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While new research continues to reveal the multiple health consequences of smoking cannabis, marijuana or hemp, it is alarming that there is still lack of public awareness on how harmful this drug can be.
Many people, particularly the young ones who smoke marijuana are unaware that each wrap of marijuana they smoke increases their chances of developing lung cancer by as much as an entire packet of 20 tobacco cigarettes.
Marijuana smoking involves inhaling vapours released by heating the flowers and subtending leaves of the cannabis plants, known as marijuana. It is one of the most widely-used recreational drugs in the world. A sizeable number of people have tried it, thinking that smoking marijuana is somehow a safe pastime.
In Lagos, for instance, a study reported in the European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry that between 4.0 and 4.8 per cent of Lagosians use addictive substances such as, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine.
Moreover, the use of marijuana cuts across all social sectors, as evidenced by a survey of Psychoactive substance use/abuse among students in Igbinedion University, Okada which found that about 2.8 per cent of the students smoke marijuana. This was reported in the 2011 edition of the Nigerian Journal of General Practice.
The increasing use of marijuana is not restricted to developing countries like Nigeria alone. In fact, in the United Kingdom, marijuana is used by more than a third of people under 24, but 88 per cent believe it is less dangerous than tobacco.
However, according to the British Lung Foundation (BLF), smoking one marijuana a day for a year increases the risk of lung cancer by eight per cent. By comparison, smoking 20 tobacco cigarettes a day for a year increases the risk of lung cancer by seven per cent.
Why is marijuana more dangerous than tobacco? BLF argued that the way marijuana is smoked compared to tobacco (such as the tendency not to use filters; and deeper, longer inhaling) makes the risk of developing lung cancer from smoking a single marijuana daily a day despite similar carbon monoxide concentrations in the smoke”.
Also, the reports stated that people often mix marijuana with tobacco. There is strong evidence that smoking tobacco causes lung cancer and chronic lung disease. This makes it difficult to isolate whether health problems are specifically caused by marijuana or tobacco.
The report highlighted that many of the same cancer-causing compounds in cigarettes are also present in marijuana, and that the way marijuana is smoked may mean that the body retains more of these harmful products than when smoking a similar quantity of tobacco.
The average puff on a marijuana is two-thirds larger and is held four times longer than the average puff on a tobacco cigarette. As a result, someone smoking a marijuana inhales four times as much tar as from a tobacco cigarette, and five times as much carbon monoxide.
Although, the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2009 indicated that smoking both tobacco and marijuana increase the risk of respiratory symptoms and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), BLF said that a single joint is equal to 10 cigarettes in terms of lung damage and 20 cigarettes in terms of lung cancer risk.
Chronic bronchitis and emphysema, the two disorders that constitute COPD, often occur in long-time tobacco smokers. Symptoms — mainly coughing and shortness of breath — don’t usually develop till people are in their 50s or 60s. In chronic bronchitis, inflammation damages the bronchi, or air passages, over time. In emphysema, the damage occurs in the walls of the alveoli (tiny sacs in which gases are exchanged), reducing the lung’s capacity to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.
It is known that marijuana smoke, like all smoke, contains carcinogens (substances that cause cancer) thus subjecting individuals to increase in the risk of lung cancer. The constituents of marijuana smoke are similar to those of tobacco smoke apart from the presence of THC (which is only in marijuana) or nicotine (which is only in tobacco).
But there is conflicting data on the correlation of an increase in the incidence of lung cancer and marijuana smoking. A systematic review evaluating 19 studies from 1966 to 2006 found no significant tobacco-adjusted association between marijuana smoking and lung cancer development despite evidence of precancerous changes in the lining of the respiratory tract.
Nonetheless, the wider impacts of smoking marijuana are well-documented and may include dependence, increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, increase in the risk of heart attack, suppression of the immune system and of mental health problems such as anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and depression.
Researchers raised concern on marijuana’s impact on mental health, particularly on a small group of vulnerable users with an inherited predisposition to schizophrenia.
However, frequent cannabis use has been found to affect learning for weeks after exposure. It could affect the user’s social life, work life or even the tendency to be involved in accidents.
Marijuana is classed as a sedating and hallucinogenic drug. Some users find it makes them feel relaxed and happy in the short term. However, the drug can cause feelings of anxiety, suspicion, panic and paranoia. It can also increase the risk of developing psychosis.
Pastor Tunji Agboola, Executive director, Goodworker Movement International, Ibadan linked smoking with lung cancer, be it smoke from tobacco or even marijuana.
The Goodworker Movement International is a non-governmental organisation that focuses on combating the causes and consequences of drug abuse among young people.
According to Pastor Agboola, the smoke from marijuana is also inhaled and when the smoke gets into the lungs, it constitutes an assault and as such the possibility of lung cancer developing.
Unfortunately, many people rarely think about its health consequences other than the fact that it can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety, schizophrenia and depression. Rather, more attention is given to its mental health problems because these are immediate consequences of marijuana usage unlike the long term implications such as lung cancer.
Of course, due to the loss of inhibition and additive nature of marijuana, the possibility of a marijuana user engaging in risky behaviours that affect their health and subsequently cutting their life short is more of a challenge than long term effects of marijuana use such as lung cancer.Share
written by 333maxwell, July 06, 2012
written by cuni, July 10, 2012