Marijuana Myths and Realities - [Science]
The following list will hopefully demystify several myths about marijuana use and help answer a lot of serious questions:
There is no existing evidence of anyone dying of a marijuana overdose. Tests performed on mice have shown that the ratio of cannabinoids (the chemicals in marijuana that make you high) necessary for overdose to the amount necessary for intoxication is 40,000:1.
For comparison's sake, that ratio for alcohol is generally between 4:1 and 10:1. Alcohol overdoses claim approximately 5,000 casualties yearly, but marijuana overdoses kill no one as far as any official reports.
Marijuana is psychoactive because it stimulates certain brain receptors, but it does not produce toxins that kill them (like alcohol), and it does not wear them out as other drugs may. There is no evidence that marijuana use causes brain damage. Studies performed on actual human populations will confirm these results, even for chronic marijuana users (up to 18 joints per day) after many years of use.
In reality, marijuana has the effect of slightly increasing alpha-wave activity in your brain. Alpha waves are generally associated with meditative and relaxed states, which are, in turn, often associated with human creativity.
Marijuana does impair short-term memory, but only during intoxication. Although the authoritative studies on marijuana use seem to agree that there is no residual impairment following intoxication, persistent impairment of short-term memory has been noted in chronic marijuana smokers, up to 6 and 12 weeks following abstinence.
It is accepted in medical circles today that marijuana use causes no evident long-term cardiovascular problems for normal persons. Marijuana smoking, however, does cause changes in the heart and body's circulation characteristic of stress. Marijuana's effects on blood pressure are complex and inconsistent as of yet.
Chronic marijuana use has not been found to alter testosterone or other sex hormone levels. In contrast, heavy alcohol use is known to lower these same testosterone levels.
No trustworthy study has ever shown that marijuana use damages the reproductive system, or causes chromosome breakage. Studies of actual human populations have failed to demonstrate that marijuana adversely affects the reproductive system. Claims that marijuana use may impair hormone production, menstrual cycles, or fertility in females are both unproven and unfounded.
The Immune System
Studies in which lab rats were injected with extremely large quantities of THC (the active compound in marijuana) have found that marijuana (in such unrealistically huge quantities) does have an "immunosuppressive effect" in those lab rats, in that it temporarily shuts off certain cells in the liver called lymphocytes and macrophages. These macrophages are useful in fighting off bacterial, not viral, infections. But this is only for the duration of intoxication.
This said, doctors and researchers are still not sure that the immune system is actually negatively affected in realistic situations since there are no numbers to support the idea. In fact, three studies showed that THC might have actually stimulated the immune system in the people studied.
Smoking marijuana has the potential to cause both bronchitis and cancer of the lungs, throat, and neck, but this is generally no different than inhaling any other burnt carbon-containing matter since they all increase the number of lesions (and therefore possible infections) in your airways.
The Gateway Effect
Marijuana use has not been found to act as a gateway drug to the use of harder drugs. Studies show that when the Dutch partially legalized marijuana in the 70's, heroin and cocaine use substantially declined, despite a slight increase in marijuana use.
Thus, oftentimes strict marijuana laws themselves are the most significant factor involved in moving on to harder drugs like cocaine. Such is the case in Nevada and Arizona, the states toughest on marijuana use.
Because smoked marijuana contains a variety of combustion compounds, it can damage the lungs and possibly the immune system. Several health committees recommended the development of an inhalation device that delivers pure THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana -- to the lungs. Such a device has not yet been created.