By Nick Hagar
Speaking to ESPN Radio on Friday, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell said the league doesn’t see any medical benefits to marijuana use. He went on to decry the drug as being potentially harmful over time.
“It does have [an] addictive nature,” Goodell said in the interview. “There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term.”
Goodell’s views match with the NFL’s drug policy, which disciplines players who test positive for marijuana. But plenty of research demonstrates the positive mental and physical effects of the drug, everything from treating physical pain to easing social isolation. Below are some of the proven health benefits of marijuana use.
SMOKING POT MAY REDUCE MEMORY IMPAIRMENT
Researchers at Ohio State University found that THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, could reduce inflammation in the brain, staving off Alzheimer’s disease. Pot has also been shown to have no significant negative effect on the brain’s development during adolescence, alleviating a major fear about its use.
MARIJUANA CAN LOWER WEIGHT AND INSULIN LEVELS
A 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine concluded that marijuana use is associated with “smaller waist circumference” and lower levels of fasting insulin, which indicates a healthier metabolism.
IT SAFELY TREATS PAIN
In a comprehensive report on the health effects of cannabis from the National Academy of Sciences, researchers concluded that there is “conclusive or substantial evidence … for the treatment of chronic pain in adults.” In a separate study, those who used marijuana to manage pain were no more at risk for serious health detriments than those who did not.
MARIJUANA CAN HELP CONTROL A WIDE RANGE OF MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Research has explored cannabis’ ability to relieve eye pressure for those with glaucoma, reduce tremors for those who have Parkinson’s disease, and help manage epileptic seizures. “Although marijuana is illegal in the United States, individuals both here and abroad report that marijuana has been therapeutic for them in the treatment of a variety of ailments, including epilepsy,” lead researcher Robert J. DeLorenzo said in a press release at the time of the study’s release in 2003.
IT CUTS DOWN ON PRESCRIPTION DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
In a 2015 survey of medical cannabis patients in Canada, 87 percent of respondents said they used it in lieu of alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal substances, suggesting “the medical use of cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the context of use of these substances.” Another study found that states that had legalized medical marijuana saw significantly lower rates of fatal opioid overdose.
SMOKING POT CAN RELIEVE FEELINGS OF SOCIAL ISOLATION AND ANXIETY
Researchers found that “marijuana use consistently buffered people from the negative consequences associated with loneliness and social exclusion.” Though a 2010 article published in Harvard Mental Health Letter noted potential side effects to marijuana when taken in high doses, it also found that pot “reduces anxiety, improves mood, and acts as a sedative.”