The federal government places marijuana in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Schedule I illegal substances have a high potential for abuse and offer no currently accepted medicinal use. For decades this federal designation has made it challenging for legitimate researchers to conduct studies on the potential benefits of the numerous compounds found in cannabis. However, as more states move to legalize cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes, researchers are beginning to uncover even more potential benefits locked inside the unique substances found in cannabis plants.
Recently, two studies revealed more possible health benefits associated with marijuana use in adults. These studies are adding to the growing body of research that suggests, contrary to its federal classification, that marijuana may have several physical, mental, and even financial benefits.
New Study Finds Marijuana Use May Decrease Likelihood of Developing Type 2 Diabetes
One new study claims that people who use marijuana may be half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Researchers at the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences in Iran are using previous studies to examine the impact of marijuana use on glucose regulation and insulin secretion in the human body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 37 million Americans have diabetes. 90 to 95 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a life-long medical condition and has no cure. However, individuals can manage the condition with medication, diet, and exercise.
Type 2 diabetes is a severe medical condition that disrupts how the body regulates and uses glucose, also called sugar, for fuel. The development of type 2 diabetes occurs because of two fundamental problems. The first problem is that cells do not respond normally to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps regulate glucose’s movement into cells. When cells can’t take in enough sugar and don’t respond well to insulin, the body can develop insulin resistance. The second issue for those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is that the pancreas starts to produce more and more insulin attempting to get cells to respond. Eventually, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable and healthy.
Over time, type 2 diabetes can have devastating consequences on the body, especially if left untreated. Type 2 diabetes can cause heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, vision problems, hearing impairment, and impact the immune system, slowing healing time. It may also increase a person’s risk of developing dementia later in life.
Researchers in Iran suggest that studies indicate marijuana may provide a protective effect and lower the odds of developing the condition. How? There is still debate on the mechanisms at play that may be responsible for lowering a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It may be because cannabis consumption affects metabolism, glucose regulation, and insulin secretion.
Despite the famous “lazy stoner” stereotype, previous studies have also found that states that legalized marijuana use have seen decreased levels of obesity. Studies also hint that the average marijuana user has a slimmer waistline than non-users. There is a sizeable link between obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes.
Study Indicates that Marijuana Could Be Good for Your Financial Health
Another newly released study seems to suggest that marijuana use may also be healthy for your wallet. The study from the International Journal of Drug Policy finds that states with legal, medical marijuana programs have seen significant reductions in health insurance premiums compared to states where cannabis remains illegal.
The team reviewed decades’ worth of private health insurance data and noticed a correlation between the implementation of medical cannabis laws and dramatic drops in insurance premiums. However, the drops were not immediate. Significant reductions took seven to nine years in some cases, but the decline was stable over time. Annual health insurance premiums fell $1,663 compared to states in the control group after seven years. The study also found that both cannabis users and non-users appreciated the decrease in premiums.
These findings are significant for multiple reasons. First, it is evidence that undermines the argument that legalization would steadily drive-up healthcare costs, eventually leading to higher premiums. It may also help substantiate claims that medicinal marijuana can help mitigate the need for expensive and addictive pain-control drugs and other treatments. Not only does marijuana have potential physical and mental health benefits, but it may also provide individuals, insurance companies, and states with financial benefits.
The new research helps bolster previous research indicating that states with medical marijuana programs have significantly lower rates of prescribed opioids and that medical marijuana availability may help reduce opioid demand and addiction. Additional studies show that states with legalized medicinal marijuana programs also see reduced opioid use by cancer patients. Overall, medicinal cannabis may be a legitimate treatment option for those with severe medical conditions and may also lower healthcare costs and premiums for these and other patients when used as an alternative to more expensive prescription drugs and treatments.
Both new studies highlight the importance of further scientific research into the potential health and economic benefits of medicinal and recreational marijuana consumption. Researchers in the United States have long faced barriers to legitimate medical and scientific research because of the federal status of marijuana as a Schedule I illegal substance. Those wishing to participate in marijuana research must navigate a complex labyrinth of review processes that can involve federal organizations like the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and institutional review boards. That’s not to mention the challenges posed by funding and limited resources.
As states increasingly move toward legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, there is new life in funding initiatives and scientific research projects. Many hope that further progress in the legalization arena and scientific framework can help unlock cannabis’s powerful medicinal secrets.