The Drug Class Blog

Nov 06

Marijuana Risks

It is always interesting to listen carefully to the debate about whether or not marijuana is a health or safety risk. Most people who like to use that drug are convinced it doesn't cause any problems.  There are more studies coming out indicating that marijuana does cause health problems and certainly does pose a risk in terms of driving and job safety. Below is a comment by NORML (a pro Marijuana organization) indicating that there are some concerns with the drug. It is interesting that even though the study quotes some significant data the writer seems to think it isn't really that bad. 
One of the things our Drug Class Program is always trying to do is get people to pay attention to what is really going on, in order to do that we have to get past "what we like or want."
A medical survey of daily marijuana smokers published in 
The Western Journal of Medicine  confirms the opinion given 
in California NORML's "Health Tips for Marijuana Smokers," 
that the major risks of excessive marijuana smoking come 
from respiratory harm and accidents.

The study, written by Michael R. Polen of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, is the first known study comparing health records of daily marijuana smokers who do not smoke tobacco with those who use neither ("Health Care Use by Frequent Marijuana Smokers Who Do Not Smoke Tobacco," West J Med 1993: 158).
The study found that frequent marijuana smokers had a 19% greater risk of respiratory disesases than non-smokers, confirming prior work by UCLA Professor Dr. Donald Tashkin and others showing that marijuana smoke irritates the lungs in a manner not unlike cigarettes. The study also found a 9% greater risk of other, non-respiratory illnesses, suggesting that marijuana could be linked to other health complaints; however, this was observed only in one subpopulation of smokers, those who had used marijuana for 5-9 years.
The study, which covered 452 marijuana smokers and 450 non-users, was not extensive enough to discern whether daily marijuana smoking might cause cancer. Because marijuana users typically consume less smoke than tobacco smokers, and marijuana smoke tends to be concentrated more in the upper respiratory tract than tobacco, the relative carcinogenic risk of marijuana smoking remains unclear.
Because of the noxious potential of marijuana smoke, California NORML strongly recommends that marijuana users reduce their exposure to smoke as much as possible. This can be done by ingesting cannabis orally, by smoking smaller quantities of higher-potency sinsemilla, and by filtering harmful ingredients from the smoke - a technology whose development has been greatly impeded by government anti- paraphernalia laws, which make it a crime to develop marijuana smoking devices of any kind.
"It is time for the government to wake up and recognize that they are hurting public health by preventing research in smokeless technology," said California NORML spokesman Dale Gieringer, "Unfortunately, the fact is that the only marijuana which the government permits to be used is that from its own pot farm at the University of Missippi, which is notoriously harsh and low in potency." "Mississippi ditchweed," as it is known, is currently distributed to researchers and a handful of medical patients. Risk of Injuries The Kaiser study also found that the daily marijuana smokers had a 30% higher risk of injuries than non-users, confirming the commonsense notion that marijuana intoxication can lead to accidents.
"Pot smokers should be aware that accidents are probably the number one hazard of marijuana," warns Gieringer, author of an article on Marijuana and Driving Safety in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (Jan-Mar 1988). "Anyone who smokes marijuana daily is spending a significant portion of his or her waking life under the influence. Some people seem to be able to compensate, but others do not." He cautioned that a larger study would be needed to determine the true accident risks of marijuana.
The authors of the Kaiser study cautioned that their analysis was complicated by the difficulty of separating effects of marijuana and alcohol. Subjects who smoked marijuana were much more inclined to be heavy drinkers than non-users (the study totally excluded tobacco smokers, thereby excluding most heavy drinkers). No attempt was made to control for use of other drugs such as cocaine.
Curiously, injury risks were especially high for long-term daily marijuana users (15 years or more). Equally curiously, the latter also had fewer respiratory problems and other illnesses than non-marijuana-users. Kaiser researchers hope eventually to clarify matters in a larger study now underway.
"Assuming the Kaiser results are on target, they do not contradict the view of most scientists that marijuana, while not harmless, is a relatively safe intoxicant," concludes Gieringer. "Aside from the respiratory risks, which could be greatly mitigated, even a 30% increased risk of injuries for habitual users would translate to at most a few thousand deaths per year - far less than the hundreds of thousands seen with alcohol and tobacco. There is nothing here to contradict the conclusion of the California Research Advisory Panel, that marijuana is 'responsible for less damage to society and the individual than are alcohol and cigarettes.'"
Rand adds. It is interesting that they figure that a few thousand deaths each year due to marijuana use is OK, and that they say that "aside from the respiratory risks" ....... not sure when respiratory(lung) damage is OK??

What do you think?

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