Medical Cannabis; Can it Cause Lung Disease?

A current study was done to establish the collective and independent effects of tobacco and cannabis smoking on respiratory symptoms and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) within the general population.  COPD is a progressive (which means it gets worse with time) lung disease that makes it hard to breathe.  COPD symptoms include chronic coughing, mucus production, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.  The leading cause of COPD is tobacco smoke.  The above mentioned study evaluated 878 people aged 40 and older and assessed their respiratory history, use of tobacco and use of marijuana. They performed lung function tests before and after using medication that opens up the lungs.

The findings: “Smoking both tobacco and marijuana synergistically increased the risk of respiratory symptoms and COPD. Smoking only marijuana was not associated with an increased risk of respiratory symptoms or COPD.”  (Tan, et al, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 4/14/09; 180)

Despite these findings, most physicians still recommend that medical marijuana patients do not smoke their medication and instead use vaporizers, edibles, and/or tinctures.  It is clear from this study that the damage that smoking tobacco can cause is significant (which we all knew before anyway!) and it can be worsened if you also smoke marijuana.

The Colbert Report and Prop 19

Well it seems that my Facebook Fan page for Marijuana Medicine Evaluation Centers paid off in a big way. As a fan of both The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report I make it a point to go to their FB fan page on a daily basis and post comments, stories, videos and such. Well it would appear that one of their writers got a hold of our website 

Marijuana Medicine Evaluation Centers

Marijuana Medicine Evaluation Centers

and saw the opening for a few jabs at the medical marijuana doctor / patient relationship.

While it seems they found humor in some of the items one could receive a medical marijuana recommendation for they seemed to focus most of their comical attention on the fact that the necessity for Prop 19 has been undermined by Governor Schwarzenegger opting to signed Senate Bill 1449which reduces adult marijuana possession charges from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction.

Senate Bill 1449 amends the California Health and Safety Code so that the adult possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana is classified as an infraction, punishable by no more than a $100 fine — no court appearance, no court costs, and no criminal record.

The new law, which takes effect on Jan 1, 2011, will have an effect even if Californians vote to legalize marijuana by passing Prop 19. Proposition 19 leaves misdemeanor possession penalties in place for public use and smoking in the presence of children; under SB 1449, these offenses would be simple infractions.

400 Medical Marijuana Collectives Told to Close Doors

L.A. 420 Collective News! More than 400 Medical Marijuana Collectives in the L.A. County area were notified toclose up shop before June 7, 2010. Will shop keepers decide to fight the pronouncement to let their shops go up in smoke?

The “official” decision to go against social progress is not likely to bode well for city officials. After all the great work celebs and Ca. residents have done to de-stigmatize medical marijuana as a natural remedy alternative for so many costly pharmaceuticals, this is distressing news for many “going green” Americans.

Medical Marijuana became legal in 1996 when California voters approved Proposition 215, known as the Compassionate Use Act. The proposition removed state-level criminal penalties for the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana by patients who have received recommendations by their physician.

In 2003, Senate Bill 420, known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act, was signed into law. The act established statewide guidelines outlining the amount and weight of marijuana a patient and their caregivers may posses and grow. Patients who have received physician recommendations may possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana and/or six mature (or 12 immature) marijuana plants. Counties and local municipalities may approve local ordinances permitting patients to possess larger quantities of marijuana.The bill also mandates the California Department of State Health Services to establish a voluntary medicinal marijuana patient registry and identification card program to qualified patients. Senate Bill 420 also granted right to medical marijuana collectives.

Medical Marijuana collectives, also known as dispensaries or clinics, provide their members access to medical marijuana. Dispensaries offer marijuana in a variety of forms, from traditional bud to smoke, to edible treats. “The dispensaries range from Hollywood-day-spa fabulous to shoddy-looking storefronts with hand-painted billboards.” “Across California there are an estimated 2,100 dispensaries, co-operatives, wellness clinics and taxi delivery services in the sector known as “cannabusiness”. That is more than all the Starbucks, McDonald’s and 7-Eleven outlets in the state put together.””

Los Angeles police to raid medical marijuana stores

California dreaming of full marijuana legalisation

Medical Cannabis: Edibles vs. Inhalation – Why is it so different?

You have an option as to how you want to take medical marijuana. You can inhale marijuana either through smoking it or through a vaporizer. Of course the healthier option is the vaporizer as there is no irritating smoke.

11-hydroxy THC is thought to be four to five times more potent than regular THC. This is why edibles are known to be more potent when compared to inhaled cannabis. Edibles are also thought to be strong sedatives and many patients use them for treatment of insomnia.

Marijuana is the name for the drug that comes from the leaves and flowers of the Indian hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. (Elizabeth Schleichert, 1996) The plant originated in central Asia and spread to several corners of the globe. All over the world, people have used the plant as a source of fiber, cloth, paper, edible seeds, oil, and medicine. It has also been used in many cultures as an intoxicant.

The intoxicating part of the plant lies mostly in its strong-smelling, sticky, resin. This is given off by the hemp flowers, especially the flowers on the female plant. The most powerful psychoactive compounds found in the flower is called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as delta-9 THC or just THC. THC is the chemical in the flower of the plant that is the key chemical to produce a “high.”

Marijuana affects different people in different ways. It usually causes the heart rate to accelerate. This can cause panic in first-time users. (Jack Mendelson, M.D., and Nancy Mello, Ph.D. 1985) The first-time user may think that they are having a heart attack. Because of the effect of accelerated heart rate, marijuana can be very dangerous if the user has a preexisting heart problem or high blood pressure. Marijuana dries the mouth. It also dries and reddens the whites of the eyes. The eyes become red because the marijuana causes the blood vessels of the eyes to dilate or widen. This causes more blood to flow through the vessels. As other blood vessels expand, the body's blood pressure drops. This low blood pressure can cause some people to experience dizziness.

From the time it was commonly used earlier in the 19th century, marijuana was viewed as a dangerous drug. It was viewed to be much worse than alcohol and tobacco and very likely to lead to hard drug addiction. A lot of information about the harmfulness of marijuana has been written to prove or disprove this viewpoint. Marijuana is considered to be a gateway drug by serious researchers. Yet, while many researchers argue on the exact nature of the damage that smoking marijuana causes to the body, they all seem to agree on one thing. Use of marijuana is unsafe, especially to the lungs and short-term memory. There is still a lot that remains to be learned about marijuana, but studies do show a link between marijuana use and experimentation with harder drugs.

Experts have pointed out another negative aspect of marijuana: THC accumulates in the body and stays there for long periods of time. Unlike water-soluble drugs that are eliminated quickly from the body, THC accumulates in the body fat . People who smoke marijuana on a regular basis may never rid of it entirely.

Studies have shown that heavy use of marijuana can damage the reproductive and endocrine systems. These are the systems responsible for distribution of hormones in the body. THC decreases the number and quality of men's sperm and damages their ability to move around. Marijuana can also disrupt women's menstrual cycles. Failure to ovulate normally, resulting in unpredictable periods of infertility, has also been linked to marijuana use.

Because marijuana crosses the placenta, it can harm the fetus in a pregnant woman who uses the drug. Children of marijuana users may be born with abnormal nervous systems. They also have lower birth weight and are generally smaller at birth. Animal studies have suggested that marijuana may also cause an increase in fetal and early infant deaths. Marijuana is secreted a woman's breast milk and may be toxic when passed to the nursing infant. Some studies have also shown that the children of marijuana using mothers may demonstrate symptoms of depressant withdrawal and suffer from convulsions. Heavy marijuana use may cause increased breakage of and damage to the chromosomes. The birth defects that result might be seen in the offspring of the marijuana user, or they may skip a generation and affect grandchildren. Obviously, the use of marijuana during pregnancy represents a significant risk to the unborn child.

Research has shown a link between smoking marijuana and lung damage. Marijuana smoke contains over 150 cancer causing substances. Scientists have found that the lung damage caused by smoking a single marijuana cigarette is equivalent to the damage caused by smoking five tobacco cigarettes. So, smoking three to four marijuana cigarettes a day causes the kind of lung-cell damage that twenty cigarettes does. It has also been discovered that smoking marijuana will deposit three times more tar into the lungs and also releases five times more poisonous carbon monoxide into the bloodstream than cigarettes do.

Marijuana smokers suffer from more infections from bronchitis, and long-term incurable conditions such as emphysema. It is also common for marijuana smokers to have constant sore throats and coughing. Various kinds of cancer have been diagnosed in young marijuana smokers from age twenty-six to thirty. These included cancers of the lung, sinus, larynx, tongue, and tonsils. It has also been shown that marijuana smokers appear to be getting lung cancer at a much younger age, at forty-five, than other people, at sixty-five.

Another reason that marijuana smokers suffer from more infections than non-users is because marijuana effects the immune system. The immune system is an important part of the body that helps to fight off infection. The most important parts of the immune system are the white blood cells. When an infection enters the body, the white blood cells divide and grow at a fast rate to fight the infection. But, when blood samples were taken from marijuana smokers, they had a significantly lower immunity level than that of nonsmokers. Further studies showed that THC causes certain types of the white blood cells to stop growing during mid-cycle. This obviously impairs the immune systems ability to properly fight off infections.

Most drugs cause withdrawal symptoms when the user stops using them. Marijuana is no exception. When a heavy marijuana smoker decides to quit, they may suffer from one or more of the following symptoms: insomnia, loss of appetite, weakness, irritability, sweating, depression, anxiety, restlessness, abdominal cramps, nausea, an increased pulse rate, low blood pressure, aching muscles, and slight tremors. These symptoms last for up to one week after the person stops smoking, and continue in a milder form for up to a month.

Many marijuana smokers believe that smoking marijuana heightens their senses. The truth is, the brain is dulled. It is more difficult for a person to learn material under the influence of marijuana. The information may never be put into their long-term memory. This means that they will not be able to recall the information later.

Richard H. Schwartz, M.D., of Georgetown University School of Medicine In Washington, D.C., studied teenagers who were using marijuana. He discovered that they did much worse on short-term memory tests than another group who had not used drugs. After six weeks of abstaining from marijuana, the teenagers showed some memory improvement, but they still did worse than the other group of non-using teens.

Many factors, both genetic and environmental, can encourage marijuana use. Studies have shown that children with a drug-addicted parent or children of alcoholics are more likely to become abusers themselves.

Feelings of inadequacy are often a factor to drug abuse. A former marijuana abuser said that her self-esteem was, “non-existent.” Another marijuana and drug abuser said, ” When I was in the ninth grade, I started getting high every day. I was feeling really lonely, and I thought that nobody could understand my pain…I finally realized that I did drugs to hide from myself. I was really insecure and had a very low self-esteem.”

A lot of young people feel distant from their families. Intense confusion is usually experienced as young people enter adolescence. If a certain crowd that appeals to them is willing to allow them be a part of their group, it is very tempting for them to join. Even if that means the price of admission to the desired group is drug use. Once a part of the group, it is hard to stop using out of fear that they will no longer be accepted.

Although marijuana is illegal, there has been much debate on legalizing it for medical benefits. Many believe that marijuana has been shown to be effective in decreasing the nausea caused by chemotherapy. Others feel it alleviates some of the symptoms associated with AIDS, such as severe leg cramps, nausea, headaches, and loss of appetite. Another alleged medical advantage of marijuana is that it lowers the pressure that builds up in the eyes of glaucoma patients which in turn helps prevents them from going blind. It is also said to relieve tremors and loss of muscle coordination caused by multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Yet, it is illegal for physicians who believe in the medical benefits of marijuana to prescribe it. So, the question of whether it should be made legal for medical purposes has become a hot political issue.

Marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I drug. The drugs that are in this category are said to have a high potential for abuse. These drugs also produce dangerous side effects and have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

Advocates have wanted marijuana to be moved to a Schedule II drug for a long time. Schedule II drugs also have a high potential for abuse and bad side effects, but are considered medically useful and can be legally prescribed by physicians. Interestingly, cocaine and morphine, which can be highly addictive, are Schedule II drugs.

As for the future of marijuana, research is being done and data is being collected to help obtain a better understanding of the effects of marijuana on our health, as well as the motivation behind its abuse. Researchers hope that with new insight, the public and government will be better equipped to establish consistent policies to regulate, control, or put a stop to the complicated reality of marijuana use in the United States.