Is consuming cannabis safe for everybody? Are there other plants that could get us high?
These and many other cannabis-related questions were discussed in an episode Hybrid Cosmic Queries, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s podcast StarTalk Sports Edition. Astrophysicist, author and planetary scientist spoke with Harvard University neuroscientist Staci Gruber, director of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core and Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND). Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry, is known for researching the effects of marijuana on the brain by using neurocognitive, clinical and diagnostic assessments. DeGrasse Tyson, director of NYC's Hayden Planetarium at the Natural History Museum introduced Gruber as the “pot doc.”
Gruber provided numerous insights into cannabis research including the importance of distinguishing between THC and CBD and how these compounds affect our brain and bodies. Recent discoveries that came from studies on rats revealed that administering CBD prior to head injuries helped with faster recovery and a reduced degree of severity was one important piece of information. “Maybe this is a preventative that we want to utilize for our kids.”
Different Impacts Of Cannabis – Is It Safe For Everyone?
It is common knowledge that consuming cannabis affects individuals in different ways. From a sense of joy and a reduction in anxiety or depression to quite the opposite; in rare cases it can even provoke panic attacks. How is it that one plant can have such vastly different and wide-reaching effect on humans?
Is it due to the complex compounds that comprise its chemical structure and which are only recently being properly researched?
Gruber noted that CBD is just one compound and that there are some people for whom even small amounts of THC are contraindicated.
“It’s not just your genetic liability with regard to, let’s say, a family history of psychosis where we would not necessarily want to introduce a lot of THC. We also have our genetic profile in terms of how well, or how effectively and efficiently we metabolize these things.”
It is also important to consider other substances that one is consuming, Gruber explained. The cannabis plant's dozens of cannabinoids and several hundred non-cannabinoid chemicals affect the way our liver processes drugs. “CBD can be incredibly helpful and potentially harmful depending on what other substances you use.”
While scientists continue to debate whether marijuana-induced psychosis is short-lived or if there's a deeper connection at play, Gruber said many studies have demonstrated CBD is an effective antipsychotic agent.
Are There Other Plants That Could Get You High?
In the end, deGrasse Tyson had an interesting thought, as always.
“If you're getting this much sort of career trajectory out of some chemicals in a weed, how many plants out there remain undiscovered simply because we don't have enough people sitting down - ‘hey let's smoke that hey let's smoke this.’”
Gruber agreed. “Yeah, I think there’s huge potential in botanicals and I think that we see that with some other things. Primarily these days we hear about it in the hallucinogenic space like ayahuasca or these other sort of natural things – mushrooms. There's tremendous interest in terms of therapeutic application. You know for what it's worth, documentaries of cannabis as medicine go back at least 2700 BC.”
Photo: Courtesy of hainguyenrp (brain) and lindsayfox (cannabis) by Pixabay
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