Using cannabis while pregnant may harm the unborn baby. Cannabis smoke contains many of the same harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke.
Cannabis has not been linked to birth defects, but research suggests that using cannabis regularly during pregnancy could affect a baby's brain development as they get older.
Regularly using tobacco also increases the risk of tobacco-related diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.
Other risks of cannabis
The effects of cannabis can vary a lot from person to person. It can also vary depending on how much or how often it's taken and what it contains.
Another cannabinoid drug, called Nabilone, is sometimes used to relieve sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer.
If regular users stop taking cannabis, they may get withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling moody and irritable, feeling sick, difficulty sleeping, difficulty eating, sweating, shaking and diarrhoea.
Read the latest updates on cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer – the evidence so far on the Cancer Research UK website.
Dr. Smita Das, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Addiction Psychiatry’s cannabis work group, does not recommend CBD for anxiety, PTSD, sleep or depression. With patients turning to these to unproven products, she is worried that they may delay seeking appropriate mental health care: “I’m dually concerned with how exposure to CBD products can lead somebody into continuing to cannabis products.”
“It’s promising in a lot of different therapeutic avenues because it’s relatively safe,” said James MacKillop, co-director of McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research in Hamilton, Ontario.
Recently, the F.D.A. sent a warning letter to Curaleaf Inc. about its “unsubstantiated claims” that the plant extract treats a variety of conditions from pet anxiety and depression to cancer and opioid withdrawal. (In a statement, the company said that some of the products in question had been discontinued and that it was working with the F.D.A.)
Does CBD help sleep and depression?
“If you take pure CBD, it’s pretty safe,” said Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Side effects in the Epidiolex trial included diarrhea, sleepiness, fatigue, weakness, rash, decreased appetite and elevated liver enzymes. Also, the safe amount to consume in a day, or at all during pregnancy, is still not known.
The CBD industry is flourishing, conservatively projected to hit $16 billion in the United States by 2025. Already, the plant extract is being added to cheeseburgers, toothpicks and breath sprays. More than 60 percent of CBD users have taken it for anxiety, according to a survey of 5,000 people, conducted by the Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research firm. Chronic pain, insomnia and depression follow behind. Kim Kardashian West, for example, turned to the product when “freaking out” over the birth of her fourth baby. The professional golfer Bubba Watson drifts off to sleep with it. And Martha Stewart’s French bulldog partakes, too.
More than 60 percent of CBD users were taking it for anxiety, according to a survey of 5,000 people. Does it help?
Just as hemp seedlings are sprouting up across the United States, so is the marketing. From oils and nasal sprays to lollipops and suppositories, it seems no place is too sacred for CBD. “It’s the monster that has taken over the room,” Dr. Brad Ingram, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said about all the wild uses for CBD now. He is leading a clinical trial into administering CBD to children and teenagers with drug-resistant epilepsy.
The report also disproved — or at least cast a lot of doubt — on some of the claimed benefits of pot. It found “limited evidence” that marijuana is ineffective for treating symptoms associated with dementia and glaucoma, as well as depressive symptoms in individuals with chronic pain or multiple sclerosis.
The report also found “limited evidence” of links between marijuana use and several other negative outcomes, including an increased risk of testicular cancer, triggering a heart attack, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pregnancy complications. And it found “moderate” to “limited” evidence that marijuana use might worsen symptoms or risk for some mental health issues, including depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among heavier users, and anxiety disorders, particularly social anxiety disorder among regular users.
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Marijuana is often described as one of the safest drugs out there, in part because it’s never been definitively linked to an overdose death and it’s broadly safer than other drugs like alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and heroin. And while the National Academies’ report doesn’t find evidence of a marijuana overdose death, it does add a few wrinkles to the narrative of marijuana as a safe drug.
The report also found “conclusive evidence” that marijuana is effective for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Coupled with the findings on pain, this suggests that marijuana really is a potent treatment for cancer patients in particular, who can suffer from debilitating pain and severe nausea as a result of their illness.
It also found a “limited” to “moderate” evidence of a correlation between marijuana use and use of other illicit drugs. This is the typical evidence cited for the so-called “gateway” effect: that marijuana use may lead to the use of harder drugs.