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MEDICAL CANNABIS FOR DRIVERS: WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

For most people using cannabis means taking drugs. Not all of us know that it people sometimes use it for medical purposes. Among those, who know about this, many people have prejudices against such kind of treatment. They are sure that people tend to practice upon the permission to buy this drug and usually tend to become a drug addict. Our society still has so many stereotypes (e.g., a couple of years ago any vaporizing device was thought to be a weed vape, and no one heard of a flower-compatible vaporizer, for example) and bias towards unusual things. As people consider marijuana to be extremely harmful and addictive, they cannot believe that others can use it for good purposes.

  • What actually is medical cannabis?

We may refer to marijuana as to medical treatment when we speak about using basic extracts of the plant to treat some symptoms, illnesses or some other conditions. The interesting fact is that FDA (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has not approved cannabis plant as medicine. On the other hand, there exist some medications, which contain cannabinoids (marijuana plant contain about 100 cannabinoids) in the form of a pill and is approved by FDA. To sum up, medical marijuana is some chemicals taken from the plant, which helps to solve some health problems.

  • So what are the characteristics of marijuana that allow us to use it for medical purposes?

Nowadays, scientists and medics have their interest in two types of cannabinoids. They are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Actually, people usually use THC to reduce nausea and increase appetite. In medicine, we use it also for decreasing pain, inflammation and for solving problems with muscle control. CBS, unlike THC, does not make people “high”. That is the reason why this drug is unpopular for recreational use because they are not intoxicating. However, it helps to reduce pain, inflammation, to treat some mental illness or addictions.

Recent studies showed that some cannabis extracts might kill cancer cells, especially if combined with some doses of radiation. Such researches are extremely popular nowadays because scientists wish to find new treatments for this severe disease.

  • What are the ways of consuming medical marijuana?

All of us know that there are different ways of taking usual medicines. You may take a pill, a cough syrup or have an injection, etc. If we talk about cannabis, you are the one, who choose how to take it. Although, it is important to remember that the method of taking it changes the way it works in your body. For instance, smoking or vaporizing will make you feel the effects of medical marijuana almost immediately. So, you can smoke it, inhale it through a device called a herb vaporizer or a weed vape pen, eat it as a health supplement, take a few drops of a special liquid orally.

  • How can the use of medical cannabis influence drivers?

There exist several methods of assessing driver impairment in simulation and on-road study environments. They are the standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP), time drove out of lane (TOL), reaction time (RT), break latency, and standard deviation of headway (SDH). The research by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found out that using weed vape with a specific THC dose has no serious effects on driving. They have measured this using SDH and SDLP.

New researches show that THC usage can badly influence your coordination, visual function, and attention. However, after having conducted several types of research using driving simulation, scientists cannot say, what exact impact marijuana has on drivers. These mixed results show that airplane pilots’ test performance was deteriorated even in 24 hours after taking medical cannabis. The other research showed that this deterioration continued only for about two and a half hours after the use of marijuana. The problem is that scientists do not mention the way of taking cannabis. The information about if they inhaled it through weed vaporizer or took as a pill lacks.

In addition, researches showed that marijuana-takers usually drive not so fast, they increase following distances and as a rule overestimate the level of their intoxication, which makes them trying to be more careful drivers. On the contrary, drunk people behave just the opposite. They often consider themselves soberer than they really are. Exciting information also it that if a person takes medical marijuana regularly, his/her body is intoxicated within 24 hours.

Moreover, some researchers say that if the amount of THC equals that of CBD, they cancel out, which makes no side effects. Although, nobody conduced such researches, which means this might not work with all human beings. The truth here is that if you put into your weed vaporizer only CBD marijuana, you would not receive any psychoactive effects. Usage of this type of cannabis is a way to participate in events, which require high cognitive functions. The other important thing is that the dangerous dose is extremely individual and can vary from person to person.

Having received these results, scientists and medics concluded that use of medical marijuana might compensate some lapses in attention by decreasing speed and more careful driving. However, there still exist some threats of accidents on the road because of the medical cannabis’s impact on human’s body and mental state. The major effect is that marijuana slows down the reaction of the driver and he might have problems with pulling out.

  • What is the conclusion?

Nowadays there is not enough scientific literature and researches to be sure about the effects of medical cannabis. This means that you can never be sure what happens if you drive after you have used your weed vape. Researches tend to delve into the possible impairments for drivers. Doctors recommend avoiding doing critical tasks such as driving after smoking cannabis for medical purposes, especially if you feel intoxicated or impaired.

Experts warn people from such driving and being conscious. They say to do it to protect not only your life but the lives of other people as well.

About the Author

Thanush Poulsen is a Danish columnist who investigates the area of drug use in the medicine.

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MEDICAL CANNABIS FOR DRIVERS: WHAT ARE THE RISKS?