PV Mirror, July 10-16, 2010, issue # 92, pg 23

I cannot believe how marijuana users continue to minimize the negative physical and psychological effects in order to justify their continued and most often addictive use/habit. MARIJUANA  IS NOT SAFE!! This is not just some opinion or theory. Researchers have known for years the numerous undisputable damaging effects of marijuana. “There have been over 7,000 published scientific and medical studies documenting the damage that marijuana poses. Not one study has shown marijuana to be safe.” (Quote from: http://www.marijuana-addiction.info/statistics.htm)

Marijuana is big business. “In 2005, the number of marijuana users in the United States was approximately 25.4 million (10.4% of the population aged 12 or older).” (Quote from: http://www.marijuana-addiction.info/statistics.htm). It is more dangerous and more potent than ever. In the sixties, the THC content was 1-2% and now it averages 6%. It is usually loaded with pesticides, which are very damaging. There are many varieties and ways of growing it. There are also more ways than ever of smoking it. It has become so addictive that a simple joint doesn’t come close to causing the desired effect, that now cigars are being stuffed with marijuana (“puros”), and growing it in water (“hydro”) has greatly affected its potency affecting. If a joint or puro is laced with cocaine, it’s called “primos”, etc. etc.

Although it contains more than 400 chemicals, THC is the psychoactive compound which causes the “high” and accounts for most of the physical and psychological problems. It affects the brain, lungs, heart, reproductive system, nervous system, impairs immunity and causes personality changes. Marijuana has long-lasting affects which persist for weeks and months after the use has subsided because it is stored in the fat cells.Let’s consider some of the facts…

Brain: It disrupts the function of dopamine present in the nerve cells, which is responsible for regulating motivation. Chronic marijuana abusers/addicts typically become lazy (lethargic) and indifferent (apathetic) preferring to lie around and they lose interest in things, activities, friends that they used to find very exciting and interesting. They have an excuse for everything in order to be left alone; they become “coach potatoes”. It is also common to become anxious, have panic attacks and be depressed.

Areas of the brain (hypothalamus and cerebellum) which control activities like memoryconcentration, and thoughts, are greatly affected and not just during the high. Most users admit that they cannot think as clearly and that they forget things, lose or misplace things. One addict who smoked 6-8 joints a day was thrilled when after a month of sobriety he hadn’t lost or misplaced anything. Their short-term memory loss can have lasting consequences at school or work as it interferes in their ability to learn, retain, and recall information. It also causes a lot of conflict in relationships with partners and children who have grown tired and frustrated with the consequences of their diminished mental capacity and memory loss.

Heart:Marijuana decreases the oxygen carrying capacity of blood, causing an adverse effect on heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have shown that the abusers carry much greater risk of heart attack.

Lungs and Cancer: Long-term smoking can cause bronchial problems, sore throat, and chronic coughing. Considering that marijuana is deeply inhaled and the smoke is held in the lungs, it increases the risk of carcinogenic effects. TCH produces 60% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than those of tobacco. It also activates and initiates enzyme changes which lead to production of malignant cells that are highly responsible for cancer. Put simply, marijuana is much more harmful than tobacco (which we all know is bad enough).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.

Reproductive system:In males,it decreases the sperm count and motility, as well as the serum testosterone, rendering them infertile. They also produce abnormal and immature sperm. In females, it interferes with the menstrual cycle, suppresses ovulation and can even damage the eggs.  If marijuana is inhaled regularly during pregnancy, it can result in miscarriages, still born, or lower birth weights and they may have altered neurological responses. Research has revealed that as the children grow and develop, they exhibit lapses in memory, problem solving skills, and difficulty paying attention.

Immune System: Marijuana is known to weaken the immune system increasing the risk for infection and disease. It suppresses the ability to fight infection by preventing the t-cells from maturing, which are needed to protect and defend the body.

While under the influence…it is dangerous

Data has shown that people high on marijuana show the same lack of coordination on standard “drunk driver” tests as do people who have had too much to drink. The reaction time for motor skills, such as driving, is reduced by 41% after smoking 1 joint and is reduced 63% after smoking 2 joints!! (From: www.marijuana-addiction.info )

It can also make you feel very paranoid, anxious, irritable, restless, lethargic, and highly critical of others. Blood shot eyes and the munchies are classic signs of intoxication. Subsequent weight gain is very common.

It is addictive too!

Marijuana is very addicting. Over the months and years, it takes an increasing amount of the drug; 6 joints instead of 1, to obtain the same high. The frequency of use increases as well; smoking only on the weekends to daily use. It is not uncommon for an addict to maintain a high by smoking 8-15 joints a day, just as an alcoholic maintains the buzz or ends up drunk and passed out by the end of each day. Of course, switching to more potent types of marijuana just as an alcoholic switches from beer to liquor, is also part of the addictive process.

Withdrawal symptoms also occur. People trying to quit this habit usually experience sleeplessness, irritability, increased aggression and feelings, and loss of appetite.

After reading all of this, I’m not sure I’ve convinced anyone who abuses or is addicted to marijuana to quit and seek sobriety, but I certainly hope I’ve helped you and those who care about you to realize that it is not safe and it has terrible health consequences. At least come out of the denial that it isn’t hurting you, the same as cigarette smokers (nicotine addicts) acknowledge that they know it’s dangerous and could cause cancer, but they still smoke, somewhat aware of the risks involved.

The hard core truth is that if you smoke marijuana you are at least an abuser if not an addict and you need help.

Some of the information provided in this article came from the following resources:

(“Drugs in Perspective”, Fields, Richard, 2004; fifth edition, McGraw Hill)…http://www.marijuana-addiction.info

http://www.drugfree.org/Portal/drug_guide/Marijuana

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW