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Medical marijuana can be effective. But smoking it isn’t and could harm your health, experts warn

VANCOUVER — Not all medicinal marijuana is created equal. That’s what some experts are saying as they warn about the health risks and curtailed effectiveness associated with smoking medicine.

As medical pot becomes increasingly mainstream and Canada moves toward legalizing the substance, health experts are emphasizing the need for doctors and patients to consider the sometimes serious side effects linked to the various ways of consuming the drug.

Paul Farnan, an addictions specialist at the University of British Columbia, likened a recommendation to smoke medicinal marijuana to a doctor handing out a prescription to light up an opium pipe.

“We know there’s something in opium that helps pain, and we’re able to pharmaceutically develop morphine and other analgesics, but we wouldn’t say to people, ‘You have pain? Why don’t you smoke opium?’ ” he said.

“We’re kind of saying to people, ‘We think there’s some stuff that cannabinoids will be helpful for. Why don’t you just smoke cannabis?’ First of all, cannabis is actually a really dangerous thing for your lungs.”

Mikhail Kogan, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said he sees no reason for people to smoke marijuana medically anymore.

Rectally is actually a lot more preferred because of the volume of absorption

It’s difficult to absorb enough of the drug through the lungs, and gastric acids interfere when someone eats it, he said, adding that it’s more effective to take the drug by other means, such as under the tongue.

“Rectally is actually a lot more preferred because of the volume of absorption. You can put a lot more and it gets absorbed a lot better, but not everybody is open to this way of administration,” Kogan said.

“We have so many other products now, so many modes of delivery, that smoking in my opinion is very archaic and has very little clinical applicability,” he added.

Mike DiBattista/Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network

“Having said that, I think that probably the majority of people still smoke because it’s the most available method.”

Health Canada officially recommends against smoking marijuana.

“Many of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke are also found in cannabis smoke,” reads its website.

The Canadian Medical Association has no formal position on the consumption of medicinal pot, but it officially opposes the inhalation of any burned plant material.

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What is a Sativa?

Sativa strains of medicinal marijuana are usually uplifting and stimulating. If you’ve ever smoked or ingested cannabis that makes everything funny and puts you in a great mood, it was probably from a Sativa strain. It creates a feeling of comfort, non-drowsy, and usually introspective highs. The effects of smoking or ingesting a Sativa makes them particularly popular among artists and creatives. The most popular medicinal benefits range from treating mental and behavioral problems, to treating depression, stress and ADHD.

What is an Indica?

The major difference between Sativa’s and Indica’s is while a Sativa can make you feel alert, active, and aware, an Indica will have a relaxing feel on the body. The physical effects of an Indica strain commonly include a drowsy and mellow mood with stress and pain relief. Indica’s are one of the more suggested strains when using it for medicinal purposes as it effectively treats sleeping disorders such as insomnia, fibromyalgia, body aches and pains. Indica’s are also commonly used for treating Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Fibromyalgia and Lupus

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The benefits to smoking or ingesting a Hybrid strain are simply as follows. Hybrid’s offer the best of both worlds combining several qualities of each containing strain. Some Hybrid’s are Indica dominant, which will offer pain relief and / or mellow mood, however may contain up to 50% Sativa so it will not make you too drowsy. Other’s may offer a Sativa dominant strain, which will encompass several calming benefits and pain relief, but also give a mellow, yet energetic high.

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