical changes and can be used to correct problems.  Therefore, it’s not safe.  Many medications are more forgiving than others.  Thankfully, cannabis is pretty forgiving, but that doesn’t make it safe and problems can and do occur. 

2) Cannabis is dangerous

It can be, as we discussed above.  However, it is not so dangerous that it must be locked away and never used.  In fact, having attempted that for the past 50+ years, it has become evident that we’ve simply excluded a valuable medication from our arsenal.  

The major risks to adults include over-use leading to dependence and Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) – I prefer the term Problematic Use as I think it’s more instructive.  This progression of use to over-use to problematic use is typical of recreational use where the advice given by other users and the industry amounts to “use more”.  

In Medicine, we always strive to use the least amount of medicine needed to get the benefit.  This is quite a distinction from the above recreational point of view.  As you can see, the more medical approach will lead to smaller, stable doses than are much less likely to create problems.  Further, your treating clinician should be following you frequently to be on the lookout for developing problems and be able to respond to them before they get out of hand. 

3) Cannabis can be used however you want

This is a big myth promoted by sellers and users.  “Well, if you don’t want to smoke it, here, have a cupcake” or a vape pen, or a tincture, etc.  This is just wrong thinking, but it sells products and keeps people coming back on the quest for the holy grail of the perfect approach.  

In reality, the approach to treatment depends not on “personal choice” but on the medical differences between the approaches and choosing the correct approach for the illness.  Treating a Migraine with an edible is just not best practice.  Treating chronic back pain with inhalation is, again, not the best way to do it.  Will it work?  Sure, but not well, and may increase the risks we discussed above.  Your Cannabis Specialist will be able to help you use cannabis the safest and most effective way – and should also be able to explain to you why she makes the recommendations that she does.  

4) Strains

Did you know that there are over 7000 different strains (types) of cannabis out there?  The industry has a vested interest in our believing that each of these types is unique in its medicinal qualities.  As a patient then, all you have to do is keep trying them over and over to find the one that is magically suited for you!  Sound like BS?  It is!

The reality is that no strain has ever been shown to be more effective for any medical purpose than any other.  

Similarly, the whole strain group idea, Indica vs. Sativa, holds no water.  It has been shown that chemically these groups overlap entirely – they’re just not actually different.  

Wait!  But what about all those people who report differences?  Let’s remember that no one buys cannabis without an expectation or hope for what it will do, and no one buys cannabis without being told that such-and-such strain is a good choice for them.  This is called bias and leads to people experiencing what they expect or hope for.  It is not, however, a chemical property of the substance.  In my practice, the vast majority of my patients report no differences between strains.

5) CBD

What is CBD good for?  If you ask around, you’ll be told everything from pain to sleep to anxiety to inflammation.  However, how much of that is actually supported by scientific research that’s done in humans?  Almost none.  So, if almost none of these claims have been proven for people, why is it everywhere?

The answer is greed.  Sadly, CBD became legal in 2018 via the Farm Bill under Mitch McConnell.  He wanted to please the farmers of Kentucky by making hemp a legal crop.  Since then CBD has become the darling of the cannabis world, but mostly because it’s legal and easy to sell.

Worse, not only are the benefits wholly unproven in humans, but we do know that CBD can interact with a wide range of medicines in potentially dangerous ways.  While complex drugs like Warfarin and Clopidogrel are dangerously affected by CBD, common, over-the-counter ones like Loratadine (Claritin) are also affected.  Elevated levels of Claritin can lead to potentially fatal heart rhythms.  See our article on drug interactions.

 

This is just the beginning of our Top Cannabis Myths.  Stay tuned for our next installment!

Consult with a Qualified Boston Medical Marijuana Expert Today 

Those considering using THC, CBD, or any type of medicine found in cannabis to help manage their condition should consider speaking to a trained medical expert who is knowledgeable about using cannabis therapeutically. Massachusetts medical marijuana doctor Jordan Tishler, M.D. sits on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has years of experience helping patients treat pain and other ailments using cannabis. He and the team at InhaleMD stand ready to assist patients in determining whether medical marijuana is right for them. For more information, or to set up a virtual consultation with the team at InhaleMD, call us at (617) 477-8886 today.