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Cannabis and nicotine: similar or opposite?

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Does one replace the other, is the risk the same, do they have the same incidence of cancer? These are some of the questions users ask when comparing tobacco and cannabis - read on to find out the answers!


When comparing tobacco and cannabis for adult use, we have two compounds: for tobacco, nicotine and for cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both are psychoactive compounds, however, they work differently.


Mechanism of action


Nicotine can bind to nicotinic receptors in different body areas, including nerve and brain structures (cortex, thalamus, amygdala, trunk, and basal nuclei) and muscle. As a result, it produces a stimulant, memory-facilitating, and stress-reducing effect, which predisposes to chronic consumption.


On the other hand, THC can be consumed by inhalation, orally or sublingually (depending on the product), and binds mainly to cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors located in the central nervous system that participate in the regulation of motor activity, learning, and memory and nociception and play a notable role during brain development.


Cancer risk and mortality


Tobacco smoke is known to contain more than 7,000 chemicals, of which about 70 are carcinogenic. Consequently, it is associated with increased incidence and risk of cancer of the lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix or uterine cervix. According to WHO, tobacco kills 8 million people each year (7 million active smokers and more than one million non-smokers affected by second-hand smoke).


On the other side of the coin, cannabis has been considered an anti-cancer drug since THC, like other cannabinoids, can inhibit the growth of tumors and, in experimental situations, has successfully killed cancer cells.


Not to mention that cannabis and THC have been an alternative for cancer patients, helping to alleviate pain associated with the disease and treatment (chemotherapy) and improve appetite, mood, and gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea and vomiting).


There is no record of deaths directly related to cannabis, nor are there reports of THC overdose in humans. It should be noted that there is some risk of lung cancer with cannabis inhalation that is not related to the plant but to the compounds generated in combustion. That is why the use of vaporizers for the administration of carcinogen-free cannabis vapors greatly reduces the carcinogenic potential of smoked cannabis.


Addiction


According to the results of a systemic review, cannabis is less addictive than other commonly used substances, such as nicotine, which has an addiction rate of 32%, heroin, which has 23%, cocaine, 17% and alcohol, 15%. With cannabis, there is about a 9% chance.


In conclusion, the use of cannabis and THC is much safer than tobacco and nicotine, however, it should always be kept in mind that when using cannabis, special considerations should be made regarding dosage, frequency of use, amount of THC and other cannabinoids, and route of administration to best take advantage of the benefits of the plant.


*The intention of this material is purely informative, to start treatment with medical cannabis consult your doctor or specialist.


If this information interests you, we invite you to expand your knowledge! Check out our educational offers and educate yourself about the medicinal uses of cannabis.



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