Marijuana: Overview

A 2001 study showed that a lifetime of marijuana smoking was not associated with deficits in general intellectual function, abstraction ability, sustained attention, verbal fluency or ability to learn and recall new verbal and visuospatial information after one month of abstinence.  This was a controlled study of 180 volunteers including 63 heavy marijuana users (who had smoked cannabis at least 5,000 times in their lives), all smoking daily at the start of the study; 45 former heavy users who had smoked no more than 12 times in the previous three months; and 72 control subjects who had smoked no more than 50 times in their lives.  Recall of word lists was reduced in heavy users who smoked daily at entry into the study only during the first week of abstinence.  [Arch Gen Psychiatry 2001;58(10): pp.909-15]

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Any negative effect on IQ as a result of marijuana use may be temporary, as seen in the following study.  Current smoking of five or more marijuana joints per week (assessed by self-reporting and urinalysis) was associated with reduced global IQ scores in a study of 70 subjects 17-20 years old.  A negative effect was not observed among subjects who had previously been heavy users but were no longer using marijuana.  [CMAJ 2002;166(7): pp.887-93]

Marijuana smoking was, however, associated with an increased risk of depression in a study of 1,920 people with no symptoms of depression at the onset of the study who were reassessed approximately 15 years after baseline data was
collected.  [Am J Psychiatry 2001;158(12): pp.2033-37]

Withdrawal symptoms (marijuana craving, decreased appetite, sleep difficulty and weight loss) did occur in an assessment of 12 marijuana smokers on 16 consecutive days during which they smoked marijuana as usual (days 1-5), abstained from smoking marijuana (days 6-8), returned to smoking marijuana (days 9-13), and again abstained from smoking marijuana (days 14-16).  Aggression, anger, irritability, restlessness and strange dreams increased significantly only during one of the abstinence phases.  [Arch Gen Psychiatry 2001;58(10): pp.917-24]

Marijuana can help with the following:


IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)

There are quite a few people who use marijuana to control the symptoms of abdominal pain and nausea associated with irritable bowel syndrome.  Some make the claim that this helps more than any other thing they have tried.

Eyes / Ocular


High intraocular pressure causes damage to the optic nerve, which can lead to glaucoma.  Marijuana is being used to reduce intraocular pressure.  [Grinspoon, L., and Bakaler, J.B.  "Marijuana as Medicine." Journal of the American Medical Association 1995; 273(23): pp1875-76.]


Painful Menstruation (Dysmenorrhea)

Marijuana is being used to treat menstrual cramps.  [Grinspoon, L., and Bakaler, J.B.  "Marijuana as Medicine." Journal of the American Medical Association 1995; 273(23): pp1875-76.]


Low Melatonin Level

Marijuana significantly stimulates melatonin production.  Italian researchers found that eight men who smoked a cigarette containing THC (the active ingredient in marijuana), had dramatically higher melatonin levels twenty minutes later.  After two hours, their melatonin levels were 40 times higher than baseline.  [Lissoni, P., Resentini, M., and Fraschini, F.  "Effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol on Melatonin Secretion in Man." Hormone and Metabolic Research 1986; pp77-78.]

The fact that smoking marijuana is accompanied by a dramatic increase in melatonin production may explain some of the drug's other positive effects.



Marijuana is being used to moderate wasting syndrome in AIDS patients.  [Grinspoon, L., and Bakaler, J.B.  "Marijuana as Medicine." Journal of the American Medical Association 1995; 273(23): pp1875-76.]


Migraine/Tension Headaches

Marijuana is being used to treat migraines.  [Grinspoon, L., and Bakaler, J.B.  "Marijuana as Medicine." Journal of the American Medical Association 1995; 273(23): pp1875-76.]


Muscle Cramps / Twitching

Some people claim that cannabis is effective for relieving muscle spasms in general, not just those that result from multiple sclerosis or paralysis.  A book is available on the Internet about this subject called Muscle Spasm, Pain & Marijuana Therapy: Testimony from Federal and State Court Proceedings on Marijuana's Medical Use edited by R.C.  Randall.

Tod Mikuriya, M.D.  describes his clinical experiences with different kinds of spasms in Marijuana Medical Handbook.  Overall, his report is favorable with regard to the benefits seen when treating muscle spasms.

Nervous System

Unresolved Chronic Pain

Marijuana is being used to minimize pain.  [Grinspoon, L., and Bakaler, J.B.  "Marijuana as Medicine." Journal of the American Medical Association 1995; 273(23): pp1875-76.]

Tourette's Syndrome

A single 5-10mg dose of a compound extracted from marijuana (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, D9-THC) improved tics and obsessive-compulsive behavior in a well-designed study of 12 adults with Tourette's syndrome.  Only mild transient side-effects were observed in some patients.  [Pharmacopsychiatry 2002;35(2): pp.57-61]

Seizure Disorder

October 5th, 2003: Researchers from the Max-Planck Institut in Munich, Germany, have found that natural brain chemicals which resemble cannabis extracts can interrupt a process which can trigger a seizure.  There have been trials of cannabis compounds in MS and cancer patients, as well as reports dating back to the 15th century of the use of cannabis to ease the symptoms of epilepsy.  However, there have been few organized trials in humans in recent years, even though cannabis or its extracts are being evaluated in trials against several other illness.

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Marijuana can help prevent the following:


Not recommended for
Coronary Disease / Heart Attack

The risk of a heart attack jumps nearly five-fold during the first hour after smoking marijuana, posing a particular threat to middle-aged users of the drug, according to a study in 2001.  Starting in the third hour after smoking marijuana, no significant risk rise was documented.

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May be useful: may help with
May be useful:
may help with
Moderately useful: often helps with
Moderately useful:
often helps with
Often counterindicated: often INCREASES risk of
Often counterindicated:
often INCREASES risk of