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The Long Term Effects Of Marijuana Essay, Research Paper

Marijuana is a drug that divides people. Some people claim it as the wonder drug of the ’90s, capable of relieving the symptoms of many serious illnesses. Others curse the day the cannabis plant was ever discovered. From pain relief to stimulating the appetites of patients on chemotherapy, marijuana seems to have plenty going for it as a medicine. The legalization of marijuana is a large controversy in many parts of the world today, but the obvious negative effects that the drug induces has kept it from being legalized. Many researchers have a strong positive attitude towards marijuana. It has been said that the drug is ?worth investigating and even providing as a medicine for pain relief, severe nausea, and appetite stimulation for seriously ill patients? (Zimmerman 2). On a more negative side, studies have also found in many cases of pregnant women who smoke marijuana, that chemicals in the drug have halted early pregnancy. Scientists have determined a link between activation of the biological receptors that respond to cannabinoids (the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana) and abrupt interruption of pregnancy at a very early stage (Ferguson 71). The short-term effects of marijuana have also been researched and are widely known. Some of these effects include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch), trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, anxiety and panic attacks (Ferguson 23). A new analysis by Bachman examines how marijuana is potentially devastating to adolescents because it suppresses motivation, drive, and commitment to family and school. Although these researcher?s studies have covered many topics about marijuana, the actual long-term effects caused by inhaled marijuana smoke is a topic that has failed to be covered in extent.

Vast majorities of people seem to think that smoking marijuana is only a temporary feeling, and that it has no long term affects. The opposite is exactly true, in that marijuana has detrimental long-term effects on the body. Studies show that when people have smoked large amounts of marijuana for years, the drug takes its toll on mental functions (Chopra 37). Researchers are still learning about the many ways that THC (the main chemical found in marijuana) affects the brain. It is very difficult to conduct research in this area, as it is not acceptable to harm humans by doing trials with damaging substances such as marijuana. However, there is accumulating evidence of the psychological consequences of using marijuana. Many chronic marijuana smokers have a psychosis that is now medically deemed as, ?A-motivational Syndrome? (Chopra 38). A psychosis is a condition where a person experiences some loss of contact with reality. A person with a psychosis can experience any or more of the following symptoms: auditory hallucinations (hearing voices that aren’t really there), visual hallucinations (seeing things which aren’t there), delusions (believing things that aren’t true), jumbled thoughts and strange behavior. Patients with A-motivational Syndrome are left with the well-recognized and permanent symptoms of memory loss, apathy and loss of motivation (Chopra 38). After marijuana started to be widely used approximately 20 years ago, for permanent damage to occur it was felt by some that marijuana had to be heavily used over at least three years. However, there is accumulating evidence that smaller amounts will do damage. It is logical that to get the permanent ? A-motivational Syndrome?, small amounts of damage have to accumulate incrementally (Chopra 40). Although many marijuana connoisseurs of today may totally deny that that the use of this drug has lasting effects on the brain, research findings clearly indicate that long-term use of marijuana produces changes in the brain similar to those seen after long-term use of other major drugs of abuse (Erickson 89).

Findings so far show that regular use of marijuana may play a role in some kinds of cancer. It’s hard to know for sure whether regular marijuana use causes cancer, but it is known that marijuana contains some of the same, and sometimes even more, of the cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco (Donald 132). Studies show that a person who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day. A breakthrough in 1996 by the American Cancer Foundation found that a lung cancer-causing carcinogen (benzopyrene), found in tobacco is more prevalent in marijuana. This chemical causes genetic damage in lung cells that is identical to the damage observed in the DNA of most malignant tumors of the lungs that are caused by regular tobacco smoking (Zhu and Sharma 207). Although scientists have been convinced in the past that smoking causes lung cancer, the strong statistical associations did not provide absolute proof. This paper by the ACF pinpoints that mutations in lung cancer cells are caused by benzopyrene. This potent carcinogen suppresses a gene that controls growth of cells. When this gene is damaged, the body becomes more susceptible to cancer. This gene is related to half of all human cancers and as many as 70% of lung cancers (Donald 134). Clearly marijuana smoke contains more of the potent carcinogen benzopyrene than tobacco smoke. Furthermore, the technique of smoking marijuana by inhaling deeply and holding the smoke within the lungs gives the lungs much greater exposure to this toxic carcinogen than a regular tobacco cigarette. The obvious conclusion from this information is that smoking marijuana on a regular basis poses a very high risk to lung cancer.

It has been proved that marijuana has a negative effect on the immune system, weakening it and thus causing a person be much more vulnerable to disease (Carter 160). Animal studies have found that marijuana smoke can damage the cells and tissues in the body that help protect a person from disease (Carter 160). When the immune cells are weakened, you are more likely to get sick. Alveolar macrophages (essentially white blood cells whose purpose is to engulf any bacteria or fungi that get into the lung) in the lungs of healthy, chronic marijuana smokers were suppressed in their ability to kill bacterial organisms, as well as tumor cells (Zhu and Sharma 220). These findings suggest that marijuana is an immunosuppressant. For chronic users, THC causes enlargement of the area between nerve cells, resulting in poor transmission of nerve impulses between these cells. This ?tampering? has several effects on the nervous system including: difficulty in comprehending complex ideas, loss of memory, irregular sleep habits, insomnia, decrease in muscle strength and blurred vision. (Zhu and Sharma 243-244)

There is not a lot of information available of the evidence for the harmful consequences of marijuana smoking, as there have not been many long-term studies, which is required. Habitual marijuana use, as often as one joint per day, may result in serious pulmonary, immune and psychological consequences. With chronic use, breathing may be restricted, coughing may be increased, and resistance may be lowered to infections of the lungs such as pneumonia (Bloom 45). Respiratory cancer is a likely result in the long term. Although it?s popular to believe that there are no really harmful effects on human health, and that marijuana is just a temporary, ?soft drug?, heavier use of marijuana is likely to have more potent, adverse health consequences in the long term.

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