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MARIJUANA The Controversial Drug

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    Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leavesof the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is often called by street names such as pot,herb, weed, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, reefer, or chronic. There are more than 200 slangCannabis was acknowledged as early as 2,700 BC in Chinese manuscripts.

    Marijuana has been used as a medicine throughout the world since the beginning ofwritten history. During this time, companies such as Lilly, Parke Daivis, Tildens, Squibb,and other major drug manufacturers, have made everything from sleeping elixirs, tostomach medicine from marijuana. These drugs were even knowingly prescribed forSince 1839 there have been numerous reports in favor of utilizing medicalmarijuana. In 1839 Dr. W.B. OShaugnessy, a respected member of the Royal Academy ofScience, was one of the first in the medical profession to present the true facts concerningDr. OShaugnessys report states clearly, that experience indicates the use ofmarijuana to be a beneficial analgesic, and to have anticonvulsant, and muscle-relaxantproperties. He found it to be effective in treating rheumatism (inflammation or pain inmuscles or joints), epilepsy, and spasmodic conditions. In 1860, Dr. R.R. MMeens, indicated to the Ohio State Medical Society, theusefulness of marijuana in treating tetanus, neuralgia (pain in the nerves), uterinehemorrhage, child labor, convulsions, asthma, bronchitis, and even postpartum psychosis.

    It was also noted for its affect as an appetite stimulant. This is desperately needed in modern medicine especially by cancer and aidspatients to prevent them from literally wasting away. Many of these patients haveindicated that no other remedy helps to stimulate the appetite as effectively as smoking asmall quantity of marijuana. It was also noted that smoking the natural plant wassignificantly more effective than the chemically created, orally consumed, syntheticIn 1891 Dr. J.B. Mattison indicated the use of marijuana for treatment ofmigraines, gastric ulcers, deliriuma (mental disturbance), and tremors due to alcoholism.

    He also found it to be instrumental in actually replacing the craving for, and thus curingalcoholism. He found the same effect carried over in treating other serious addictions suchIn 1890 Dr. J.R. Reynolds found marijuana to be an excellent aid in combating anumber of problems associated with aging. Dr. Reynolds noted marijuanas usefulness inovercoming senile insomnia as well as its psychological benefits in helping older peoplecope with some of the feelings and emotions associated with growing older.

    INCREASE & DECREASE OF USAGE SINCE DRUGS DISCOVERY:The use of marijuana reached a high point in the late 1970s and early 1980s, andhas been declining ever since. In a 1978 survey, 37 percent of high school seniors said theyhad smoked marijuana in the last 30 days, and 11 percent said they used it daily. By 1986the number who said they had smoked it in the last 30 days had fallen to 23 percent -lower than in 1975 – and the proportion of daily users had dropped steadily to 4 percent. The trend among people aged 18 to 25 is similar. On the other hand, more peopleover 25 may be using marijuana occasionally, and young people are still experimentingIn 1969, 20 percent of high school seniors had used marijuana at least once, in1979, 60 percent had; and in 1985, 54 percent. The attitudes expressed in surveys showwhy habitual marijuana use is in decline. In 1978, 65 percent of high school students saidthey disapproved of it; in 1985, 85 percent disapproved. Over 70 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once. About 10 million had used the drug in the month before the survey. More than 5 million Americans smoke marijuana at least once a week. Among teens aged 12 to 17, the average age of first trying marijuana was 13.5A yearly survey of students in grades 8 through 12 shows that by 10th grade, nearly 16 percent are “current” users (that is, used within the past month). Among 12th-graders, nearly 40 percent have tried marijuana/hash at least once, and 19 percent Other researchers have found that use of marijuana and other drugs usually peaks in the late teens and early twenties, then goes down in later years.

    There are stronger forms of marijuana available today than there were in the 1960s.

    The strength of the drug is measured by the amount of average THC in test samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies. Sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah; it’s a Spanish word), hashish (“hash” for short), and hash oil are stronger forms of marijuana. Most ordinary marijuana has an average of 3 percent THC. Sinsemilla (made from just the buds and flowering tops of female plants) has anaverage of 7.5 percent THC, with a range as high as 24 percent. Hashish (the sticky resin from the female plant flowers) has an average of 3.6percent, with a range as high as 28 percent. Hash oil, a tar-like liquid distilled from hashish, has an average of 16 percent, withTHC disrupts the nerve cells in the part of the brain where memories are formed.

    This makes it hard for the user to recall recent events (such as what happened a fewminutes ago), and so it is hard to learn while high. A working short-term memory isrequired for learning and performing tasks that call for more than one or two steps. Somestudies show that when people have smoked large amounts of marijuana for many years,the drug takes its toll on mental functions. Among a group of long-time heavy marijuanausers in Costa Rica, researchers found that the people had great trouble when asked torecall a short list of words (a standard test of memory). People in that study group alsofound it very hard to focus their attention on the tests given to them. It may be that marijuana kills some brain cells. In laboratory research, some scientists found that high doses of THC given toyoung rats caused a loss of brain cells such as that seen with aging. One beneficial effect of THC is the lowering of intracular pressure, which can behelpful in the control of glaucoma. However, because it causes tachycardia, relativelyrapid heart action such as physiological (as after exercise), and increased work for theheart, it can not be used in most elderly persons, in which age group glaucoma is mostTHC can also be used for the control of severe nausea and vomiting caused byDoctors advise pregnant women not to use any drugs because they might harm theSome scientific studies have found that babies born to marijuana users wereshorter, weighed less, and had smaller head sizes than those born to mothers who did notuse the drug. Smaller babies are more likely to develop health problems. Other scientistshave found effects of marijuana that resemble the features of fetal alcohol syndrome.

    There are also research findings that show nervous system problems in children of mothersResearchers are not certain whether a newborn baby’s health problems, if they arecaused by marijuana, will continue as the child grows.

    Under U.S. law since 1970, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. Thismeans that the drug, at least in its smoked form, has no commonly accepted medical use inIn considering possible medical uses of marijuana, it is important to distinguishbetween whole marijuana and pure THC or other specific chemicals derived fromcannabis. Whole marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, some of which are clearlyTHC, manufactured into a pill that is taken by mouth, not smoked, can be used fortreating the nausea and vomiting that go along with certain cancer treatments. Anotherchemical related to THC (nabilone) has also been approved by the Food and DrugAdministration for treating cancer patients who suffer nausea. The oral THC is also usedto help AIDS patients eat more to keep up their weight. Scientists are studying whether THC and related chemicals in marijuana (calledcannabinoids) may have other medical uses. Some think that these chemicals could beuseful for treating severe pain. But further research is needed before such compounds canbe recommended for treatment of medical problems.

    Most recent research on the health hazards of marijuana concerns its long-termeffects on the body. Studies have examined the brain, the immune system, the reproductivesystem, and the lungs. Suggestions of long-term damage come almost exclusively fromanimal experiments and other laboratory work. Observations of marijuana users and the Caribbean, Greek, and other studies reveal little disease or organic pathology associated For example, there are several reports of damaged brain cells and changes inbrain-wave readings in monkeys smoking marijuana, but neurological andneuropsychological tests in Greece, Jamaica, and Costa Rica found no evidence offunctional brain damage. Damage to white blood cells has also been observed in thelaboratory, but again, its practical importance is unclear. Whatever temporary changesmarijuana may produce in the immune system, they have not been found to increase thedanger of infectious disease or cancer. If there were significant damage, we might expectto find a higher rate of these diseases among young people beginning in the 1960s, whenmarijuana first became popular. There is no evidence of that. The effects of marijuana on the reproductive system are a more complicated issue.

    In men, a single dose of THC lowers sperm count and the level of testosterone and otherhormones. Tolerance to this effect apparently develops; in the Costa Rican study,marijuana smokers and controls had the same testosterone levels. Although the smokers inthat study began using marijuana at an average age of 15, it had not affected theirmasculine development. There is no evidence that the changes in sperm count andtestosterone produced by marijuana affect sexual performance or fertility. In animal experiments THC has also been reported to lower levels of femalehormones and disturb the menstrual cycle. When monkeys, rats, and mice are exposedduring pregnancy to amounts of THC equivalent to a heavy human smokers dose,stillbirths and decreased birth weight are sometimes reported in their offspring. There arealso reports of low birth weight, prematurity, and even a condition resembling the fetalalcohol syndrome in some children of women who smoke marijuana heavily duringpregnancy. The significance of these reports is unclear because controls are lacking andother circumstances make it hard to attribute causes. To be safe, pregnant and nursingwomen should follow the standard conservative recommendation to avoid all drugs,including cannabis, that are not absolutely necessary. A well-confirmed danger of long-term heavy marijuana use is its effect on thelungs. Smoking narrows and inflames air passages and reduces breathing capacity; damageto bronchial cells has been observed in hashish smokers. Possible harmful effects includebronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. Marijuana smoke contains the same carcinogensas tobacco smoke, usually in somewhat higher concentrations. Marijuana is also inhaledmore deeply and held in the lungs longer, which increases the danger. On the other hand,almost no one smokes 20 marijuana cigarettes a day. Higher THC content in marijuanamay reduce the danger of respiratory damage, because less smoking is required for thedesired effect. This is true only as long as no significant tolerance develops, and as long asusers do not try to get a proportionately more intense effect from a stronger form of theAll forms of marijuana are mind-altering. This means they change how the brainworks. They all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical inmarijuana. But there are also 400 other chemicals in the marijuana plant.

    THC can with heavy smoking, narrow the bronchi and bronchioles and produceinflammation of the mucus membranes, and also increases the risk of lung cancer. There issome evidence that marijuana increases the risk for miscarriage and birth defects.

    When a nursing mother uses marijuana, some of the THC is passed to the baby inher breast milk. This is a matter for concern, since the THC in the mother’s milk is muchmore concentrated than that in the mother’s blood. One study has shown that the use ofmarijuana by a mother during the first month of breast feeding can impair the infant’smotor development (control of muscle movement).

    Interactions can be expected between cannabis and a wide range of drugs.

    Nortriptyline is a tricyclics (a chemical with three fused rings in the molecular structure)antidepressant. Cannabis interacts adversely with tricyclics antidepressants. Cannabis, onits own, produces tachycardia (rapid heart action) as a side-effect. Tricyclics do the same.

    Combined, there is an additive effect, with a larger increase in heart rate. Tricyclicantidepressants have a certain effect on the heart. This effect can be described ascardiotoxicity (having a toxic effect on the heart). In normal dosage, in individuals with noheart disorders, this causes no problems at all. In over doseage, tricyclics can produceserious cardiac arrest. (The effects of cannabis and Nortriptyline in particular have beenOn a medical level, many patients would use synthetic THC, in order to reduce pain,caused by disease or cancer. Patients would also use THC for the treatment of glaucoma.

    On a recreational level, individuals would use it to receive a high feeling, or to help with2.) Someone might want to take this drug because of its side effects. The effects lasttwo to four hours when marijuana is smoked and five to twelve hours when it is taken by mouth. Although the intoxication varies with psychological set and social setting, the most common response is a calm, mildly euphoric state in which time slows and sensitivity tosights, sounds, and touch is enhanced. The smoker may feel exhilaration or hilarity and notice a rapid flow of ideas with a reduction in short-term memory. Images sometimes appear before closed eyes; visual perception and body image may undergo subtle changes. 3.)The world would be altered in many ways if this drug didnt exist. For example: Inthe earlier centuries, cannabis (hemp) was used to make clothing, lubricant, rope, andfood. In present time; cancer patients would be in severe pain, new treatments forglaucoma would have to be discovered and HIV/AIDS patients would have to find newmeans in trying to keep their body weight at a healthy level.

    Bibliography:Academic American Encyclopedia. M-13. Deluxe Library Edition, Grolier Incorporated: 1994 Brave New World Productions, Inc. Ask Hans Available (Online) 17, 1998CancerNet from the National Cancer Institute’s PDQ System. Information for PhysiciansAvailable (Online) October 19, 1998Comptons Encyclopedia. Hemp Available (Online) 19, 1998Comptons Encyclopedia. Hallucinogen Available (Online) 17, 1998Davis, F.A., and Rice, Katherine. Tabers Cyclopedic Medical Dictionay. 16th Edition: pgs 10081-10082New Scientist Inc. Marijuana Special Report. Available (Online) 18, 1998Miller, and Keane. Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine Nursing, and Allied Health. 4thEdition: 1971 pg. 740

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