Marijuana

.. the nausea and vomiting that go along with certain cancer treatments. Another chemical related to THC (nabilone) has also been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating cancer patients who suffer nausea. The oral THC is also used to help AIDS patients eat more to keep up their weight. Scientists are studying whether THC and related chemicals in marijuana (called cannabinoids) may have other medical uses.

Some think that these chemicals could be useful for treating severe pain. But further research is needed before such compounds can be recommended for treatment of medical problems. SIDE EFFECTS: Most recent research on the health hazards of marijuana concerns its long-term effects on the body. Studies have examined the brain, the immune system, the reproductive system, and the lungs. Suggestions of long-term damage come almost exclusively from animal experiments and other laboratory work. Observations of marijuana users and the Caribbean, Greek, and other studies reveal little disease or organic pathology associated with the drug.

For example, there are several reports of damaged brain cells and changes in brain-wave readings in monkeys smoking marijuana, but neurological and neuropsychological tests in Greece, Jamaica, and Costa Rica found no evidence of functional brain damage. Damage to white blood cells has also been observed in the laboratory, but again, its practical importance is unclear. Whatever temporary changes marijuana may produce in the immune system, they have not been found to increase the danger of infectious disease or cancer. If there were significant damage, we might expect to find a higher rate of these diseases among young people beginning in the 1960s, when marijuana 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 other hormones. Tolerance to this effect apparently develops; in the Costa Rican study, marijuana smokers and controls had the same testosterone levels. Although the smokers in that study began using marijuana at an average age of 15, it had not affected their masculine development.

There is no evidence that the changes in sperm count and testosterone produced by marijuana affect sexual performance or fertility. In animal experiments THC has also been reported to lower levels of female hormones and disturb the menstrual cycle. When monkeys, rats, and mice are exposed during pregnancy to amounts of THC equivalent to a heavy human smokers dose, stillbirths and decreased birth weight are sometimes reported in their offspring. There are also reports of low birth weight, prematurity, and even a condition resembling the fetal alcohol syndrome in some children of women who smoke marijuana heavily during pregnancy. The significance of these reports is unclear because controls are lacking and other circumstances make it hard to attribute causes. To be safe, pregnant and nursing women 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 the lungs. Smoking narrows and inflames air passages and reduces breathing capacity; damage to bronchial cells has been observed in hashish smokers. Possible harmful effects include bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. Marijuana smoke contains the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke, usually in somewhat higher concentrations. Marijuana is also inhaled more 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 marijuana may reduce the danger of respiratory damage, because less smoking is required for the desired effect. This is true only as long as no significant tolerance develops, and as long as users do not try to get a proportionately more intense effect from a stronger form of the drug. WARNINGS: All forms of marijuana are mind-altering. This means they change how the brain works.

They all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. But there are also 400 other chemicals in the marijuana plant. THC can with heavy smoking, narrow the bronchi and bronchioles and produce inflammation of the mucus membranes, and also increases the risk of lung cancer. There is some 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 in her breast milk.

This is a matter for concern, since the THC in the mother’s milk is much more concentrated than that in the mother’s blood. One study has shown that the use of marijuana by a mother during the first month of breast feeding can impair the infant’s motor development (control of muscle movement). INTERACTIONS: 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, on its 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. Tricyclic antidepressants have a certain effect on the heart. This effect can be described as cardiotoxicity (having a toxic effect on the heart). In normal dosage, in individuals with no heart disorders, this causes no problems at all. In over doseage, tricyclics can produce serious cardiac arrest.

(The effects of cannabis and Nortriptyline in particular have been documented.) 1.) Indications: On 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 with stress and/or depression. 2.) Someone might want to take this drug because of its side effects. The effects last two 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 to sights, 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: In the earlier centuries, cannabis (hemp) was used to make clothing, lubricant, rope, and food. In present time; cancer patients would be in severe pain, new treatments for glaucoma would have to be discovered and HIV/AIDS patients would have to find new means in trying to keep their body weight at a healthy level.

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16th Edition: pgs 10081-10082 New Scientist Inc. Marijuana Special Report. Available (Online) http://marijuana.newscientist.com/ October 18, 1998 Miller, and Keane. Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine Nursing, and Allied Health. 4th Edition: 1971 pg. 740.