Medical marijuana is a hot topic nowadays. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party is playing peekaboo with the possibility of legalizing marijuana and certainly helping grow the number of “medical” marijuana dispensaries throughout the country.
One look at social media and google and you get thousands of messages about the miracle healing capacity of Cannabis Sativa. It appears there is nothing a little pot won’t cure. Claims range from pain relief to cancer prevention. Remarkable!
My question is, are these claims true? Or are they a good dose of wishful thinking to help make the bitter pill of legalizing drugs taste better?
First, you have to realize that less than 7% of all studies done on marijuana are researching its medicinal purposes. This is probably due to the fact that most marijuana research is funded by government agencies and these tend to relate to drugs in a negative sense. Government has a vested interest in understanding the negative effects of drugs in order to treat addicts and form drug use prevention methods. Pro marijuana advocates will say that the big pharmaceutical companies and the government are both invested in the continued ban of legal marijuana and so will continue to only look in the negative direction and downplay positive research.
Is this true?
In part, I would agree that a large amount of research done by medical schools and even universities are funded by drug companies. And these companies have much less interest in finding natural cures than they do in validating synthetic drugs as the core of health care. Furthermore, there are a growing number of areas in which our culture is becoming aware of the plethora of natural cures available that Big Pharma drugs are not able to out-perform. Natural alternatives to anxiety, depression, blood pressure issues, pain management, etc are emerging as we better understand nutrition, exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy as well as other natural remedies. And if you delve into the realm of anecdotal evidence (both in your circle of friends and online) you will run into some convincing cases in which a marijuana compound was found more effective than a pharmaceutical alternative. I have not problems with the notion of finding natural alternatives to health issues, even in the Cannabis Sativa plant.
But how confident can we be that marijuana has very strong medical benefits? And are there any side effects worth knowing about?
For thousands of years mankind has used both Cannabis Sativa and the poppy seed for its felt effects. In regards to poppy seeds, they have long been known to help induce sleep. Likewise, cannabis has been known for the intoxicating effects of its most famous cannibinoid compound: THC. For at least the past 5,000 years, humans have known how to extract opium from poppy seeds. And since 1804, we have known how to extract morphine from the poppy seed as well. To this day, morphine continues to be our most potent pain killer. And it is a completely natural extract. My point? Poppy seeds have a very specific medical use that works universally: pain killing. No one can doubt or disprove this. There is no need to hunt through conflicting anecdotal and peer reviewed accounts to see what (if any) are the medically useful aspects of poppy seeds. In contrast, even though we have been experimenting with cannabis for as long as we have been with poppy seeds, we know of only two universal effects that come from marijuana: intoxication and appetite stimulation.
Since at least the 1980’s, hospitals have been giving synthetic THC to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy because of its remarkable ability to stimulate appetite even in extreme circumstances. But the effectiveness of marijuana for the entire host of claims made online remain tenable and less than solidly proven. There are hundreds of cannabinoid compounds in marijuana, THC is only one of them (and the only real psychoactive one). Cannabidiol is another of these and it has little to no intoxicating effects, making it less controversial. Cannabidiol has been touted mainly as an anti-psychotic and anti-convulsant. Yet its effects are nowhere near universally true (in contrast to morphine) or even very repeatable. Some studies have shown some value in cannabidiol for sleep inducement as well as pain killing and muscle relaxants for Multiple Sclerosis and epileptic patients. But the strength of the evidence is not overwhelming at this point. More time is needed because studies have gone in both directions. Cannabis simply does not have a singular, universal medical value that can be proved conclusively.
As for THC, it does indeed decrease fluid pressure inside the eyes and so will relieve glaucoma symptoms. But the effects only last a short while and because THC is psychoactive, intoxication co-exists with the effects, making it unlikely to be safe or helpful for people who have to go to work with their glaucoma medication. To be under the effects of THC all day is not a recommended lifestyle. Especially when safe, non-intoxicating and long lasting drugs do exist for glaucoma sufferers. THC also dilates the small airways in the lungs, bringing relief to those with asthma, COPD and other chronic lung conditions. Again, this effect is short lived and comes with intoxication and alternative exist in both the natural and pharmaceutical realms.
All in all, the effects of marijuana on a variety of medical conditions is not cut and dry. Even when positive studies are found, they are not very strong and often you will find other studies that failed to replicate the findings. However, if an individual is finding success with a cannabinoid compound, I am not against its use. I support the right for doctors to oversee and prescribe a variety of cannabinoids (often with little to no THC) in the few cases in which better alternatives do not seem to exist. I don’t see, however, how wholesale legalization has to come hand in hand with the few cases in which genuine medical marijuana usage can be rationalized. It is also curious that it is mainly the psychoactive THC that gets most of the attention from medical marijuana activists. Could it be because it is marijuana’s main intoxicant? And that rationalizing its use would excuse chronic intoxication? Maybe. Just maybe.
Before closing this brief article, I have to speak about the negative side effects of THC and marijuana.Since the 1980’s, the percentage – by weight – of marijuana that is THC has arisen in the United States from an average 3% to approximately 12%. This has not occurred naturally but is the result of synthetically manipulating the strains. Much the same way men have bred animals and plants over the centuries. Obviously, the main drive for increasing THC concentration is to maximize intoxication in chronic users who are now desensitized to former dosages. This phenomenon occurs with all artificial intoxicants. And the 12% figure is an average in the U.S., not worldwide. Some strains have been found to be as high as 35% THC by weight. A staggering dosage that is not in the least naturally occurring.
With the rise of THC percentages in recreational marijuana we have seen a rise in the ill effects of this drug. The most susceptible — as is always the case — are youths. Studies in both the U.S.1 and Canada2 have shown — with functional MRI’s, blood work, psychological evaluations, brain mapping and sociological research — that a developing brain exposed to marijuana use well before the age of 17 is at risk of cognitive, mood and behavioural disorders. Further, the higher the usage, the lower the youth’s chances are of attaining financial health and independence in adult life. Chronic early use is needed to truly trigger serious disorders but the risks are still ominous. Considering the growing push to render marijuana use socially acceptable combined with the sharp rise in THC concentrations it should be no wonder that health care facilities are reporting more and more issues with adolescent and young adult marijuana use.
Proponents of marijuana legalization will say that alcohol is also a drug and that it causes more carnage in our culture than marijuana. Both claims are true. However, alcohol use is much, much higher than marijuana use. Partly because it is legal and mostly because it is culturally acceptable. If marijuana use reached the same levels of use in North America the societal ills caused by this drug would not diminish, they would only grow exponentially. Unleashing another negative substance on our youth and culture is not an improvement by any means. I cannot comprehend this version of the pro-legalization argument.
Remember that alcohol can be used in moderation. A glass or two of wine can even be beneficial in every way to your health with zero side effects. It is much harder to use marijuana without intoxication or side effects unless you strip it of its psychoactive compounds (which I do not see any medical marijuana dispensaries doing as this would most likely curb sales downward). And before singing the praises of local dispensaries, realize that a Journal of American Medical Association study, John Hopkins Medicine study as well as a Globe and Mail investigation found that the labels on pot products from such stores were grossly inaccurate. Shedding a poor light on the ability of such outlets to regulate the quality and safety of their drugs. Considering the negative side effects of THC and the shakily established “medicinal” value of Cannabis Sativa, pushing for nation-wide legalized marijuana on every street corner – a la neighbourhood liquor store — seems to be a thinly veiled attempt at plainly and simply legalizing an intoxicant for the pleasurable effects it produces. Arguments can be made as to the economic consequences of legalizing pot, yet this is a different argument than the medicinal one.
All things considered we have pain-killer drug addictions and alcoholism rates on the increase so why should we legalize yet another intoxicant on our future generations? For those who truly derive benefits from cannabinoid compounds, let hospitals monitor and administer dosages such as they do with the all natural morphine and other opioids. In my honest opinion, at this juncture, any other call to wholesale legalization is not supportable by hard clinical science. It would also dangerously fool youth into sinking into potentially life altering disorders if they follow the pied piper down the unrestrained use of a drug that is now getting a make over as “super healing compound.”
Be wise. Be prudent. Be informed.
I love goal setting. Yet in the past, I set too many goals with too many deadlines. I started on a lot of journeys that did not end where they were supposed to. So I refined my goal setting methods.
One thing I tossed out was the big deadline. This is that “etched into stone” date at which you want something completed. I see this as the biggest motivation killer. What happens if you get sick? Or injured? Or have a family or personal crisis? Have a goal in mind for your journey, but do not add a set date.
Instead, make a weekly routine up that is broken down into daily tasks. Make them reasonable. For example, if your goal is to increase hip flexibility and the amount of weight you can squat, start small.
Then, every time you squat, add either 1 rep, or 2.5 lbs per side (5 overall). Usually do both, back and forth. If you hit the wall, don’t add anything for two or more weeks, just keep squatting without going backwards on your reps or weight. Slowly add 30 seconds here and there to your stretching.
Off you go on a slow but risk-free and fully realistic journey towards constant improvement.
People often over shoot their goal setting and force unrealistic changes onto their lives. Life does not work this way. Change has to be gradual but constant. So slowing down the demands actually increases the speed of results. If you are driving a car and you want to make a 90 degree turn, you cannot go immediately to a 90 degree without turning the wheels 1, 2, 3… 10… 25… 75 degrees and so on. Life is about increments, not instantaneous results.
If you can introduce a slow, flexible, daily routine towards improved performance, you will successfully change your long term life style towards your goals. Whether they be financial, relational or health oriented.
Dream big, act small. Get there!
If you’re a professional or amateur athlete, or you’re just a fitness fanatic, you may want to consider resting more…
Over-training is a phenomenon that is becoming better understood. Many enthusiastic athletes forget to listen to their body as they pursue excellence. But this will serve to decrease performance in the long run, not improve it. Many fitness participants follow gruelling schedules and push themselves hard. If you are in the category of people who train regularly you will want to realize when over training begins to set in and you’ll also want to adopt a “smart rest” program as part of your training.
The first goal of being well rested and therefore in peek performance condition is to ensure you are not already in the state of over-training. Here are the most obvious signs of this condition:
- often getting ill/sick
- low mood, feeling depressed
- low motivation
- trouble sleeping despite feeling exhausted
- chronic fatigue
- injured often
- constant thirst
- performance decreasing even though training harder
- a resting heart rate (first thing in morning before getting out of bed) that is faster than normal for you
If you have 4 or more of the above (especially the resting heart rate), you qualify as being over-trained. It’s high time to take some time off. A solid 3 weeks of no exercise followed by one or two weeks of very low intensity, part time exercise will do you much good. Then head into a 2 week period of moderate exercise and then finally, take another full week off.
Be warned, if you are drastically over trained however, it could take several weeks — even a few months — to recuperate. Which is why you want to listen for the beginning signs of over training and not the drastic symptoms.
If you are not over trained (have less than 4 — or none — of the above symptoms) you will want to incorporate “smart rest” techniques to ensure you never get over trained.
What is Smart Rest?
Very simply put, smart rest is pro-active breaks in your training that allows your body to recuperate before you ever go near the over training zone. As we train hard, week in and week out, our multiple body systems can start to fall behind in recovery. This can be our nervous system, our psychological state, our immune system or our musculoskeletal system. Depending on what other stresses are going on in our lives and how well nourished we are, any one of those systems can start lagging behind and cause over training to set in. By pro-actively resting before anything falls far behind, we are protecting ourselves from over training.
How Do I Implement Smart Rest?
Once every 6 to 10 weeks (you decide by listening in on how your body and mind are feeling), take an entire week off training. During this time, you can go for walks, but no exercise. None. You will want to push the fluids more than usual during your week of rest and you will want to stay away from alcohol and high sugar foods. Nutrition, hydration and rest are the antidotes to over training. Make sure you are going to bed early and on time during this week of rest.
Not only will smart rest prevent over training but it keeps your body and mind working at their peek. This will prevent mental burnout as well as injury. Remember, you are not to wait until you are starting to over train to implement smart rest, you are supposed to inject one full week of rest once every 6 to 10 weeks regardless of how well you feel. This is what maintenance looks like. You are building a fence at the top of the hill instead of having an ambulance at the bottom.
Try it out and see for yourself the benefits of smart rest!
Athletes pay big bucks to go into hyperbaric oxygen tanks and essentially give their bodies oxygen baths. With the increase in atmospheric pressure and a pure injection of oxygen, the body’s tissues (muscles, organs, nervous system) get a hyper-dose of O2 which increases the rate and depth of healing and repair. In fact, stroke victims are being placed through a series of hyperbaric oxygen tank treatments to create an increase in healing of the affected brain areas. As great as this is, many folks cannot afford regular hyperbaric treatments. Luckily, there is a natural alternative.
Although not as intensive as hyperbaric treatments, this natural hyper-oxygenation method is risk-free and can be done anywhere, any time. It is simply the art of concentrated deep breathing. Essentially it consists of reaching a state of near hyper ventilation by repetitive deep breathing for a prolonged period of time.
Studies have shown that deep breathing not only gives an increased dose of oxygen to the brain and body tissues, but it ignites the body’s “relaxation response.” This response is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system and does the opposite of the stress response (controlled by our sympathetic system). Stress tends to constrict capillaries and shorten our breaths, resulting in hypo-ventilation. So it may be time to incorporate deep breathing to not only enrich your brain, but relax it as well.
It can be done daily or every two days. Try and avoid doing this on a full stomach. Find a quiet, relaxing area, preferably where there is fresh air. Sit or lay down, whatever is comfortable. Begin taking deep breaths. You’ll want to adhere to the following basic rules:
- fill stomach up first, then chest
- breathe slowly, at least 2 to 3 seconds inhalation, hold for 1 second then release for 2 to 3 seconds
- do at least 15 breathes in this manner
As you get comfortable deep breathing, you can adjust it to your liking. Some people like taking 5 or more seconds to inhale. There is no right or wrong, as long as you follow the basic guidelines above.
Personally, I enjoy deep breathing outdoors as the air is much more fresh. Don’t be surprised if you feel the tips of your fingers or toes tingling once you’ve completed several breathes, this is one side effect to hyper oxygenation. If you are light headed or nauseous, you may want to pause momentarily.
Regular deep breathing is beneficial for anyone. It helps counter stress. It helps athletes decrease recovery time. It is not as popular as regular exercise and good nutrition, but it is a highly recommended health habit.
Reading can make your brain more fit. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia used functional MRI’s to see how reading affects brains. They found that engaging in a good book will fire up not only the language centres of the brain but the sensory areas as well. And it will stay activated as an “afterburn” for up to a day or more afterwards. Sensory activation was an unexpected outcome and the conclusion was that the imagination mimics what the brain is reading. So if you’re reading a high action adventure, your brain “feels” what the character is doing and you are vicariously living through the book.
Research conducted in 2009 at Mindlab International at the University of Sussex showed that reading relaxes the body and brain faster than listening to soothing music. Other research has pointed to reading as one of the key activities that can help stave off Alzheimer’s and senile dementia.
A common phenomenon in our culture is to gather our information from audio/visual mediums. In an age of the internet and massive repositories of videos (e.g.: Youtube) people are reading less and less. Screen time is replacing study time.
Unfortunately, passively gathering information from audio/visual sources does not work the brain as well. In fact, it places it in a state that is less active than sleep. It is essentially a brain-numbing activity.
Furthermore, research is showing that screen time in bed works against good sleep. Staring into a light source actually tricks the body’s circadian rhythm into believing it’s time to wake up, so your brain is being woken up just when you should be winding it down. Reading at bedtime will expose your true fatigue and will put you to sleep at the appropriate time and will not disturb your sleep.
Reading also is known to stimulate creativity and memory skills. Not to mention getting all the overall cognitive improvements that result when you regularly give your brain a workout.
Whether you love fiction or non-fiction (or both) adding a good 15 to 30 minutes of reading into your day can have a powerful impact on your mental health.
One of the hallmarks of childhood is how much darn fun we have. Unfortunately, many of us lose this capacity as we grow into adulthood. Although some things are childish and should not follow us into later life, some things kids do are pretty darn smart. Laughing a lot is one of them.
Evidence continues to pile up showing the multifaceted way in which laughter improves our health. Here is a short list:
– increases oxygen intake (which stimulates the brain and other internal organs)
– stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the “feel good” and anti-stress nerve centre)
– boosts immune system function
– increases your pain threshold
– boosts moods
You don’t need to laugh all day. Try taking time 4 or 5 times a day to see, read or think of something funny. This builds up and probably gives you 15 to 20 minutes of solid laughter each day.
If stress has built up beyond a certain point, you may find it hard to relax and have fun. Fortunately, this can be worked at (like anything else). Make time in your day when you do things you enjoy (or used to enjoy). Regardless of whether or not you get a huge kick out of these, just practice doing something other than work and worry.
Stay away from the 24-hour News Cycle. It only reports on the most horrid atrocities and with the most stressful angle. News websites and channels are taping into your stress centers and getting you hooked on bad vibes. Take one or two months off the news. Seriously, try it!
Read more and read light hearted books. Sometimes reading classic children’s literature is the best antidote to being too “grown up.” There is much wisdom in classic books.
Work at thinking positively, hanging out with people more and maybe engage in activities that make you laugh (charades, goofy party games, etc).
It’s never too late to rediscover the healthier things in life. Relationships, fun, laughter and good vibes. Our world is made up of both good and bad events. Whichever you focus on the most will predominate your life.
Best of luck!
If you are a human living on earth, chances are you have a social media account. Whether it be facebook, twitter, pinterest or any of the hundreds of options available, people are “connecting” through this digital medium.
Therefore, with so much “connecting” going on we should all be very happy and loneliness should be on its way to extinction, right?..
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The data has come in and it appears our social ills have only been increased due to compulsive internet use, including social media. An article from the CyberPsychology & Behaviour magazine by PhD psychologists Kim, LaRose and Peng showed that those turning to the internet to fill a social and emtional void were only further disconnected from true human relationship.
For many of us who were born in the early 80’s or earlier, a world without social media is easy to imagine. A time when contact was real and organic. In contrast, modern concepts of human connectedness are — for the first time in human history — composed almost as much by digital “relationships” as they are by real human contact.
Combine this trend with the affordable nature of mobile devices and the near omnipresence of Wi Fi connections and you can see how we have been transformed into homo sapien digitalis. When I go to the grocery store or to the bank, I hardly ever see anyone stuck in line that will turn and start conversing. They used to. Nowadays, most everyone is looking down at a mobile device if they are at a bus stop, in a line up or even at the park while their kids are playing. I’ve even seen a couple at a restaurant texting away and ignoring each other!
After more than a decade of heavy social media use, it appears that we’ve come full circle and must realize that there is no replacing true human contact. The superficial nature of online relationships are millions of miles removed from the real touch of actual human social connection. Soul to soul. Not IP address to IP address.
Third world countries who live with much less technology have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Although there are many reasons for this statistics, one thing is certain: they are forced to live more authentically then most Westerners because they deal with people all day, not avatars and internet trolls. The average third world resident’s day includes human contact that is comprised of actual human relationship and has nearly zero time spent in cyber-relationships.
I’m not advocated the annihilation of social media, but a much more restricted use of it.
A University of Waterloo self-administered test can be used to evaluate whether or not your are spending too much time “connecting” through your computer or mobile device. Although determining this will be more of an art than a science.
Perhaps another way to gauge your social media usage is to ask yourself how many of your social media usage is for business or for pleasure. It is inevitable to be hooked into online business connections. It is the new phone book. But it may be unhealthy to use it too much for personal emotional voids. I’ve recently asked myself how many of my “friends” on social media would actually take time to help me physically if I had an urgent need such as moving or renovating my house hold. The list is probably MUCH smaller than the hundreds of names on my facebook friends’ list. Just food for thought.
Sitting down at dinner and talking to your loved ones, reading books instead of status updates and playing with your children, friends and family is the only true “social media” and it has been practiced happily for thousands of years. Perhaps its time to lean a little away from the internet and back into reality…
I work in an exercise rehabilitation clinic and prescribe hundreds of different types of exercises.
I believe in exercise.
Yet I am surprised at how few adults in our society continue to play their favourite sport once they hit their 30’s and beyond. Usually, once the demands of family and work set in, they turn to mechanical treadmill and dumbbell routines. Fitness has officially become a “must do” and not a “I wanna do!” This is highly unfortunate and in the long term promotes increasing sedentary lifestyles.
One simple alternative is to play a sport as part of your fitness approach. There is far less routine in an individual or team sport than in a repetitive gym routine. Further, sports tend to use the body in a safer and more natural manner than many exercise machines and heavy weight workouts do. And they almost inevitably work the core muscles much more than most people’s weight lifting or cardio routine.
Everyone who already plays a sport should add sport-specific exercises to improve their performance.
That’s what the pros do. Yet most people who are not professional athletes usually do not see playing sports as a legitimate means of getting or staying fit.
Having thought about this, I’ve concluded that people assume they can go “all out” in the gym, but unless they are professionals,
there are no “all out” avenues for them in their beloved sport. Thankfully, this is is false.
With a 5 minute phone call to your local rec centre or YMCA, you will be shocked at how much friendly competition is available for the average joe.
I feel that because competition is missing from many individuals’ fitness lifestyle so is the natural motivation to do better and better. If you are willing to compete at something, the psychological and physical rewards increase tremendously. And please don’t get me wrong. I know how life can get crazy busy. You don’t have to join a league that comes with fees and a tight practice schedule, etc, etc.
But you can join rec leagues that allow you to jump in and compete any time you are free.
My wife and I are raising and homeschooling 4 young children. I have my own practice and am involved at church. Yet 4 times per week my wife attends the YMCA and does a lot of TRX group classes. This group factor is an indirect but real form of competition. It is as much competition as she wants and so she thrives on it. It pushes her harder than solo workouts.
I have fallen in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I train under Adam Zugec at ZUMA. Whenever I show up I have the opportunity of getting friendly competition. The competitive element keeps my mind focused, gets me off my worries and I workout harder than I otherwise would without even noticing it!
Whether it is swimming, racquet ball, tennis, hockey or a running group, the social and physical benefits of a group or competitive environment is available for the non-professional athletes. I highly recommend it.
“A walk a day keeps Alzheimer’s away!”
A recent study by the Edinburgh University showed that people over 70 who walked during the week had less brain shrinkage then those who were sedentary. Researchers followed nearly 700 people for 3 years, performing before-and-after brain MRI’s to determine their findings.
The study also claimed that reading books or doing crossword puzzles does not seem to help as much as regular, non-strenuous exercise.
Seniors who walked during the week had less damage to the inner part of the brain (i.e.: the white matter) and they had more outer brain (i.e.: gray matter).
So it appears you can increase your brain size with even a mild form of regular exercise.
A Harvard Medical School article stated that a review of literature on depression examined evidence going back to 1981 and concluded that in younger and older patients with depression, regular walking was an effective treatment for emotional problems.
It appears something even as simple as daily walks can significantly enhance mental and emotional well being.
If you are simply starting out with an exercise program, walking 3 to 5 days per week is enough to see a boost in your brain’s health.
As time goes on, a good idea is to diversify your activities. Joining a local recreation centre offers access to swimming, weight lifting and other fitness activities. This keeps you interested and it keeps your brain and body adapting to new acitivities. Which increases the degree to which your brain grows and benefits from an active lifestyle.
So you see, it’s easy to make your brain healthy and stave off unwanted ailments!
Get out there and enjoy a nice walk today.