Saturday September 1, 2018
Things can get a bit overwhelming when you’re new to the wide world of cannabis. First of all, the amount of information out there is expansive, making it difficult to know where to get started. On top of that, there’s a lot of misinformation circulating within the cannabis industry and beyond – and not a whole lot of regulatory oversight on what gets published. Even more? The federally illegal status of cannabis in the United States has stifled research progress and led to major headaches for researchers looking to explore the benefits of the plant. Don’t worry though, there are people working hard to help beginners navigate the emerging realm of cannabis products. Cannify is here to inform and educate based on scientific findings.
To Use or Not to Use, That is the Question
Cannabis has numerous applications for a variety of ailments and there is evidence that it can relieve symptoms in patients suffering from epilepsy, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, pain, PTSD, and other conditions. Understanding what beneficial effects cannabis exactly has, can be very confusing: besides the little scientific research available pertaining to cannabis, multiple US states have approved its use for medicinal purposes, but the approved indications vary per state. Also, the approved indications do not always reflect the actual scientific evidence. For example, while currently being an approved indication in a growing number of states, based on reviews of the scientific literature, there is some evidence that THC is ineffective for treatment of glaucoma due to short-term beneficial effects that are not sustained over a long period of time.
When considering whether or not cannabis is right for you, it’s important to take into consideration both sides of the argument. There are many reported benefits of using cannabis, but it can cause some negative side effects in certain people. After all, cannabis affects everyone differently. Cannabis is relatively safe in the sense that dying of an overdose has never been reported. Yet, there are a number of negative cannabis effects including: anxiety and panic attacks, psychosis, depression, drowsiness, impaired coordination, altered time perception, lack of motivation, and nausea. Not all side-effects are experienced by everyone, for example, although drowsiness is a common side effect in new users, this is a less common side effect in chronic users whereas the latter group is more likely to develop depression. Several negative side effects of cannabis can be mitigated through careful dosing, as well.
New Cannabis Consumers
There are a couple of things new consumers should keep in mind when starting with cannabis. First, anxiety and panic attacks happen more frequently when you’re new to cannabis. As mentioned above, these effects are typically dose-related, which means that starting at a very low dose can help minimize the negative effects. Second, there is a dose-dependent association between cannabis use, and psychosis and schizophrenia in people who are more vulnerable to these types of disorder. Vulnerability is not always something you can know about yourself, but if you have a close relative that has a history of psychosis or schizophrenia, then you are more likely to develop a psychosis from cannabis use.
Understanding Cannabis Products and Consumption
When deciding what cannabis products are right for you, there are decisions to be made on the compounds, the administration form and the dose. What you need is dependent on your symptoms and your personal characteristics, and this is different for everyone.
In terms of research, science knows the most about the compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the two main active cannabinoids in cannabis. As you may already know, THC is the ingredient associated with feeling “high” and responsible for medicinal benefits like pain relief and anti-nausea. CBD is mainly known for its anti-anxiety effects but is proving to have other benefits for people.
In fact, the FDA recently approved a CBD formulation called Epidiolex for its anti-convulsive properties. Due to reasons including the pharmaceutical quality grade and the long research and development pathway, at around $32,500 per year, Epidiolex’ price point is higher than CBD products that are being sold by for example cannabis dispensaries. Depending on which symptom you want to treat, you may need a product that contains either THC or CBD alone or a combination of the two.
The administration form can affect how fast a product works, how long the effects last and even how strong it is. Choosing the wrong ingredient or administration form can not only cause a lack of effect from cannabis use, but can even have detrimental effects. A common misunderstanding is the time it takes for an edible to be effective. Even after more than one hour of waiting, the effects can still kick in, and taking a second dose in a short time frame can lead to an excessive dose being taken and a negatively overwhelming experience.
To avoid negative effects, most health professionals and government organizations recommend starting at a low dose and escalating slowly until you reach a desirable balance between efficacy and tolerability (“start low, go slow”). Everybody is different, and even though ‘one dose’ is considered 10mg in Colorado, this can even be too strong for some new consumers. Most THC starting doses that are recommended for pharmaceutical products (such as dronabinol and nabilone) are between 2.5 and 10mg while CBD’s dosing is greatly dependent on the indication and typically needs much higher doses to be effective.
How to Decide Which Product is Best
While medical professionals such as physicians and pharmacists can be great sources of information about the effects of cannabis, keep in mind that not all medical professionals have sufficient knowledge about cannabis products. That’s why it’s a good idea to do your own research on the scientific literature and discuss your findings with your health care provider.
One problem is that scientific literature is not always easy to understand nor easily accessible. For a better understanding of the knowns and unknowns of cannabis science, Cannify’s tool is there to help. After completing our questionnaire, Cannify gives you a personalized report on what is known about studies in humans, as opposed to many websites reporting findings in individual cells or rodents. Also, Cannify gives you an overview of what is actually known while leaving out conclusions based on anecdotes. For product decision making, always consult a medical professional. For giving you insight in the newest scientific cannabis findings, you can use Cannify.
Managing the Potential Negatives
It’s important to keep in mind that a majority of cannabis products are not FDA-approved drugs, which means that the consistency and purity is held to much less regulation and thereby lower standards can be applied. Even though every state has a regulatory agency, each one is different and abides by its own set of rules.
The supply of medicinal and recreational cannabis products is different depending on your location. Even between the same (type of) products within the same jurisdiction, there can be inconsistencies due to the inherent variances of the plant material itself as well as varying quality standards per producer. This could cause you to experience different effects or even a lack of effects, and you might need to adjust what you use, how much, or how often.
The state-level certifications do not allow for a consistency level that is required for the production of pharmaceutical-grade products. As a rule of thumb, try and stay up-to-date on the cannabis businesses and brands near you. Doing so will help you understand which products are reputable and which companies produce the cleanest and most reliable cannabis products. This is not always easy to do, however, as this blog post partially explains.
Since cannabis products are derived from plant material, there is the possibility that contamination occurs along the pipeline. This can include pesticides used in growing and chemicals used during the production process. Regulations and tests typically prevent toxicity from reaching consumer products, however, due to the novelties in the cannabis industry, several toxic additives are still allowed in cannabis products. For example, VG and PG can turn into carcinogens at high temperatures.
While cannabis has proven to be a relief for many, at the same time it’s crucial to be aware of the negative effects some people might experience, especially when first using the product. If you decide that cannabis might be an option for you, note that every effect can require a different compound or compound combination and a different administration form for best results. Consulting medical professionals and being on top of scientific findings gives you the best preparation for beginning your journey with cannabis products. If you want to know more about human studies in cannabis: try Cannify’s tool and watch for more science-based information soon.
Do you have any questions about cannabis? Ask them in the comments below and we'll be sure to answer!