Cannabis smoking in Asia and Europe
The history of cannabis smoking begins in prehistoric times. This practice was popular both in Asia and Europe (although it is believed to have initially appeared in Asia) and gradually spread to other continents. Its effects on human health are rather controversial. Nevertheless, mostly negative ones are typically cited. They include: altered consciousness, increased heart rate, time and space distortions, impaired concentration, vision, and coordination, anxiety, paranoid thoughts, panic attacks, etc. Yet, there are still positive effects such as relaxation and relief of pain (Hill, 2015). That is why the issue of using the drug for medical purposes is now discussed at large in many states.
The major stakeholders who support medical use of cannabis are healthcare specialists and patients (especially those who are terminal) since it may become a perfect solution to the problem of pain relief. However, social activists and authorities generally oppose the measure since it can increase crime rates, expose kids to cannabis smoking, and lead to consumption of other drugs. That is why its legalization causes a lot of dispute with equally active participation of both stakeholder groups.
Despite widespread concerns, the recent research has disclaimed that side effects of cannabis use for medical purposes are as damaging to health as it was previously believed. On the contrary, the drug not only mitigates pain but also helps to deal with symptoms of various health conditions, including cancer, Hepatitis C, arthritis, glaucoma, epilepsy, etc. (Compton, Han, Hughes, Jones, & Blanco, 2017).
Since medical use of cannabis if on the rise (its prescription rates grow by 5-10% annually depending on the state), the major policy and practice implication is to solve the following problems: 1) avoiding abuse; 2) protecting children in families with such patients; 3) restricting the use to a number of particular diseases.
Cannabis in Central Asia
Cannabis is believed to have first been smoked in Central Asia. The history of this practice goes back as far as 110-120 centuries (according to different estimates), which implies that it can be considered one of the oldest plant cultivated by ancient people (Hill, 2015). Nevertheless, medical use of cannabis is a recent issue that is now causing heated debates in the medical community. The major reason that despite having certain positive effects, regular use of cannabis may also lead to addiction, anxiety, impaired hearing and vision, coronary diseases, brain dysfunction, etc.
There are a number scholars and practicing physicians who state that cannabis gives plenty of benefits to chronic and terminal patients since its produces both pain-relieving and soothing effects, making it easier for them to tolerate their condition. However, there are a lot of others, including social activist groups that oppose legalization of cannabis. Healthcare specialists from this group state that its use makes patients addicted – therefore, cannabis is a gateway to more dangerous substances. Activists make a particular emphasis on morality issues since legalization of the drug will change the public perception of it. Many will believe that it is harmful not only for specific patients but for everyone.
The current medical research typically supports the use of cannabis for healthcare purposes. Its two components (cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol) have strong pain-relieving properties. Its use may also improve lung health, help control epileptic seizures, and even stop cancer from spreading (Hill, 2015).
The rates of cannabis prescriptions have grown by 30% since 2010 (Hill, 2015). Thus, related policies have to solve the problems of drug abuse, age requirements, and production standards that are currently absent. As for practice, strategies must be developed to avoid negative health consequences and select proper dosing for each patient.
Compton, W. M., Han, B., Hughes, A., Jones, C. M., & Blanco, C. (2017). Use of marijuana for medical purposes among adults in the United States. Jama, 317(2), 209-211.
Hill, K. P. (2015). Medical marijuana for treatment of chronic pain and other medical and psychiatric problems: A clinical review. Jama, 313(24), 2474-2483.