How do pot's health effects differ when taken in ways other than smoking it?

(Valley News Live) - Recently, Valley News Live conducted a poll on how North Dakotans plan to vote in the upcoming election—and while most seem to be against recreational pot, some say it's the only way for those who really need it, to get it.

While we all know the effects of smoke are basically not good, we looked into the effects of taking marijuana in other ways: like in pill form, through food or even applying it topically to the skin.

We spoke with a naturopathic doctor in Fargo. Tonya Loken, of Spark Natural Health, tells us, as many already know, it can be helpful for pain relief; it also has useful sedative effects—and for some patients, it may be crucial in reducing seizures.

But we’re told the drug has plenty of adverse effects as well, regardless of how it enters the body.

“There's neurological impairment that happens,” Loken said, “and it can also slow down the brain, making people's reaction time different and everybody probably reacts a little differently too.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says pot can cause both short- and long-term problems to the brain: affecting attention, memory, learning and even emotions.

It also says ingesting marijuana could potentially be more harmful than smoking it, since it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours for someone ingesting pot to feel the effects. In this way, it could lead to unintentional poisoning from eating too much of the substance. In contrast, when smoking pot, effects can be felt within minutes.

According to research by the National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine, marijuana can also be useful for treating nausea and vomiting—but expectant mothers especially are warned that the psychoactive compounds in any form of pot can have harmful effects on their babies' development.

The substance can also be applied topically to reduce joint pain—but Dr. Loken cautions there could even be skin irritation connected to that. Plus the substance still enters the blood stream in that way, she says.

There's also vaping: Jay Westwater, physician and CEO of medical marijuana dispensary, Minnesota Medical Solutions, says vaping is a safer alternative than smoking, since cannabis is heated at lower temperatures. When smoking the plant, irritation from combustion caused by high temperatures occurs, along with burning tar and carcinogens.

Still, the effects mentioned from the actual plant—both good and bad—are also obtained from vaping.

For some with medical conditions, Loken says marijuana may be the best solution—especially when considering alternatives to the opioid crisis.

But both Loken, as well as Sanford Health say if you’re going to take it, it's best to get it prescribed by a doctor, where the strain and amount can be properly regulated by a professional.

Regarding that, Sanford issued the following statement:

“Sanford does not endorse or oppose the use of medical marijuana. The decision is up to each Sanford doctor and what they feel is medically best for patients. We base our discussions on medical research to ensure the best treatment options.”

Regarding its position on Measure 3, Sanford issued another statement:

“Sanford Health opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana is an addictive drug that can interfere with brain development and exacerbate mental health conditions including depression and thoughts of suicide. The risks of marijuana use have been demonstrated through clinical research, and the concerns about these health risks have been consistently voiced by national medical societies including American Medical Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

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