This article will focus on Harm reduction and cannabis from a biological perspective. The appropriate use of cannabis can reduce biological harm which can be caused by biochemical imbalances for instance, aging. It will be examined in two directions: what are the biological effects of cannabis use and what are the social effects that emerge from the biological foundation.
What is Harm reduction?
According to the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) harm reduction is the changes in policies, programs and practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people that are unable or unwilling to stop consumption. The focus is to reduce harm from drug use rather than preventing the drug itself.
Cannabis is the third most drug consumed, following tobacco and alcohol. There can be positive and negative effects on a human depending upon the amount, frequency, quality and most importantly the idiosyncratic biochemistry of the user.
Many countries today like Canada and most of the European countries have legalized the use of drugs as they believe it is advantageous to embrace the people that use it rather than treat them as prisoners. While cannabis is illegal in most of the states in Australia, a small amount of possession is accepted. The use of CBD oil for medicinal purposes is allowed only by prescriptions.
While there have been arguments among many countries, some believe it has medical, recreational and religious benefits while some believe it is being consumed simply “to get stoned”. In various parts of the world, the medical use of marijuana has been scientifically proved to be accurate and effective. Prescribed users of cannabis have been using it for 11-27 years and have been clinically demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of spasm, nausea, glaucoma, etc.
The Endocannabinoid System
Medical Cannabis has been used for several years for the treatment of illnesses such as migraines, headaches, menstrual symptoms and much more. However, only recently the active components have been identified and their mechanisms have been understood. Through evolution, there has been a significant increase in the role of cannabinoids in animals. Cannabinoids regulate intercellular communication mainly in the nervous and immune systems. They also coordinate tissues, body systems and organs (digestive, cardiovascular, excretory, nervous, reproductive and respiratory).
Effects of cannabinoids and Healthy Brain, Cancer, Chronic Pain, Immune system and Stress
For healthy individuals, cannabinoids play a direct role in the neurotransmission of many nerves cell types. Cannabinoids’ role in neurological health and disease goes further than prevention of cell death and regulates neuronal differentiation. Cannabinoid receptors are functionally coupled to the fibroblast growth factor receptor. The ability to control these factors will have health benefits for patients suffering from neurological damage that occurs with stroke or accidents.
Cannabinoids have numerous pharmacological properties that are beneficial for cancer patients. It helps in killing the cancer cells and reducing pain during the treatment. However, a majority of the general public is unaware of this. For example, cannabinoids help in killing cancer cells of leukemia, skin cancer, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, etc. Since all cancer cells vary, it can be effective to some while ineffective to others depending on person to person.
Medicinal cannabinoids have proved to be pain relief for cancer and non-cancer patients. Countries like England and Canada are using this method to provide relief for their citizens suffering from chronic pain. Studies have proven that where other treatments have failed, co-administration of cannabinoids can significantly lower opioid use and deliver pain relief.
The main role of the immune system is to protect us from an unidentified attack. Moreover, the immune system has the biological function of protecting us from life, death and differentiation of cells. The immune system divides its task between ‘Th1’ and ‘Th2’. The Th1 is typically for critical conditions such as fighting infections by specific agents. Hence cannabinoids are essential homeostatic modulators of the immune system. Commonly referred to as immune inhibitors, cannabinoids promote Th2 response while they inhibit the Th1 response. Therefore, cannabinoids are immune system modulators.
The stress-relieving properties of cannabinoids are an important aspect of pharmacological activity. Cannabinoids control the extinction of painful memories which is very beneficial for those suffering from life-threatening diseases.
Evolution tells us that numerous biological phenomena can be found in various systems of the body and to counteract biochemical imbalances that are characteristic of numerous damaged or disease states, especially those associated with aging. Aging is a system-wide movement towards chemical equilibrium, and as such is an imbalance from which all living organisms suffer. With the right use of cannabinoids and through expert advice, one can tackle these and improve health and reduce harm.
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