Marijuana, the flowers, stems, leaves and seeds of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, has been used extensively for recreational and quasi-medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The executive summary of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2007 states,
“Cannabis is the largest illicit drug market by far, including roughly 160 million annual consumers . . . Reports received by UNODC suggest that cannabis production is taking place in at least 172 countries and territories.”
UNODC estimates indicate that global cannabis production is declining, which may be due to increased eradication. But the scientific knowledge and public perception of the dangers of marijuana use is also undergoing a noteworthy change.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), found in cannabis, has been shown to produce temporary psychotic symptoms including paranoid delusions and hallucinations in some users. Marijuana is usually smoked, and the harmful effects of smoke on the lungs are well-documented. But the psychotic effects seem to be more intense when THC is taken orally (often as a tea or capsules). Although another substance in marijuana (cannabidiol, or CBD) is a relaxant and has historically been thought to calm people with schizophrenia, a recent Yale University study indicated that cannabis use actually exacerbates paranoia and anxiety.
Other recent studies show that the cardiovascular effects include increased heart rate and changed blood pressure with a higher risk of heart attacks. In addition, young cannabis smokers may also be at risk of developing chronic bronchitis, emphysema and a range of other disorders later in life.
According to a 2002 report by the British Lung Association (BLA),
“the tar from a cannabis cigarette contains many of the same (and even higher concentrations of) carcinogenic compounds found in cigarette smoke and deposits four times as much tar on the respiratory tract in comparison to an unfiltered cigarette of the same weight. This amplifies the exposure of cannabis smokers to particles that are known to be involved in the development of lung cancer.”
Marijuana smokers typically inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in the lungs longer than tobacco smokers. Cannabis joints do not usually have filters, and the unfiltered smoke has a higher temperature. The logical conclusion is that marijuana smoking is even more deadly than smoking tobacco.
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