Marijuana – Harmful Effects

Marijuana can cause many harmful effects. There has never been a major test though. The ones theyve used have shown very different things. I have been very surprised by what I have been reading. I cannot believe the difference in what different scientists think. One says, It’s hard to know for sure whether regular marijuana use causes cancer. But it is known that marijuana contains some of the same and sometimes even more, of the cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day. While in certain places it is legally perscribed to people with many different types of cancer. The New scientist says, A FRENCH government study has heaped fuel on the debate over the safety of cannabis by listing it as the least dangerous of all potentially addictive drugs. It also concludes that alcohol is among the most dangerous. The study, commissioned by French health minister Bernard Kouchner, was carried out by a panel of 10 French and foreign scientists headed by Bernard-Pierre Roques of the Ren Descartes University of Paris.

The panel searched the scientific literature for information about psychological and physical dependence, neural and general toxicity and social hazards such as aggressive behavior caused by various legal and illegal drugs. The team then grouped the substances into three categories of dangerousness. Cannabis was the only drug put in the least dangerous category. While cautioning that no drug they assessed was “completely free of danger”, the researchers gave cannabis a rating of “weak” for social hazard and addictiveness, “very weak” for general toxicity and zero for neurotoxicity. In the most dangerous category, they included heroin and other opiates, and cocaine. Alcohol was also placed in this category because of its strong toxicity, its potential as a social hazard and its “very strong” addictiveness. In the middle category they placed stimulants such as amphetamines, hallucinogens and tobacco–largely because of its “very strong” addictiveness and toxicity. The authors point out that governments base their decisions whether or not to prohibit a drug on its ability to induce dependence.

They conclude that the official classification for some drugs is incorrect. These are two very different sides. Yet another online site says, Health officials in Geneva have suppressed the publication of a politically sensitive analysis that confirms what ageing hippies have known for decades: cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco. According to a document leaked to New Scientist, the analysis concludes not only that the amount of dope smoked worldwide does less harm to public health than drink and cigarettes, but that the same is likely to hold true even if people consumed dope on the same scale as these legal substances. The comparison was due to appear in a report on the harmful effects of cannabis published last December by the WHO. But it was ditched at the last minute following a long and intense dispute between WHO officials, the cannabis experts who drafted the report and a group of external advisers. As the WHO’s first report on cannabis for 15 years, the document had been eagerly awaited by doctors and specialists in drug abuse.

The official explanation for excluding the comparison of dope with legal substances is that “the reliability and public health significance of such comparisons are doubtful”. However, insiders say the comparison was scientifically sound and that the WHO caved in to political pressure. It is understood that advisers from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the UN International Drug Control Programme warned the WHO that it would play into the hands of groups campaigning to legalise marijuana. One member of the expert panel which drafted the report, says: “In the eyes of some, any such comparison is tantamount to an argument for marijuana legalisation.” Another member, Billy Martin of the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, says that some WHO officials “went nuts” when they saw the draft report. The leaked version of the excluded section states that the reason for making the comparisons was “not to promote one drug over another but rather to minimise the double standards that have operated in appraising the health effects of cannabis”. Nevertheless, in most of the comparisons it makes between cannabis and alcohol, the illegal drug comes out better–or at least on a par–with the legal one.

The report concludes, for example, that “in developed societies cannabis appears to play little role in injuries caused by violence, as does alcohol”. It also says that while the evidence for fetal alcohol syndrome is “good”, the evidence that cannabis can harm fetal development is “far from conclusive”. Cannabis also fared better in five out of seven comparisons of long-term damage to health. For example, the report says that while heavy consumption of either drug can lead to dependence, only alcohol produces a “well defined withdrawal syndrome”. And while heavy drinking leads to cirrhosis, severe brain injury and a much increased risk of accidents and suicide, the report concludes that there is only “suggestive evidence that chronic cannabis use may produce subtle defects in cognitive functioning”. Two comparisons were more equivocal. The report says that both heavy drinking and marijuana smoking can produce symptoms of psychosis in susceptible people.

And, it says, there is evidence that chronic cannabis smoking “may be a contributory cause of cancers of the aerodigestive tract”. Well I wonder what the governments own drug site (NIDA) says about marijuana, People who smoke marijuana often develop the same kinds of breathing problems that cigarette smokers have: coughing and wheezing. They tend to have more chest colds than nonusers. They are also at greater risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia. Animal studies have found that THC can damage the cells and tissues in the body that help protect people from disease. When the immune cells are weakened, you are more likely to get sick. Another government site says, Within a few minutes of inhaling marijuana smoke, users likely experience dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, some loss of coordination and poor sense of balance, and slower reaction times, along with intoxication. Blood vessels in the eye expand. For some people, marijuana raises blood pressure slightly and can double the normal heart rate. This effect can be greater when other drugs are mixed with marijuana.

Research also has documented the following chronic or long-term effects of marijuana use. THC suppresses the neurons in the information-processing system of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is crucial for learning, memory, and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivation. Researchers have discovered that learned behaviors, which depend on the hippocampus, deteriorate after chronic exposure to THC. Chronic abuse of marijuana also is associated with impaired attention and memory, while prenatal exposure to marijuana is associated with impaired verbal reasoning and memory in preschool children. Of possible relevance are findings from animal studies showing that chronic exposure to THC damages and destroys nerve cells and causes other pathological changes in the hippocampus. Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have. These individuals may have daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis, and more frequent chest colds.

Continuing to smoke marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of the lungs and airways. Scientists have found signs of lung tissue injured or destroyed by marijuana smoke. Well I am still in a search to find a site, which says is not quite as partial to either side. The government wants to make it sound very bad. The other sites all want to make sound like it not very bad so it becomes legalized. There is not one site I have as have yet that is not partial so I will keep adding highlights of all of the different sites. The only thing that all the sites say that smoking and driving are very bad combinations. NIDA says in a another report, “Driving and marijuana do not mix; that’s the bottom line,” said Dr. Stephen J. Heishman, a research psychologist in the Clinical Pharmacology Branch of NIDA’s Division of Intramural Research. Figures from previous studies of automobile accident victims show that from 6 to 12 percent of nonfatally injured drivers and 4 to 16 percent of fatally injured drivers had tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their bloodstream, Dr. Heishman said.

One study showed that 32 percent of drivers in a shock trauma unit in Baltimore had marijuana in their bloodstream, he noted. However, in most of these studies, the majority of subjects who tested positive for THC also tested positive for alcohol, making it difficult to single out THC’s effect on driving. In a laboratory study at NIDA’s Addiction Research Center in Baltimore that controlled for alcohol’s confounding effect, Dr. Heishman tested marijuana’s effects on the functional components of driving. Study subjects smoked a marijuana cigarette, waited 10 minutes, then smoked another cigarette. Both cigarettes contained either 0, 1.8, or 3.6 percent THC. Twenty minutes after smoking the cigarettes, the subjects were given a standard sobriety test similar to a roadside sobriety test. The test showed that marijuana significantly impaired their ability to stand on one leg for 30 seconds or touch their finger to their nose. As the dose of THC increased, the subjects swayed more, raised their arms, and had to put their feet down in an attempt to maintain their balance. Subjects also committed 2.5 times more errors when they attempted to touch their nose with their finger. The data from these laboratory studies show that marijuana impairs balance and coordination – functional components important to driving – in a dose-related way, said Dr. Heishman.

These effects may be related to reported marijuana-induced impairment of automobile driving, he stated. Highway and urban driving studies conducted in the Netherlands show less impact on actual driving. However, these driving studies used very low doses of marijuana for safety reasons, Dr. Heishman said. Future research using appropriate safety measures should test the effect of higher doses of marijuana on driving as well as the combined effect of marijuana and alcohol on driving, he concluded. In another study, Dr. Wayne Lehman of Texas Christian University looked at how marijuana affects job performance. A series of surveys he conducted among 4,600 municipal employees in four cities in the Southwest indicated that 8 percent of employees had smoked marijuana in the past year, and a large percentage of these users had smoked marijuana in the past month, Dr. Lehman said. “Employees who report marijuana use are different from nonusers,” said Dr. Lehman.

They are much more likely than nonusers to have arrest histories, low self-esteem, high rates of depression, and friends who are deviant. Many marijuana smokers also have alcohol-related problems. One-third of marijuana users in the surveys reported they drank frequently, one-half said they got drunk, and 60 percent reported a problem with alcohol use, according to Dr. Lehman. This behavioral pattern in the personal backgrounds of marijuana-smoking employees was associated with negative attitudes toward work and job performance, Dr. Lehman said. The surveys found that marijuana users were less likely than nonusers to commit to the organization, had less faith in management, and experienced low job satisfaction. These workers reported more absenteeism, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover than workers who had not used marijuana. They were also more likely to report to work with a hangover, miss work because of a hangover, and be drunk or use drugs at work.

These data indicate that marijuana use is strongly associated with problematic alcohol use and a pattern of general deviance that leads to impaired behaviors and poor workplace performance, Dr. Lehman concluded. It goes on to say, Regular heavy marijuana use compromises the ability to learn and remember information primarily by impairing the ability to focus, sustain, and shift attention, says Dr. Harrison Pope, Jr., of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, who directed the recent study. Noting that the actual ability to recall information remains relatively unaffected, Dr. Pope says, “If you could get heavy users to learn an item, then they could remember it; the problem was getting them to learn it in the first place.” In the study conducted among college students, Dr. Pope and Dr. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, also of McLean Hospital, tested the cognitive functioning of 65 heavy cannabis users, most of whom had smoked marijuana at least 27 out of the previous 30 days. The researchers compared the heavy users’ cognitive functioning to that of a comparison group of 64 light users, most of whom had smoked marijuana on no more than 3 of the previous 30 days. Heavy users ranged in age from 18 to 24 years and light users from 18 to 28 years.

The two groups were similar demographically and had comparable numbers of men and women. Subjects in both groups had smoked marijuana for at least 2 years, and none had smoked regularly for more than a decade. To ensure that the subjects did not smoke marijuana or use other illicit drugs or alcohol during the study, researchers monitored them for 19 to 24 hours. Then the subjects performed a battery of standard tests designed to assess their ability to pay attention, learn, and recall new information. The tests indicated that heavy marijuana users had more difficulty than light users in sustain-ing and shifting attention and hence in registering, organizing, and using information. Heavy users exhibited these cognitive deficits by being less able than light users were to learn word lists; by making a greater number of errors in sorting cards by different characteristics, such as by color or shape; and by making more errors when the rules for sorting the cards were changed without warning.

Men in the heavy users group showed somewhat greater impairment than women in the same group. While the residual cognitive impairments detected in the study were not severe, they could be significant in the day-to-day life of chronic users, Dr. Pope says. The diminished ability to pay attention and decreased mental flexibility exhibited in these tests may cause chronic marijuana users important difficulties in adapting to intellectual and interpersonal tasks, he says. Well I dont know which ones to believe. They all have done lots of research as well as I. I think that most likely NIDA is right because it is run by the government. The government may be trying to make it sound worse then it is though. No matter what though marijuana is a very harmful drugs. It should not be used by anyone.