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Daily dosage: Science unsure if chronic usage helps or harms

While some medical marijuana patients have found success with cannabis instead of pharmaceutical drugs, medical professionals provide caution of side effects. (Getty Images)
While some medical marijuana patients have found success with cannabis instead of pharmaceutical drugs, medical professionals provide caution of side effects. (Getty Images)
By Taryn Mickelson EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

Cannabis is a popular substance that has been used – legally or illicitly – for thousands of years. Some like it because they believe it provides medical benefits, including chronic pain relief. Others use it simply for fun. There are some who need or want it daily, while others prefer to toke only on special occasions.

Daily use may offer benefits, but also could cause harm if used improperly or in excess.

Israeli researchers have been studying the effects of frequent use and recently presented clinical evidence that cannabis at microdose levels (using extremely low compounds for specific effects) can relieve pain, while avoiding other side effects.

This study published in the European Journal of Pain showed that the optimal and most effective dose to relieve pain is 500 milligrams of THC, the principal psychoactive constitute of cannabis.

Patients in the study would consume 3-4 inhalations of up to 500 mg per day. Researchers said the study indicated that human sensitivity to THC is much greater than previously presumed, resulting in fewer side effects and more effective treatment methods.

Spokane resident Tracy Sirrine, founder and CEO of Patients for Patients Medical and former sales representative at Naked Science CBD Infused Solution, has many years of experience within the medical cannabis field. She has witnessed many miracles of cannabis when used medically.

“I have seen many patients where cannabis had a major positive effect with chronic pain,” she said. “One that sticks in my mind is a women who was able to walk for the first time in years, as well as quit many medications due to the miraculous work microdosing gave her.”

Cannabis has been known to help cancer patients improve quality of life, especially stimulating appetite in chemotherapy patients. This is due to THC tricking the brain into making it think the body needs food by activating its pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons, which signal fullness.

A 2019 study at Wayne State University showed that cannabis also affects the amygdala response of those dealing with symptoms of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Those who took THC at a low dose showed a lower threat-related fear and anxiety response in situations designed to trigger these emotions.

Sirrine also has observed similar benefits.

“I witnessed 80% of patients with PTSD who did not need to do trial anti-depression medication due to cannabis use with the right strain and dose,” she said.

Andreas Zimmer, a longtime U.S. National Institutes of Health researcher and one of Germany’s most respected neuroscientists, has been studying whether regular cannabis use can help slow the process of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

His findings were presented in 2005 when he showed data indicating that THC does slow age-related degeneration.

Sirrine once received a wonderful written testimony from a nursing home where residents had tried a few cannabis products. One patient was able to move her head for the first time in a long time and also was able to remember more.

Possible down sides

Although these studies and observations are encouraging, medical professionals warn about possible side effects, especially when cannabis is used at a higher and longer daily dose.

Required warning labels say that cannabis can be habit-forming and create a strong need for more. Then again, other things can make you feel good and crave more of, including morning coffee or exercise.

“Everything can be used as an addiction, so if you are going to use cannabis and you know you can’t function – you can’t take care of yourself, or you’re not taking care of your kids and you continue to use cannabis – then that is all on you,” Sirrine said.

A 2021 YahooLife article by Emily Paluszek said other negatives of frequent cannabis use can include fatigue, anxiety or paranoia, Cannabis Use Disorder, respiratory or heart issues, functional and structural changes to the brain, changes in homeostasis, fertility issues, withdrawal and coordination issues with response. Behavioral issues in schizophrenic patients can occur when cannabis is used in large doses and frequently.

According to a 2013 joint study performed at Imperial College London, University College London, and King’s College London, long-term habitual use of marijuana can lead to severe dopaminergic dysfunction. The study found that subjects who partake in weekly or daily heavy usage produce far less dopamine than non-users or social smokers. The small amount could lead to decreased motivation and fatigue.

In March 2019, Lanset Psychiatry discovered that THC can temporarily induce psychiatric symptoms in healthy volunteers. This link isn’t, however, a new finding: a cannabis study made this observation over 150 years ago.

Sandpoint resident David Gunter has seen all sides of cannabis. The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist was a regular user for the past 50 years. But he felt like his relationship with the plant was coming to an end over the last few years. Even he thoroughly enjoyed cannabis throughout his lifetime, it was starting to become a little too much of a habit and there were things that needed to be done that he felt daily use was hindering.

“My experience is purely of my own and I will always stay a huge fan of the sacred herb,” he said. “Cannabis has high esteem for its magic and healing benefits; it just started to not do it for me anymore. It was a great time and I thoroughly enjoyed the ritual and feeling of acceptance in the nature of the cannabis subculture.

“I am all for advocating about the benefits, but you as a person have to be able to know when cannabis is no longer serving you, as with anything pay attention to how it affects you whether it be negative or positive.”

Taryn Mickelson is originally from New Mexico and now works in Washington’s cannabis industry. She enjoys writing about the positive changes in this rapidly-growing business.
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