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Marijuana's Dangerous Health Effects

Marijuana is a dangerous substance. A February 2001 article in The British Journal of Psychiatry states that cannabis (marijuana) use can "cause dose related impairments of psychomotor performance with implications for car and train driving, airplane piloting and academic performance." Marijuana cigarettes can be as addictive as nicotine, and the tars from marijuana contain higher levels of some cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco. Additionally, smoking three or four marijuana joints a day can produce the same risk of bronchitis or emphysema as twenty or more tobacco cigarettes.

Marijuana-related emergency room visits rising. A 1999 Drug Abuse Warning Network report found that visits to the hospital emergency departments because of marijuana use have risen steadily during the 1990s from an estimated 15,706 visits in 1990 to 87,150 in 1999—a 455 percent increase. Patients thirty-five years old or older experienced the largest increase in marijuana mentions (1,078 percent, from 2,160 to 25,453) from 1990 to 1999. Among children between the ages of twelve and seventeen, marijuana mentions increased 489 percent (from 2,170 to 12,784) over the same period.

Marijuana Linked to Mental Health Problems

Marijuana is linked to mental health problems. A February 2001 article in The British Journal of Psychiatry states that regular use of marijuana may make things worse for people who have mental health problems. Andrew Johns of the Institute of Psychiatry in London found that 15 percent of marijuana users exhibited psychotic symptoms or irrational feelings of persecution. Johns found that "an appreciable proportion of cannabis users report short-lived adverse effects, including psychotic states following heavy consumption, and regular users are at risk of dependence. People with major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are especially vulnerable in that cannabis generally provokes relapse and aggravates existing symptoms."

In spite of anecdotally based "medical" marijuana advocacy, the science against marijuana as "medicine" or as a recreational drug continues to mount.

Pregnant marijuana users risk having children more prone to misbehavior. A May-June 2000 study in Neurotoxicology and Teratology found that prenatal marijuana exposure has an effect on child behavior problems at age ten. The behavior problems include increased hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness, increased delinquency, and externalization of problems.

Marijuana Increases Risk of Heart Attack

Marijuana use elevates risk of heart attack. Smoking marijuana significantly elevates the risk of a heart attack. On March 6, 2000, Dr. Murray Mittleman of the Harvard School of Public Health told an American Heart Association conference that marijuana-smoking baby boomers are at increased risk of coronary artery disease. Mittleman's study found that the risk of a heart attack is five times higher than usual in the hour following the smoking of a joint. The researcher said that for someone in good shape, marijuana is about twice as risky as exercising or having sex.

Marijuana Increases Risk of Cancer

Marijuana use linked to cancers of the head and neck. A December 1999 article in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention found a link between marijuana use and cancerous tumors of the head and neck. The authors state, "This is the first epidemiological report that marijuana smoking is associated with a dose-dependent increased risk of head and neck cancer. This association is supported by a series of case reports and by experimental studies that provide a biologically plausible basis for the hypothesis that marijuana is a risk factor for head and neck cancer."

Some smokers are at higher risk of colorectal cancer. The December 2000 issue of Molecular Genetics and Metabolism included a study that found that smokers with a pre-existing genetic mutation in the gene for alpha-1 anti-trypsin, which is linked to emphysema, could be twenty times more likely to develop colorectal cancer than those without the mutation. Dr. Ping Yang, a clinical epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, warned that "smokers should be aware that their risk of lung cancer and heart disease is elevated, and so is their risk of colorectal cancer."

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