Marijuana is addictive; can lead to harder, stronger drug use; interferes with fertility; impairs driving ability; and injures the lungs, immune system and brain.
Some short-term effects on the brain are distorted perceptions of sights, sounds, time, and touch; problems with learning; loss of coordination; trouble with thinking and problem solving; and increased heart rate and reduced blood pressure. Sometimes it can also produce anxiety, fear, distrust and panic.
The marijuana plant is made up of more than 500 chemical compounds, mostly cannabinoids, which bind to receptors in the body and affect the immune system and brain. Researchers have pinpointed two main cannabinoids as beneficial — THC and cannabidiol, or CBD. The biggest difference between the two is that CBD doesn’t make you high.
Many cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception and coordinated movement.
Another issue is that when exposed to the high temperature of burning a joint, the 500 or so chemical compounds in marijuana can produce hundreds, even thousands, of additional byproducts. Many of these are thought to be carcinogens. Marijuana smoke can contain more carcinogens than tobacco smoke, and marijuana smokers hold the smoke longer than tobacco smokers, increasing their exposure. New Zealand scientists have found that smoking a joint is the equivalent of smoking 20 cigarettes in lung cancer risk.
People who start smoking marijuana before age 18 show a greater decline in IQ and cognitive functioning than those who start as adults.
THC has what doctors call biphasic activity. At low doses, it has certain effects, and at high doses, it has the opposite effect. At the right dose, someone will tend to be calm, happy, get the munchies and even see medical benefits. But too much THC can cause people to become irritable and even psychotic. There are more emergency room visits today, possibly because of the psychoactive side effects of the higher THC content in the marijuana on the street.
This was my experience with marijuana because I didn’t use it under medical supervision. And this is why I am against its legalization. I couldn’t stop smoking it, lost touch with reality, and became psychotic. Thirty years ago THC content was about no more than 2 percent. Today it can be as high as 12 percent. Increased and stronger side-effects go along with the THC increase.
I don’t disapprove of medical marijuana to treat nausea from chemotherapy and other sources, loss of appetite, chronic pain, anxiety, arthritis, cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, ADHD, epilepsy, inflammation, migraines, and Crohn’s disease. And if it can improve the quality of life for patients who are terminally ill, I am for it.
If used according to doctors’ orders under supervision, there may be a place for it.
I disagree with its recreational use. I don’t think marijuana should be legalized because of its effects on the heart, lungs and brain.
Users’ risk of heart attack is four times higher within the first hour after smoking. It can cause the heartbeat to increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute, even more if other drugs are used at the same time. Smoking marijuana can cause burning and stinging of the mouth and throat and cause heavy coughing. Regular smokers can experience daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses, increased risk of lung infections and obstructed airways.
Research indicates that THC impairs the body’s immune system from fighting disease. Another study found that THC increased the risk of bacterial infections and tumors.
I recognize that the debate over legalization of marijuana is a difficult call. While proponents of legalization may assert that it is a benign recreational drug that has not been shown to be harmful, that an increasing number of states are in the process of decriminalizing or legalizing its use, that it has positive medical uses and that the tax revenues earned in those states cannot be ignored, I must still say NO.
Marijuana remains a mind-altering hallucinogen and a gateway to even harder and more deadly drugs. Given the problems that we already have with alcohol and prescription drugs, we cannot afford another bad drug. We must say NO to legalization for recreational purposes.
Charles Maddox, of Charleston, is president, founder and chairman of the board of Drug and Alcohol Presentations.