Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 14th 2014 Contents A32
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, June 14, 2014
Many people think that smoking pot is harmless,
but there s good evidence that the drug has at least
some negative effects on health, a new review says.
Some people who smoke marijuana can become
addicted, and use of the drug in the teen years has
been linked with abnormalities in certain brain areas
important for learning and memory, the review said.
And even the immediate short-term effects of the
marijuana, such as impaired thinking and co-ordi-
nation, can have consequences, including difficulty
in learning in school and an increased risk of car acci-
dents, the review said.
Regular marijuana smokers are also more likely than
nonsmokers to have symptoms of chronic bronchitis,
such as daily cough and phlegm production.
But whether the drug has long-lasting effects on
cognition in adults remains controversial, with some
studies suggesting the effects are persistent, and others
saying the effects may be reversible, said Dr Nora
Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug
Abuse, who wrote the review along with her colleagues.
More research is needed on this topic to provide a
definitive answer, she said.
Legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, still account
for a greater burden of disease than marijuana, but
this is because legal drugs are more accessible, and
thus more widely used, not necessarily more dangerous,
"As policy shifts toward legalisation of marijuana,
it is reasonable and probably prudent to hypothesise
that [marijuana] use will increase and that, by extension,
so will the number of persons for whom there will
be negative health consequence," the researchers wrote
in the June 5 issue of the New England Journal of
Here are a few more highlights
from the review:
Despite the popular belief that the marijuana is not
addicting, about nine per cent of those who experiment
with the drug, and up to 50 per cent who use it every
day, will become addicted.
Smoking marijuana in the teen years is linked with
brain abnormalities, such as fewer neural fibres in
certain brain areas, decreased brain activity and a
smaller hippocampus, an area important for learning
and memory. These studies show an association, and
cannot prove that marijuana is the cause of the brain
abnormalities, or that the abnormalities are harmful.
Still, one study found that people who used marijuana
heavily as teens had IQ scores that were eight points
lower, on average, than those who didn't use the drug.
People who use marijuana are at greater risk of
abusing other drugs later in life, suggesting that mar-
ijuana maybe a "gateway drug." However, it could be
that people who are more susceptible to drug use in
general tend to start with marijuana because it is more
accessible, and then move on to other drugs.
In people who are genetically at risk for schizo-
phrenia, smoking marijuana is linked with an increased
risk of developing the condition. However, its possible
factors other than marijuana are responsible for the
It's not clear whether smoking marijuana increases
the risk of lung cancer compared with people who
don't smoke, but studies suggest that the risk of lung
cancer is lower in marijuana smokers than in tobacco
More research is needed on the ways in which gov-
ernment policies on marijuana affect public health,
the researchers said. For example, it's not known if
legalising pot will lead to an increase in car accidents
or an increase in the number of teens who use the
drug, Volkow said.
The researchers noted that the potency of marijuana
has increased over the last few decades---from about
effects on health
three per cent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active
ingredient of marijuana) in 1980, to 12 per cent in 2012.
Because older studies were based on lower-potency
marijuana, it's possible that more-harmful health effects
may occur with today's marijuana. (Huffington Post)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Regular marijuana smokers are also more likely than nonsmokers to have symptoms
of chronic bronchitis, such as daily cough and phlegm production.
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