Pot head, stoner, dope fiend or drug addict are typical labels society places on people who choose to partake in marijuana usage, but what are the actual health effects of the drug that conjures up so many negative images, and will it be accepted as a mainstream treatment for medical conditions?
Today, marijuana finds itself in the middle of a debate over its use as a medication. Researchers agree that marijuana can lessen pain associated with cancer and lower eye pressure, relieving glaucoma.
Opponents argue the adverse side effects of medicinal marijuana outweigh the benefits. Marijuana use can cause short term memory loss, sleepiness, confusion and an inability to concentrate. Their primary argument is that smoking marijuana may cause cancer.
Medicinal marijuana use is on the rise. Since 1996, 12 states have legalized medical marijuana use. Its meteoric rise as an alternative medicine has placed its use on the frontlines of our nation's war on drugs.
Its use as an alternative medicine is nothing new though. Marijuana's medicinal uses can be found in ancient Chinese and Indian texts dating back over 3,000 years. It was used to treat conditions such as beri beri, gout, rheumatism, depression and insomnia.
By 1850, it was also used to treat gonorrhea, cholera, epilepsy, bronchitis, whooping cough, asthma and chest pains related to heart disease.
If you were to research the health hazards associated with the inhalation of marijuana smoke, you would find conflicting stories on both sides of the subject.
The American Cancer Society has several articles published and numerous stories available on their website, cancer.org, but they are in direct contradiction of one another.
Type "marijuana's link to cancer" into the site's directory and the first result will tell you marijuana is attributed to particular types of small cell cancer, while the second result states; "because marijuana contains a number of active compounds, it cannot be expected to provide precise effects unless the individual components are listed.
Because of these limitations, any information on ill effects and interactions should be considered incomplete."
Marijuana contains chemicals that cause cancer known as carcinogens. Although there are no conclusive results showing that marijuana causes cancer, opponents use the presence of these carcinogens as evidence of its link to cancer.
Recently, the largest study of its kind definitively stated, "Marijuana does not lead to cancer." Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years, led the research team. Tashkin originally hypothesized that marijuana would contribute to a higher risk of cancer because of its high concentration of carcinogens.
After studying over 2,000 people, Dr. Tashkin's team found no direct link between marijuana use and cancer. They found that while marijuana contains carcinogens, it also contains tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a chemical compound theorized to kill aging cells before they become cancerous.
The American Thoracic Society is considered one of the foremost authorities on the prevention and treatment of respiratory disease through research, education, patient care and advocacy. They are a non-profit organization that have been in existence since 1905, which conducts independent and unbiased research projects
to decrease morbidity and mortality in respiratory patients of all ages.
Results from their most recent studies were in agreement with Tashkin, concluding there is no link between marijuana use and cancer.
For all of you cannabis connoisseurs out there, that doesn't mean go get your favorite green treat and pretend it is a cure all, or that you are practicing preventative medicine by spending the whole day smoking in hopes that you can hide away from the world under the veil of somber-like unconsciousness that marijuana provides.
The National Institute of Health, a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claims "someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time."
While there is no link to marijuana use and cancer, there is only one way to be completely certain you will be free of any of its supposed negative factors: stay sober. We are great the way we are born; free from any chemical compounds that alter the state of body or the power of our minds.