The cannabis plant has been used for a large number of things for thousands of years. From clothing, to weapons to food and recreation, the plant has a wide range of uses.
However, nowadays it’s cannabis’ recreational and medical uses which generate the most interest- but what’s the difference between recreational and medical cannabis? Let’s take a look.
What is Recreational Cannabis?
Recreational cannabis- also known as weed, pot, dope and grass- is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK, with over 10 million people aged 16 to 64 having tried the drug at least once in their lifetime.
Recreational weed refers to cannabis used for enjoyment rather than for health benefits. People smoke weed for the high caused by the psychoactive compound THC, which can produce feelings of happiness, relaxation and sleepiness.
What is Medicinal Cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis is a broad term used to describe any sort of cannabis-based medicinal product that relieves symptoms of physical and mental issues.
Very few people in England are likely to receive a prescription for medicinal cannabis as it is currently only prescribed for very severe cases of the following conditions:
- Children and adults with rare, severe forms of epilepsy
- Adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy
- People with muscle stiffness and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS)
It would only ever be prescribed as a last resort when other treatments aren’t suitable or haven’t been effective.
Most medicinal cannabis treatments don’t contain THC, the chemical that causes a high, and any that do contain a carefully regulated amount as the long term effects of THC aren’t currently clear.
Instead, the majority of medical cannabis products just contain CBD, which has no psychoactive effect but can help manage conditions such as chronic pain, PTSD and epilepsy.
The main risks associated with THC cannabis products are:
- Psychosis – there is evidence to suggest that regular use of cannabis containing THC can increase the risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia.
According to the NHS, smoking cannabis increases the risk of developing mental health problems such as schizophrenia, with those who used cannabis over 50 times before the age of 18 becoming three times more likely to develop schizophrenia around the age of 45.
- Dependency on the medicine – It is possible for users of cannabis containing THC to become both physically and emotionally dependent on the drug over time.
This is caused by the brain’s reward circuit adapting to the supply of THC and developing a tolerance to it over time, meaning the brain must readjust back when the supply is stopped, resulting in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
However, scientists believe that when THC products are controlled and monitored by a doctor, the risk of dependency is low.
What is the Difference between Recreational and Medicinal Cannabis?
Medicinal cannabis is GMP certified, ensuring the highest quality with a known composition and potency of THC:CBD.
Additionally, the regulation and licensing of cannabis-based medicinal products in the UK is carried out by the Home Office Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines & Healthcare Regulatory Agency.
Cannabis bought on the street or from an unlicensed provider for other purposes such as recreational use is not regulated and the composition and potency of THC:CBD is usually unknown.
In addition, unregulated cannabis may contain harmful contaminants e.g. heavy metal, pesticides and mould as many dealers lack care for the consumer and only care for the money.
Is Recreational Cannabis Safe?
It is a common misconception that cannabis is a completely safe substance to use. As we’ve just mentioned, there is no guarantee that recreational cannabis purchased by a dealer is safe to consume as you cannot be sure what is in it. Even self-grown cannabis poses a potential threat to your health because of the risks associated with THC.
Cannabis use in excess has been linked with other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and paranoia, especially for those who are more genetically vulnerable i.e. have a family history of poor mental health.
For many, the short-lived pleasant feelings of a quick high aren’t worth the long-term risks of psychosis or disabling disorders such as schizophrenia.
It’s also worth noting that not everybody experiences a positive response to recreational marijuana. It’s not uncommon for people to experience the following side effects:
- Inhibited motor skills (making driving more dangerous)
- Lowered inhibitions (leading to poor decision making)
- Irritated and inflamed lungs from the smoke
- Greater risk of stroke or heart attack through increased heart rate
Getting the Right Kind of Help for a Cannabis Addiction
If you are worried that you or someone you know may be addicted to cannabis, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Acquiesce today for a free consultation to discuss the recovery options available to you.
For more of the latest addiction information and advice, check out our handy addiction advice guides.