Essay, Research Paper: Marijuana

Alcohol and Drugs

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Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded flowers and
leaves of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is often called by street
names such as pot, herb, weed, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, reefer, or chronic.
There are more than 200 slang terms for marijuana. HISTORY: Cannabis was
acknowledged as early as 2,700 BC in Chinese manuscripts. Marijuana has been
used as a medicine throughout the world since the beginning of written history.
During this time, companies such as Lilly, Parke Daivis, Tildens, Squibb, and
other major drug manufacturers, have made everything from sleeping elixirs, to
stomach medicine from marijuana. These drugs were even knowingly prescribed for
children. Since 1839 there have been numerous reports in favor of utilizing
medical marijuana. In 1839 Dr. W.B. O’Shaugnessy, a respected member of the
Royal Academy of Science, was one of the first in the medical profession to
present the true facts concerning marijuana and medicine. Dr. O’Shaugnessy’s
report states clearly, that experience indicates the use of marijuana to be a
beneficial analgesic, and to have anticonvulsant, and muscle-relaxant
properties. He found it to be effective in treating rheumatism (inflammation or
pain in muscles or joints), epilepsy, and spasmodic conditions. In 1860, Dr.
R.R. M’Meens, indicated to the Ohio State Medical Society, the usefulness of
marijuana in treating tetanus, neuralgia (pain in the nerves), uterine
hemorrhage, child labor, convulsions, asthma, bronchitis, and even postpartum
psychosis. It was also noted for its affect as an appetite stimulant. This is
desperately needed in modern medicine especially by cancer and aids patients to
prevent them from literally wasting away. Many of these patients have indicated
that no other remedy helps to stimulate the appetite as effectively as smoking a
small quantity of marijuana. It was also noted that smoking the natural plant
was significantly more effective than the chemically created, orally consumed,
synthetic marijuana. In 1891 Dr. J.B. Mattison indicated the use of marijuana
for treatment of migraines, gastric ulcers, deliriuma (mental disturbance), and
tremors due to alcoholism. He also found it to be instrumental in actually
replacing the craving for, and thus curing alcoholism. He found the same effect
carried over in treating other serious addictions such as morphine or heroin
addiction. In 1890 Dr. J.R. Reynolds found marijuana to be an excellent aid in
combating a number of problems associated with aging. Dr. Reynolds noted
marijuana’s usefulness in overcoming senile insomnia as well as it’s
psychological benefits in helping older people cope with some of the feelings
and emotions associated with growing older. INCREASE & DECREASE OF USAGE
SINCE DRUG’S DISCOVERY: The use of marijuana reached a high point in the late
1970s and early 1980s, and has been declining ever since. In a 1978 survey, 37
percent of high school seniors said they had smoked marijuana in the last 30
days, and 11 percent said they used it daily. By 1986 the number who said they
had smoked it in the last 30 days had fallen to 23 percent - lower than in 1975
- and the proportion of daily users had dropped steadily to 4 percent. The trend
among people aged 18 to 25 is similar. On the other hand, more people over 25
may be using marijuana occasionally, and young people are still experimenting
with it. In 1969, 20 percent of high school seniors had used marijuana at least
once, in 1979, 60 percent had; and in 1985, 54 percent. The attitudes expressed
in surveys show why habitual marijuana use is in decline. In 1978, 65 percent of
high school students said they disapproved of it; in 1985, 85 percent
disapproved. A recent government survey shows: · Over 70 million Americans over
the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once. · About 10 million had used
the drug in the month before the survey. · More than 5 million Americans smoke
marijuana at least once a week. · Among teens aged 12 to 17, the average age of
first trying marijuana was 13.5 years old. A yearly survey of students in grades
8 through 12 shows that by 10th grade, nearly 16 percent are "current"
users (that is, used within the past month). Among 12th-graders, nearly 40
percent have tried marijuana/hash at least once, and 19 percent were current
users. Other researchers have found that use of marijuana and other drugs
usually peaks in the late teens and early twenties, then goes down in later
years. GENERIC VS. BRAND NAME: There are stronger forms of marijuana available
today than there were in the 1960s. The strength of the drug is measured by the
amount of average THC in test samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies.
Sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah; it's a Spanish word), hashish ("hash" for
short), and hash oil are stronger forms of marijuana. · Most ordinary marijuana
has an average of 3 percent THC. · Sinsemilla (made from just the buds and
flowering tops of female plants) has an average of 7.5 percent THC, with a range
as high as 24 percent. · Hashish (the sticky resin from the female plant
flowers) has an average of 3.6 percent, with a range as high as 28 percent. ·
Hash oil, a tar-like liquid distilled from hashish, has an average of 16
percent, with a range as high as 43 percent. ACTION: THC disrupts the nerve
cells in the part of the brain where memories are formed. This makes it hard for
the user to recall recent events (such as what happened a few minutes ago), and
so it is hard to learn while high. A working short-term memory is required for
learning and performing tasks that call for more than one or two steps. Some
studies show that when people have smoked large amounts of marijuana for many
years, the drug takes its toll on mental functions. Among a group of long-time
heavy marijuana users in Costa Rica, researchers found that the people had great
trouble when asked to recall a short list of words (a standard test of memory).
People in that study group also found it very hard to focus their attention on
the tests given to them. It may be that marijuana kills some brain cells. In
laboratory research, some scientists found that high doses of THC given to young
rats caused a loss of brain cells such as that seen with aging. INDICATORS: One
beneficial effect of THC is the lowering of intracular pressure, which can be
helpful in the control of glaucoma. However, because it causes tachycardia,
relatively rapid heart action such as physiological (as after exercise), and
increased work for the heart, it can not be used in most elderly persons, in
which age group glaucoma is most common. THC can also be used for the control of
severe nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients.
CONTRAINDICATORS: Doctors advise pregnant women not to use any drugs because
they might harm the growing fetus. Some scientific studies have found that
babies born to marijuana users were shorter, weighed less, and had smaller head
sizes than those born to mothers who did not use the drug. Smaller babies are
more likely to develop health problems. Other scientists have found effects of
marijuana that resemble the features of fetal alcohol syndrome. There are also
research findings that show nervous system problems in children of mothers who
smoked marijuana. Researchers are not certain whether a newborn baby's health
problems, if they are caused by marijuana, will continue as the child grows.
DOSAGE FOR BODY WEIGHT: Under U.S. law since 1970, marijuana is a Schedule I
controlled substance. This means that the drug, at least in its smoked form, has
no commonly accepted medical use in this country. In considering possible
medical uses of marijuana, it is important to distinguish between whole
marijuana and pure THC or other specific chemicals derived from cannabis. Whole
marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, some of which are clearly harmful to
health. THC, manufactured into a pill that is taken by mouth, not smoked, can be
used for treating 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 smoker’s 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 didn’t 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.

American Encyclopedia. M-13. Deluxe Library Edition, Grolier Incorporated:
1994 Brave New World Productions, Inc. Ask Hans Available (Online)
October 17, 1998 CancerNet from the National Cancer Institute's PDQ System.
Information for Physicians Available (Online)
October 19, 1998 Compton’s Encyclopedia. Hemp Available (Online)
October 19, 1998 Compton’s Encyclopedia. Hallucinogen Available (Online) October 17, 1998 Davis, F.A., and Rice,
Katherine. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionay. 16th Edition: pgs 10081-10082
New Scientist Inc. Marijuana Special Report. Available (Online)
October 18, 1998 Miller, and Keane. Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine
Nursing, and Allied Health. 4th Edition: 1971 pg. 740

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