MARIJUANA

by drnieman on August 4, 2013

in Uncategorized

Question:  I am not interested in the subjective political aspects of marijuana. The objective science interests me more. Can you update me further about the science; especially the impact marijuana has on a teenager’s brain?

Answer:

You are indeed correct in asking for objective research results on this extremely controversial matter. It is important to keep politics out of this discussion and start from the aspect of science.

Not so long ago I had the honor to meet Dr. Chris Thurstone MD, a physician who specializes in adolescent medicine. This Colorado-based expert in the field of addictions, updated pediatricians at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The take home message was simple. There is a huge gap between the public’s perception and what scientists know about the health impact of cannabis.

Dr. Thurstone, who blogs regularly on this topic, shared a terrific resource with his audience: www.LearnAboutSam.org

SAM stands for Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

This organization was co-founded by a well-known member of the Kennedy family and former congressman Patrick Kennedy and addiction expert, Dr. Drew Pinsky, together with a wide spectrum of non-partisan professionals.

SAM assembled professionals working in mental and public health and who are bipartisan. These professionals include teachers, doctors, lawyers, addiction experts, law enforcement officers and others who seek a health-first approach to marijuana.

Here are some of the highlights about marijuana’s impact on teens and young adults:

—Marijuana is harmful because it contains THC as the most prominent component. In addition there are 500 other components, most of which there is insufficient data to conclude it is harmless. According to SAM, today’s marijuana “ is not your mama’s Woodstock weed” It  contains a 4-fould increase of THC compared to the 1960’s(Experts reminds us that there was a time when tobacco was deemed harmless, but with more research society became more aware of how various chemicals and components in tobacco have the potential to harm us)

—THC directly affects the brain. The parts most affected are memory, learning, attention and reaction time. These effects can last as long as 28 days after abstinence of use. The adolescent brain is not fully developed yet and thus more susceptible to potential toxins

A RAND corporation study surveyed almost 6000 students ages 13 to 23 and found that teens smoking marijuana from once a week to monthly at age 13 and decreased their use by age 18, and decreased their use again to 3-10 times per year in young adulthood, still lagged behind all other groups in earnings and education when researched at age 29 (See www.learnaboutsam.com/public-health/)

—Cannabis contains 50 -70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke as reported by the American Lung Association. There is no definitive link between lung cancer and marijuana use. Cannabis smokers have a higher prevalence of bronchitis, cough and phlegm production.

—60% of new marijuana users each year are under the age of 18. It is the number one reason adolescents are admitted to substance abuse treatment programs. Overall 1 in 11 of all users will become addicted to the drug; if a person uses cannabis under the age of 18, that number rises to 1 in 6.  Experts such as Dr Thurstone suggest that society become more honest about the real dangers of marijuana (For more resources on what addiction experts are seeing and learning about THC’s impact see www.drthurstone.com/what-the-latest-top-canabis-research-tells-us/)

—In addition to affecting memory, attention, learning and reaction time, THC may cause depression, anxiety and psychosis. A well designed study published by the National Academy of Science in 2012 confirmed that THC use reduces IQ by 8 points among people who started using marijuana regularly before age 18. (www.learnaboutsam.com/public-health/) This 8% drop in IQ is similar to the drop in IQ caused by lead exposure.

—Marijuana affects the user’s driving skills. A widely-cited study released in 2012 concluded that marijuana use doubles the risk of car crashes (BMJ, 2012 Authors M. Asbridge, J.A. Hayden and J.L. Cartwright)

—Marijuana use during pregnancy has been shown to decrease birth weight most likely due to the affects of carbon monoxide on the developing fetus.

Dr. Bertha Madras, PhD is a professor of psychology at Harvard and world-recognized expert in drug addiction. Her research shows that marijuana use increases the probability of use of other drugs. The risk of other illicit drug initiation was 24 times higher among cannabis experimenters and 124 times higher among daily cannabis users. (For more information on THC and mortality, its use for cancer treatment, the role of prohibition, the gateway effect of THC, its impact on the testis, and the long-term impact on youth, sees www.drthurstone.com/what-latest-top-canabis-research-tells-us?)

This is clearly a controversial topic but more importantly a loaded public and mental health issue. In my humble opinion we need less politics and more science at this point.

DR. PETER NIEMAN IS A PRACTISING COMMUNITY PEDIATRICIAN WITH 26 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE. HE IS THE FATHER OF FOUR CHILDREN, A MEMBER OF THE CANADIAN PEDIATRIC SOCIETY AND THE ALBERTA PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS. HE CAN BE FOLLOWED ON  @DrPeterNieman

 

 

 

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