Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 3 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.
Enjoy... have fun debating it with ur local anti drug groups
Highlights from Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts*. MYTH: MARIJUANA'S HARMS HAVE BEEN PROVED SCIENTIFICALLY. In the 1960s and 1970s, many people believed that marijuana was harmless. Today we know that marijuana is much more dangerous than previously believed. FACT: In 1972, after reviewing the scientific evidence, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded that while marijuana was not entirely safe, its dangers had been grossly overstated. Since then, researchers have conducted thousands of studies of humans, animals, and cell cultures. None reveal any findings dramatically different from those described by the National Commission in 1972. In 1995, based on thirty years of scientific research editors of the British medical journal Lancet concluded that "the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health." MYTH: MARIJUANA HAS NO MEDICINAL VALUE. Safer, more effective drugs are available. They include a synthetic version of THC, marijuana's primary active ingredient, which is marketed in the United States under the name Marinol. FACT: Marijuana has been shown to be effective in reducing the nausea induced by cancer chemotherapy, stimulating appetite in AIDS patients, and reducing intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. There is also appreciable evidence that marijuana reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders. A synthetic capsule is available by prescription, but it is not as effective as smoked marijuana for many patients. Pure THC may also produce more unpleasant psychoactive side effects than smoked marijuana. Many people use marijuana as a medicine today, despite its illegality. In doing so, they risk arrest and imprisonment. MYTH: MARIJUANA IS HIGHLY ADDICTIVE. Long term marijuana users experience physical dependence and withdrawal, and often need professional drug treatment to break their marijuana habits. FACT: Most people who smoke marijuana smoke it only occasionally. A small minority of Americans - less than 1 percent - smoke marijuana on a daily basis. An even smaller minority develop a dependence on marijuana. Some people who smoke marijuana heavily and frequently stop without difficulty. Others seek help from drug treatment professionals. Marijuana does not cause physical dependence. If people experience withdrawal symptoms at all, they are remarkably mild. MYTH: MARIJUANA IS A GATEWAY DRUG. Even if marijuana itself causes minimal harm, it is a dangerous substance because it leads to the use of "harder drugs" like heroin, LSD, and cocaine. FACT: Marijuana does not cause people to use hard drugs. What the gateway theory presents as a causal explanation is a statistic association between common and uncommon drugs, an association that changes over time as different drugs increase and decrease in prevalence. Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the United States today. Therefore, people who have used less popular drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD, are likely to have also used marijuana. Most marijuana users never use any other illegal drug. Indeed, for the large majority of people, marijuana is a terminus rather than a gateway drug. MYTH: MARIJUANA OFFENSES ARE NOT SEVERELY PUNISHED. Few marijuana law violators are arrested and hardly anyone goes to prison. This lenient treatment is responsible for marijuana continued availability and use. FACT: Marijuana arrests in the United States doubled between 1991 and 1995. In 1995, more than one-half-million people were arrested for marijuana offenses. Eighty-six percent of them were arrested for marijuana possession. Tens of thousands of people are now in prison or marijuana offenses. An even greater number are punished with probation, fines, and civil sanctions, including having their property seized, their driver's license revoked, and their employment terminated. Despite these civil and criminal sanctions, marijuana continues to be readily available and widely used. MYTH: MARIJUANA POLICY IN THE NETHERLANDS IS A FAILURE. Dutch law, which allows marijuana to be bought, sold, and used openly, has resulted in increasing rates of marijuana use, particularly in youth. FACT: The Netherlands' drug policy is the most nonpunitive in Europe. For more than twenty years, Dutch citizens over age eighteen have been permitted to buy and use cannabis (marijuana and hashish) in government-regulated coffee shops. This policy has not resulted in dramatically escalating cannabis use. For most age groups, rates of marijuana use in the Netherlands are similar to those in the United States. However, for young adolescents, rates of marijuana use are lower in the Netherlands than in the United States. The Dutch people overwhelmingly approve of current cannabis policy which seeks to normalize rather than dramatize cannabis use. The Dutch government occasionally revises existing policy, but it remains committed to decriminalization. MYTH: MARIJUANA KILLS BRAIN CELLS. Used over time, marijuana permanently alters brain structure and function, causing memory loss, cognitive impairment, personality deterioration, and reduced productivity. FACT: None of the medical tests currently used to detect brain damage in humans have found harm from marijuana, even from long term high-dose use. An early study reported brain damage in rhesus monkeys after six months exposure to high concentrations of marijuana smoke. In a recent, more carefully conducted study, researchers found no evidence of brain abnormality in monkeys that were forced to inhale the equivalent of four to five marijuana cigarettes every day for a year. The claim that marijuana kills brain cells is based on a speculative report dating back a quarter of a century that has never been supported by any scientific study. MYTH: MARIJUANA CAUSES AN AMOTIVATIONAL SYNDROME. Marijuana makes users passive, apathetic, and uninterested in the future. Students who use marijuana become underachievers and workers who use marijuana become unproductive. FACT: For twenty-five years, researchers have searched for a marijuana-induced amotivational syndrome and have failed to find it. People who are intoxicated constantly, regardless of the drug, are unlikely to be productive members of society. There is nothing about marijuana specifically that causes people to lose their drive and ambition. In laboratory studies, subjects given high doses of marijuana for several days or even several weeks exhibit no decrease in work motivation or productivity. Among working adults, marijuana users tend to earn higher wages than non-users. College students who use marijuana have the same grades as nonusers. Among high school students, heavy use is associated with school failure, but school failure usually comes first. MYTH: MARIJUANA IMPAIRS MEMORY AND COGNITION. Under the influence of marijuana, people are unable to think rationally and intelligently. Chronic marijuana use causes permanent mental impairment. FACT: Marijuana produces immediate, temporary changes in thoughts, perceptions, and information processing. The cognitive process most clearly affected by marijuana is short-term memory. In laboratory studies, subjects under the influence of marijuana have no trouble remembering things they learned previously. However, they display diminished capacity to learn and recall new information. This diminishment only lasts for the duration of the intoxication. There is no convincing evidence that heavy long-term marijuana use permanently impairs memory or other cognitive functions. MYTH: MARIJUANA CAN CAUSE PERMANENT MENTAL ILLNESS. Among adolescents, even occasional marijuana use may cause psychological damage. During intoxication, marijuana users become irrational and often behave erratically. FACT: There is no convincing scientific evidence that marijuana causes psychological damage or mental illness in either teenagers or adults. Some marijuana users experience psychological distress following marijuana ingestion, which may include feelings of panic, anxiety, and paranoia. Such experiences can be frightening, but the effects are temporary. With very large doses, marijuana can cause temporary toxic psychosis. This occurs rarely, and almost always when marijuana is eaten rather than smoked. Marijuana does not cause profound changes in people's behavior. MYTH: MARIJUANA CAUSES CRIME. Marijuana users commit more property offenses than nonusers. Under the influence of marijuana, people become irrational, aggressive, and violent. FACT: Every serious scholar and government commission examining the relationship between marijuana use and crime has reached the same conclusion: marijuana does not cause crime. The vast majority of marijuana users do not commit crimes other than the crime of possessing marijuana. Among marijuana users who do commit crimes, marijuana plays no causal role. Almost all human and animal studies show that marijuana decreases rather than increases aggression. MYTH: MARIJUANA INTERFERES WITH MALE AND FEMALE SEX HORMONES. In both men and women, marijuana can cause infertility. Marijuana retards sexual development in adolescents. It produces feminine characteristics in males and masculine characteristics in females. FACT: There is no evidence that marijuana causes infertility in men or women. In animal studies, high doses of THC diminish the production of some sex hormones and can impair reproduction. However, most studies of humans have found that marijuana has no impact of sex hormones. In those studies showing an impact, it is modest, temporary, and of no apparent consequence for reproduction. There is no scientific evidence that marijuana delays adolescent sexual development, has feminizing effect on males, or a masculinizing effect on females. MYTH: MARIJUANA USE DURING PREGNANCY DAMAGES THE FETUS. Prenatal marijuana exposure causes birth defects in babies, and, as they grow older, developmental problems. The health and well being of the next generation is threatened by marijuana use by pregnant women. FACT: Studies of newborns, infants, and children show no consistent physical, developmental, or cognitive deficits related to prenatal marijuana exposure. Marijuana had no reliable impact on birth size, length of gestation, neurological development, or the occurrence of physical abnormalities. The administration of hundreds of tests to older children has revealed only minor differences between offspring of marijuana users and nonusers, and some are positive rather than negative. Two unconfirmed case-control studies identified prenatal marijuana exposure as one of many factors statistically associated with childhood cancer. Given other available evidence, it is highly unlikely that marijuana causes cancer in children. MYTH: MARIJUANA USE IMPAIRS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM. Marijuana users are at increased risk of infection, including HIV. AIDS patients are particularly vulnerable to marijuana's immunopathic effects because their immune systems are already suppressed. FACT: There is no evidence that marijuana users are more susceptible to infections than nonusers. Nor is there evidence that marijuana lowers users' resistance to sexually transmitted diseases. Early studies which showed decreased immune function in cells taken from marijuana users have since been disproved. Animals given extremely large doses of THC and exposed to a virus have higher rates of infection. Such studies have little relevance to humans. Even among people with existing immune disorders, such as AIDS, marijuana use appears to be relatively safe. However, the recent finding of an association between tobacco smoking and lung infection in AIDS patients warrants further research into possible harm from marijuana smoking in immune suppressed persons. MYTH: MARIJUANA IS MORE DAMAGING TO THE LUNGS THAN TOBACCO. Marijuana smokers are at a high risk of developing lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema. FACT: Moderate smoking of marijuana appears to pose minimal danger to the lungs. Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains a number of irritants and carcinogens. But marijuana users typically smoke much less often than tobacco smokers, and over time, inhale much less smoke. As a result, the risk of serious lung damage should be lower in marijuana smokers. There have been no reports of lung cancer related solely to marijuana, and in a large study presented to the American Thoracic Society in 2006, even heavy users of smoked marijuana were found not to have any increased risk of lung cancer. Unlike heavy tobacco smokers, heavy marijuana smokers exhibit no obstruction of the lung's small airway. That indicates that people will not develop emphysema from smoking marijuana. MYTH: MARIJUANA'S ACTIVE INGREDIENT, THC, GETS TRAPPED IN BODY FAT. Because THC is released from fat cells slowly, psychoactive effects may last for days or weeks following use. THC's long persistence in the body damages organs that are high in fat content, the brain in particular. FACT: Many active drugs enter the body's fat cells. What is different (but not unique) about THC is that it exits fat cells slowly. As a result, traces of marijuana can be found in the body for days or weeks following ingestion. However, within a few hours of smoking marijuana, the amount of THC in the brain falls below the concentration required for detectable psychoactivity. The fat cells in which THC lingers are not harmed by the drug's presence, nor is the brain or other organs. The most important consequence of marijuana's slow excretion is that it can be detected in blood, urine, and tissue long after it is used, and long after its psychoactivity has ended. MYTH: MARIJUANA USE IS A MAJOR CAUSE OF HIGHWAY ACCIDENTS. Like alcohol, marijuana impairs psychomotor function and decreases driving ability. If marijuana use increases, an increase in of traffic fatalities is inevitable. FACT: There is no compelling evidence that marijuana contributes substantially to traffic accidents and fatalities. At some doses, marijuana affects perception and psychomotor performances- changes which could impair driving ability. However, in driving studies, marijuana produces little or no car-handling impairment- consistently less than produced by low moderate doses of alcohol and many legal medications. In contrast to alcohol, which tends to increase risky driving practices, marijuana tends to make subjects more cautious. Surveys of fatally injured drivers show that when THC is detected in the blood, alcohol is almost always detected as well. For some individuals, marijuana may play a role in bad driving. The overall rate of highway accidents appears not to be significantly affected by marijuana's widespread use in society. MYTH: MARIJUANA RELATED HOSPITAL EMERGENCIES ARE INCREASING, PARTICULARLY AMONG YOUTH. This is evidence that marijuana is much more harmful than most people previously believed. FACT: Marijuana does not cause overdose deaths. The number of people in hospital emergency rooms who say they have used marijuana has increased. On this basis, the visit may be recorded as marijuana-related even if marijuana had nothing to do with the medical condition preceding the hospital visit. Many more teenagers use marijuana than use drugs such as heroin and cocaine. As a result, when teenagers visit hospital emergency rooms, they report marijuana much more frequently than they report heroin and cocaine. In the large majority of cases when marijuana is mentioned, other drugs are mentioned as well. In 1994, fewer than 2% of drug related emergency room visits involved the use of marijuana. MYTH: MARIJUANA IS MORE POTENT TODAY THAN IN THE PAST. Adults who used marijuana in the 1960s and 1970s fail to realize that when today's youth use marijuana they are using a much more dangerous drug. FACT: When today's youth use marijuana, they are using the same drug used by youth in the 1960s and 1970s. A small number of low-THC sample sized by the Drug Enforcement Administration are used to calculate a dramatic increase in potency. However, these samples were not representative of the marijuana generally available to users during this era. Potency data from the early 1980s to the present are more reliable, and they show no increase in the average THC content of marijuana. Even if marijuana potency were to increase, it would not necessarily make the drug more dangerous. Marijuana that varies quite substantially in potency produces similar psychoactive effects. MYTH: MARIJUANA USE CAN BE PREVENTED. Drug education and prevention programs reduced marijuana use during the 1980s. Since then, our commitment has slackened, and marijuana use has been rising. By expanding and intensifying current anti-marijuana messages, we can stop youthful experimentation. FACT: There is no evidence that anti-drug messages diminish young people's interest in drugs. Anti-drug campaigns in the schools and the media may even make drugs more attractive. Marijuana use among youth declined throughout the 1980s, and began increasing in the 1990s. This increase occurred despite young people's exposure to the most massive anti-marijuana campaign in American history. In a number of other countries, drug education programs are based on a "harm reduction" model, which seeks to reduce the drug-related harm among those young people who do experiment with drugs. *Lynn Zimmer and John Morgan. Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence, (New York: The Lindesmith Center, 1997).
by Paul Hager
Chair, ICLU Drug Task Force
1. Marijuana causes brain damage
The most celebrated study that claims to show brain damage is the rhesus monkey study of Dr. Robert Heath, done in the late 1970s. This study was reviewed by a distinguished panel of scientists sponsored by the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. Their results were published under the title, Marijuana and Health in 1982. Heath's work was sharply criticized for its insufficient sample size (only four monkeys), its failure to control experimental bias, and the misidentification of normal monkey brain structure as "damaged". Actual studies of human populations of marijuana users have shown no evidence of brain damage. For example, two studies from 1977, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed no evidence of brain damage in heavy users of marijuana. That same year, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially came out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. That's not the sort of thing you'd expect if the AMA thought marijuana damaged the brain.
2. Marijuana damages the reproductive system
This claim is based chiefly on the work of Dr. Gabriel Nahas, who experimented with tissue (cells) isolated in petri dishes, and the work of researchers who dosed animals with near-lethal amounts of cannabinoids (i.e., the intoxicating part of marijuana). Nahas' generalizations from his petri dishes to human beings have been rejected by the scientific community as being invalid. In the case of the animal experiments, the animals that survived their ordeal returned to normal within 30 days of the end of the experiment. Studies of actual human populations have failed to demonstrate that marijuana adversely affects the reproductive system.
3. Marijuana is a "gateway" drug -- it leads to hard drugs
This is one of the more persistent myths. A real world example of what happens when marijuana is readily available can be found in Holland. The Dutch partially legalized marijuana in the 1970s. Since then, hard drug use -- heroin and cocaine -- have DECLINED substantially. If marijuana really were a gateway drug, one would have expected use of hard drugs to have gone up, not down. This apparent "negative gateway" effect has also been observed in the United States. Studies done in the early 1970s showed a negative correlation between use of marijuana and use of alcohol. A 1993 Rand Corporation study that compared drug use in states that had decriminalized marijuana versus those that had not, found that where marijuana was more available -- the states that had decriminalized -- hard drug abuse as measured by emergency room episodes decreased. In short, what science and actual experience tell us is that marijuana tends to substitute for the much more dangerous hard drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin.
4. Marijuana suppresses the immune system
Like the studies claiming to show damage to the reproductive system, this myth is based on studies where animals were given extremely high -- in many cases, near-lethal -- doses of cannabinoids. These results have never been duplicated in human beings. Interestingly, two studies done in 1978 and one done in 1988 showed that hashish and marijuana may have actually stimulated the immune system in the people studied.
5. Marijuana is much more dangerous than tobacco
Smoked marijuana contains about the same amount of carcinogens as does an equivalent amount of tobacco. It should be remembered, however, that a heavy tobacco smoker consumes much more tobacco than a heavy marijuana smoker consumes marijuana. This is because smoked tobacco, with a 90% addiction rate, is the most addictive of all drugs while marijuana is less addictive than caffeine. Two other factors are important. The first is that paraphernalia laws directed against marijuana users make it difficult to smoke safely. These laws make water pipes and bongs, which filter some of the carcinogens out of the smoke, illegal and, hence, unavailable. The second is that, if marijuana were legal, it would be more economical to have cannabis drinks like bhang (a traditional drink in the Middle East) or tea which are totally non-carcinogenic. This is in stark contrast with "smokeless" tobacco products like snuff which can cause cancer of the mouth and throat. When all of these facts are taken together, it can be clearly seen that the reverse is true: marijuana is much SAFER than tobacco.
6. Legal marijuana would cause carnage on the highways
Although marijuana, when used to intoxication, does impair performance in a manner similar to alcohol, actual studies of the effect of marijuana on the automobile accident rate suggest that it poses LESS of a hazard than alcohol. When a random sample of fatal accident victims was studied, it was initially found that marijuana was associated with RELATIVELY as many accidents as alcohol. In other words, the number of accident victims intoxicated on marijuana relative to the number of marijuana users in society gave a ratio similar to that for accident victims intoxicated on alcohol relative to the total number of alcohol users. However, a closer examination of the victims revealed that around 85% of the people intoxicated on marijuana WERE ALSO INTOXICATED ON ALCOHOL. For people only intoxicated on marijuana, the rate was much lower than for alcohol alone. This finding has been supported by other research using completely different methods. For example, an economic analysis of the effects of decriminalization on marijuana usage found that states that had reduced penalties for marijuana possession experienced a rise in marijuana use and a decline in alcohol use with the result that fatal highway accidents decreased. This would suggest that, far from causing "carnage", legal marijuana might actually save lives.
7. Marijuana "flattens" human brainwaves
This is an out-and-out lie perpetrated by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. A few years ago, they ran a TV ad that purported to show, first, a normal human brainwave, and second, a flat brainwave from a 14-year-old "on marijuana". When researchers called up the TV networks to complain about this commercial, the Partnership had to pull it from the air. It seems that the Partnership faked the flat "marijuana brainwave". In reality, marijuana has the effect of slightly INCREASING alpha wave activity. Alpha waves are associated with meditative and relaxed states which are, in turn, often associated with human creativity.
8. Marijuana is more potent today than in the past
This myth is the result of bad data. The researchers who made the claim of increased potency used as their baseline the THC content of marijuana seized by police in the early 1970s. Poor storage of this marijuana in un-air conditioned evidence rooms caused it to deteriorate and decline in potency before any chemical assay was performed. Contemporaneous, independent assays of unseized "street" marijuana from the early 1970s showed a potency equivalent to that of modern "street" marijuana. Actually, the most potent form of this drug that was generally available was sold legally in the 1920s and 1930s by the pharmaceutical company Smith-Klein under the name, "American Cannabis".
9. Marijuana impairs short-term memory
This is true but misleading. Any impairment of short-term memory disappears when one is no longer under the influence of marijuana. Often, the short-term memory effect is paired with a reference to Dr. Heath's poor rhesus monkeys to imply that the condition is permanent.
10. Marijuana lingers in the body like DDT
This is also true but misleading. Cannabinoids are fat soluble as are innumerable nutrients and, yes, some poisons like DDT. For example, the essential nutrient, Vitamin A, is fat soluble but one never hears people who favor marijuana prohibition making this comparison.
11. There are over a thousand chemicals in marijuana smoke
Again, true but misleading. The 31 August 1990 issue of the magazine Science notes that of the over 800 volatile chemicals present in roasted COFFEE, only 21 have actually been tested on animals and 16 of these cause cancer in rodents. Yet, coffee remains legal and is generally considered fairly safe.
12. No one has ever died of a marijuana overdose
This is true. It was put in to see if you are paying attention. Animal tests have revealed that extremely high doses of cannabinoids are needed to have lethal effect. This has led scientists to conclude that the ratio of the amount of cannabinoids necessary to get a person intoxicated (i.e., stoned) relative to the amount necessary to kill them is 1 to 40,000. In other words, to overdose, you would have to consume 40,000 times as much marijuana as you needed to get stoned. In contrast, the ratio for alcohol varies between 1 to 4 and 1 to 10. It is easy to see how upwards of 5000 people die from alcohol overdoses every year and no one EVER dies of marijuana overdoses.
WHAT IS THE ICLU DRUG TASK FORCE?
The Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) Drug Task Force is involved in education and lobbying efforts directed toward reforming drug policy. Specifically, we support ACLU Policy Statement number 210 which calls for the legalization of marijuana. We also support an end to the drug war. In its place, we favor "harm reduction" strategies which treat drug abuse as what it is -- a medical problem -- rather than a criminal justice problem.
The Drug Task Force also works to end urine and hair testing of workers by private industry. These kinds of tests violate worker privacy to no good purpose because they detect past use of certain drugs (mostly marijuana) while ignoring others (e.g., LSD) and cannot detect current impairment. In situations where public and worker safety is a legitimate concern, we advocate impairment testing devices which reliably detect degradation of performance without infringing upon worker privacy.
For more information about the activities of the Drug Task Force, call the ICLU at (317) 635-4059 or call Paul Hager at (812) 333-1384 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org on the InterNet.
1) Marijuana and Health, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 1982. Note: the Committee on Substance Abuse and Habitual Behavior of the "Marijuana and Health" study had its part of the final report suppressed when it reviewed the evidence and recommended that possession of small amounts of marijuana should no longer be a crime (TIME magazine, July 19, 1982). The two JAMA studies are: Co, B.T., Goodwin, D.W., Gado, M., Mikhael, M., and Hill, S.Y.: "Absence of cerebral atrophy in chronic cannabis users", JAMA, 237:1229-1230, 1977; and, Kuehnle, J., Mendelson, J.H., Davis, K.R., and New, P.F.J.: "Computed tomographic examination of heavy marijuana smokers", JAMA, 237:1231-1232, 1977.
2) See Marijuana and Health, ibid., for information on this research. See also, Marijuana Reconsidered (1978) by Dr. Lester Grinspoon.
3) The Dutch experience is written up in "The Economics of Legalizing Drugs", by Richard J. Dennis, The Atlantic Monthly, Vol 266, No. 5, Nov 1990, p. 130. See "A Comparison of Marijuana Users and Non-users" by Norman Zinberg and Andrew Weil (1971) for the negative correlation between use of marijuana and use of alcohol. The 1993 Rand Corporation study is "The Effect of Marijuana Decriminalization on Hospital Emergency Room Episodes: 1975 - 1978" by Karyn E. Model.
4) See a review of studies and their methodology in "Marijuana and Immunity", Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol 20(1), Jan-Mar 1988. Studies showing stimulation of the immune system: Kaklamani, et al., "Hashish smoking and T- lymphocytes", 1978; Kalofoutis et al., "The significance of lymphocyte lipid changes after smoking hashish", 1978. The 1988 study: Wallace, J.M., Tashkin, D.P., Oishi, J.S., Barbers, R.G., "Peripheral Blood Lymphocyte Subpopulations and Mitogen Responsiveness in Tobacco and Marijuana Smokers", 1988, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, ibid.
5) The 90% figure comes from Health Consequences of Smoking: Nicotine Addiction, Surgeon General's Report, 1988. In Health magazine in an article entitled, "Hooked, Not Hooked" by Deborah Franklin (pp. 39-52), compares the addictives of various drugs and ranks marijuana below coffeine. For current information on cannabis drinks see Working Men and Ganja: Marijuana Use in Rural Jamaica by M. C. Dreher, Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1982, ISBN 0-89727-025-8. For information on cannabis and actual cancer risk, see Marijuana and Health, ibid.
6) For a survey of studies relating to cannabis and highway accidents see "Marijuana, Driving and Accident Safety", by Dale Gieringer, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, ibid. The effect of decriminalization on highway accidents is analyzed in "Do Youths Substitute Alcohol and Marijuana? Some Econometric Evidence" by Frank J. Chaloupka and Adit Laixuthai, Nov. 1992, University of Illinois at Chicago.
7) For information about the Partnership ad, see Jack Herer's book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, 1990, p. 74. See also "Hard Sell in the Drug War", The Nation, March 9, 1992, by Cynthia Cotts, which reveals that the Partnership receives a large percentage of its advertizing budget from alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies and is thus disposed toward exaggerating the risks of marijuana while downplaying the risks of legal drugs. For information on memory and the alpha brainwave enhancement effect, see "Marijuana, Memory, and Perception", by R. L. Dornbush, M.D., M. Fink, M.D., and A. M. Freedman, M.D., presented at the 124th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, May 3-7, 1971.
8) See "Cannabis 1988, Old Drug New Dangers, The Potency Question" by Tod H Mikuriya, M.D. and Michael Aldrich, Ph.D., Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, ibid.
9) See Marijuana and Health, ibid. Also see "Marijuana, Memory, and Perception", ibid.
10) The fat solubility of cannabinoids and certain vitamins is well known. See Marijuana and Health, ibid. For some information on vitamin A, see "The A Team" in Scientific American, Vol 264, No. 2, February 1991, p. 16.
11) See "Too Many Rodent Carcinogens: Mitogenesis Increases Mutagenesis", Bruce N. Ames and Lois Swirsky Gold, Science, Vol 249, 31 August 1990, p. 971.
12) Cannabis and alcohol toxicity is compared in Marijuana Reconsidered, ibid., p. 227. Yearly alcohol overdoses was taken from "Drug Prohibition in the United States: Costs, Consequences, and Alternatives" by Ethan A. Nadelmann, Science, Vol 245, 1 September 1989, p. 943.
I found this article nice to read. Altough there's not much new to most forumers, it's compact and quite convinsing piece of info. There's much research done and the claims are backed up well.
The Health Effects of Marijuana on Humans by Marc Anderson
Marijuana has been used as a drug since the beginning of time, yet there are still many mysteries about its health effects on humans. Marijuana, or cannabis sativa, is a preparation of the crushed flowers and buds of female hemp plant. The existence of the plant has been reported as early as 1500-1200 BC. in China, and cannabis has been described as an analgesic as early as 200 AD (Walton, 1938). Since then, an overwhelming number of studies have attempted to explain the physical and psychological effects of cannabis on humans.
Physically, cannabis is relatively harmless. Studies have observed interesting results, including that it causes structural changes in the brain, depresses male sperm counts, causes chromosome damage, lowers testosterone levels, and damages the lungs. Most of these claims, however, have been unreplicated in humans or have been contradicted by other work. This section will address each of these reported negative side-effects.
Various studies have claimed that cannabis destroys brain cells (Landfield et al., 1988; Haper et al., 1977; Meyers and Heath, 1979; Heath et al., 1980). However, several other studies found no structural or neurochemical atrophy in the brain at all (Cabral et al., 1991; Paule et al., 1992; Co et al., 1977; Kuehnle, 1977). Furthermore, it should be noted that Heath's work was sharply criticized for avoiding safeguards of bias and reporting "changes" that occur normally in the mammalian brain (Natl. Acad. of Sciences, Inst. Medicine, 1982).
Wu et al. (1988) found a correlation between cannabis use and low sperm counts in human males. This is misleading because a decrease in sperm count has not been shown to have a negative effect on fertility and because the sperm count returns to normal after cannabis use has stopped. (Natl. Acad. Sciences, Inst. Medicine, 1982)
Another claim made was that cannabis causes chromosome breakage. The primary source for this are studies that were conducted by Dr. Gabriel Nahas in the early 1980s. Nahas observed abnormalities in somatic (not sex) cells of rhesus monkeys in vitro (i.e., in test tubes and petri dishes) and then made the unjustified conclusion that these changes would occur in human bodies in vivo (in the body). Nahas' work was criticized by his colleagues and, in 1983, he backed away from his own conclusions.
A widely held claim has also been that cannabis lowers male testosterone levels (Kolodny, 1974). This theory has been challenged by several studies (Block, 1991; Mendelson et al., 1974; Coggins et al., 1976) that found no correlation at all. Marijuana and Health (Natl. Acad. Sciences, Inst. Medicine, 1982), also, after reviewing literature at that time, concluded that "Due to conflicting and incomplete evidence, it is not possible to conclude at the present time whether marijuana smoking has a significant effect upon gonadotropic and testosterone concentrations in humans."
The most serious physical danger of using cannabis is in smoking it. Inhaling any sort of burnt plant matter is not very good for the lungs. Tashkin et al. (1990) reports decreased gas exchange capacity and the existence of particle residue in the lungs of marijuana smokers several times greater than for tobacco smokers. Wu et al. (1988) noted that marijuana is several times more carcinogenic than tobacco. These findings, though, must be interpreted with caution. In both studies, smoked marijuana was not filtered, while smoked tobacco was. Tashkin et al. notes that, "these differences could largely account for more than twofold greater tar yield from marijuana than tobacco that was measured using syringe-simulated puffs of similar volume and duration." Smoking cannabis through a water-pipe will filter out water soluble carcinogens and will also greatly cool down the smoke. Furthermore, cannabis need not be smoked: In Middle Eastern countries, it has been consumed through teas and food for centuries, avoiding the carcinogenicity of smoke altogether.
Despite cannabis' known negative effects to lung function, it has never been reported to cause a single instance of lung cancer. Tobacco, though, is expected to kill 400,000 people this year (Glenn, 1992). If cannabis is so much more dangerous to a user's lungs than tobacco and is so much more carcinogenic, why aren't there stacks of reports of cannabis-induced lung cancer? One interesting theory is that it's because tobacco tars are significantly radioactive, while marijuana tars aren't at all. Winters et al. (1982) found that a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker of tobacco is exposed to 8000 mrem of radiation a year, equal to the dose of 300 chest x-rays. A more recent study indicates that a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker receives 16000 mrem of radiation more than a non-smoker, annually (NCRP Report #95, 1987). It could also be noted that the mere contents of carcinogenic chemicals doesn't necessarily indicate an extreme health hazard. For example, roasted coffee contains 800 volatile chemicals, of which only 21 have been tested on rodents, and of those, 16 were carcinogenic (Ames, 1990). Coffee has never been considered a great cancer-causing substance, though.
Cannabis has also been known for its many therapeutic uses, including the treatment of open angle glaucoma, asthma, and the nausea associated with chemotherapy. It has also been described as a tumor retardant, an antibiotic, a sleep-inducer, and a muscle relaxant (Cohen, 1980).
The psychological effects of cannabis use have been described quite many years before the physical effects, yet are as accurate today as they were 100 years ago. Following is an early account of its intoxicating properties made by Dr. John Bell in 1857:
"I had taken the drug with great skepticism as to its reputed action, or at any rate with the opinion that it was grossly exaggerated, and I accordingly made up my mind not to be 'caught napping' in this way again, and to keep a careful watch over my thoughts. But while enforcing this resolution as I supposed, I found myself, to my own astonishment, waking from a reverie longer and more profound than any previous. From skepticism, to the fullest belief of all I had read on the subject, was but a step. Its effects so far surpassed anything which words can convey, that I began to think I was on the verge of narcotic poisoning; yet, strange to say, there was not the slightest feeling of inquietude on that account. I resolved to walk into the street. While rising from the chair, another lucid interval showed that another dream had come and gone. While passing through the door, I was aware of having wandered again, but how or when I had permitted myself to fall into the reverie I was perfectly unconscious, and knew only that it seemed to have lasted an interminable length of time." (Bell, 1857)
The user of cannabis feels the onset of the "high" between 7 seconds (when smoking) and up to 30 minutes (after eating). This involves a relaxed and peaceful, yet sometimes euphoric state of mind. At high doses, it can cause hallucinations. The effects last from 2 to 4 hours after the drug is ingested, and it usually leaves the user in a relaxed state for several hours after the high. One of the main intoxicating properties is that short term memory is inhibited for the duration of the high. Thoughts may seem unclear, and it might be difficult for a user to concentrate on logical-complicated concepts like mathematics.
Long-term effects have been argued for many years. There are claims of an "amotivational syndrome" where users are said to withdraw from society and lose ambition. In reviewing evidence for and against the theory of this "syndrome," however, Marijuana and Health (Nat. Acad. Sciences, Inst. Medicine, 1982) concluded that:
"Such symptoms have been known to occur in the absence of marijuana. Even if there is an association between this syndrome and the use of marijuana, that does not prove that marijuana causes the syndrome. Many troubled individuals seek an 'escape' into use of drugs; thus, frequent use of marijuana may become one more in a series of counterproductive behaviors for these unhappy people."
Other studies have found another interesting correlation: Shedler et al. (1990) reported these results in a longitudinal survey of adolescents:
"Adolescents who engaged in some drug experimentation (primarily with marijuana) were the best adjusted in the sample. Adolescents who used drugs frequently were maladjusted, showing distinct personality syndrome marked by interpersonal alienation, poor impulse control, and manifest emotional distress. Adolescents who, by age 18, had never experimented with any drug were relatively anxious, emotionally constricted, and lacking in social skills."
Among other findings, Utah Power and Light spent $215.00 per year less on health insurance benefits for drug users than on the control group, and employees who tested positive for cannabis at Georgia Power Co. had a higher promotion rate than the company average, and were absent 30 percent less (Morris, 1991).
Whether cannabis use causes permanent physical or psychological changes in its users is still under question. The most serious concern is its effects on the pulmonary system, yet, studies have often used poor controls (i.e., no filtration) and their results can mislead an uncareful reader. Smoking the drug with a different apparatus or ingesting it without smoking at all could greatly effect the results of these studies.
The acute psychological effects of cannabis that cause its intoxicating properties are no mystery, as any user can report. Long term effects of cannabis use could possibly lead to the so-called "amotivational syndrome," but scientific evidence is lacking.
Ames, B.N., Gold, L.S. Too many rodent carcinogens: Mitogenesis increases mutagenesis. Science. Vol 149. Pg. 971. 1990.
Bell, J. On the haschisch or cannabis indica. The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. Vol LVI, No. 11. April 16, 1857.
Cabral, G. et al. Chronic Marijuana Smoke Alters Alveolar Macrophage Morphology and Protein Expression. Fundamental and Applied Toxicolgy. 17:321-32. 1991.
Coggins, W.J., Swenson, E.W., Dawson, W.W., et al. Health status of chronic heavy cannabis users. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 282:148-161. 1976.
Co, B.T., Goodwin, D.W., Gado, M., Mikhael, M., and Hill, S.Y. Absence of cerebral atrophy in chronic cannabis users. JAMA. 237:1229-1230. 1977.
Cohen, S. Therapeutic Aspects. Marijuana Research Findings: 1980. NIDA Research Mongraph 31. 1980.
Glenn, Reed. Daily Camera. Jan. 2, 1992.
Harper, J.W., Heath, R.G., and Myers, W.A. Effects of cannabis sativa on ultrastructure of the synapse in monkey brain. J. Neurosci. Res. 3:87-93. 1977.
Heath, R.G., Fitzjarrell, A.T., Garey, R.E., and Myers, W.A. Chronic marihuana smoking: Its effects on function and structure of the primate brain. In Nahas, G.G. and Paton, W.D.M. (eds) Marihuana: Biological Effects. Analysis, Metabolism, Cullarlar Responses, Reproduction and Brain. Pergamon Press: Oxford. 1979.
Heath, R.G., Fitzjarrell, A.T., Fontana, C.J., and Garey, R.E. Cannabis sativa: Effects on brain function and ultrastructure in Rhesus monkeys. Biological Pschiatry. 15:657-690. 1980.
Kolodny, R.C., Masters, W.H., Kolodner, R.M., and Toro, G. Depression of plasma testosterone levels after chronic intensive marijuana use. NEJM. 290:872-874. 1974.
Kuehnle, J., Mendelson, J.H., Davis, K.R., and New, P.F.J. Computed tomographic examination of heavy marijuana smokers. JAMA. 237:1231-1232. 1977.
Landfield, P., Cadwallader, L. B., and Vinsant, S. Quantitative changes in hippocampal structure following long-term exposure to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol: possible mediation by glucucorticoid systems. Brain Research. Vol 443. 1988.
Mendelson, J.H., Kuehnle, J. Ellingboe, J., and Babor, T.F. Plasma testosterone levels before, during, and after chronic marihuana smoking. NEJM. 291:1051-1055. 1974.
Morris, D. Saint Paul Pioneer Press. May 6, 1991.
National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine. Marijuana and Health. National Academic Press: Washington D.C. 1982.
NCRP Report #95. Radiation Exposure of the U.S. population from consumer products and miscellaneous sources. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement. Dec 30, 1987.
Paule, M. et al. Chronic marijuana smoke exposure in the rhesus monkey II: Effects on progressive ratio and conditioned position responding. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 260: 210-22. 1992.
Shedler, J., Block, J. Adolescent drug use and psychological health: A longitudinal inquiry. American Psychologist. Vol 45(5) 612-630. 1990.
Tashkin, D.P., Fligiel S., Wu, T-C., Gong, H. Jr., Barbers, R.G., Coulson, A.H., Simmons, M.S., Beals, T.F. Effects of habitual use of marijuana and/or cocaine on the lung. Research Findings on Smoking of Abused Substances. NIDA Monograph 99. 1990.
Walton, R.P. Marihuana: America's New Drug Problem. J.B. Lippincott: Philadelphia. 1874. [sic.]
Winters, T.H., Franza, J.R. Radioactivity in Cigarette Smoke. NEJM. 306(6): 364-365. 1982.
Wu, T-C., Tashkin, D.P., Djahed, B., and Rose, J.E. Pulmonary hazards of smoking marijuana as compared with tobacco. NEJM. 1988.
I read one of these old studies, the rhesus monkey brain and the damage caused by cannabis? the monkeys had these gas masks, which they could not remove and pumped smoke into their lungs. This gave them brain damage as their lungs could not absorb enough oxygen. The rate and amount of smoke that they pumped into the monkey's lungs was enough to kill a human. It was the smoke, not the cannabis.
I read one of these old studies, the rhesus monkey brain and the damage caused by cannabis? the monkeys had these gas masks, which they could not remove and pumped smoke into their lungs. This gave them brain damage as their lungs could not absorb enough oxygen. The rate and amount of smoke that they pumped into the monkey's lungs was enough to kill a human. It was the smoke, not the cannabis.
There was no oxygen to be absorbed, I'm 85% sure the monkeys were trapped in glass tanks whilst being force fed smoke. Small wonder they died, such a horrible thing to do to an animal... Especially when you're planning on lying about the results. Fuckers could have lied without murdering any primates.
Its amazing the obstacle that a few billion dollars and some well placed lobbyists and politicians can cause a legitimate, science-driven investigation. The FDA does their part by refusing to allow private entities to access cannabis for research purposes, thereby acting as an insurmountable roadblock for cannabis research in the US. Thank god other countries don't have the same restrictions... I read an article saying that the FDA approved several cancer-causing food dyes the same year that they were repeatedly petitioned for permits to acquire marijuana for research (that were all immediately denied, no pretext of even going over the proposals). Apparently people getting stoned is a more important health issue than people with bright blue bowels and cancer.