Cannabis, commonly known as Marijuana, is the most frequently used illicit drug in America. According to National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there were about 15.2 million past month users in America in 2008. It also stated that about 2.2 million people used Marijuana for the first time in 2008. This averages to about 6,000 Marijuana initiates per day. Many people are getting addicted to Marijuana, ignorant of its harmful effects on health. Today, Cannabis abuse is a major concern because of its negative effects on general physical, mental and oral health.
There are three main forms of Cannabis: Marijuana, Hash and Hash oil, all of which contain the main psychoactive constituent, ‘Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol’, simply called as THC. Cannabis abuse affects almost every system of the body including the cardiovascular, respiratory, mental and oral systems. Some of the negative implications of Cannabis abuse are:
Effects on general health
When someone smokes or consumes Cannabis, THC passes from the lungs or stomach into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heart rate is increased by 20 to 100 percent shortly after smoking Marijuana. It is also estimated that Marijuana users have almost five times risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking Marijuana. Aging people or those with cardiac vulnerabilities will be at higher risk.
Long-term smoking of Marijuana is associated with negative effects on the respiratory system. The smoke from a Cannabis cigarette has the same contents as tobacco smoke apart from harmful contents like carbon monoxide, bronchial irritants, tar and higher levels of other carcinogens than in tobacco smoke. Chronic smokers of Cannabis have increased symptoms of bronchitis, including coughing, wheezing, phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, and increased risk of lung infections. The symptoms of bronchitis are more common in Cannabis smokers than non-smokers of the drug. Cannabis abuse results in dysregulated growth of epithelial cells in lungs, which may lead to cancer.
Effects on mental health
Acute effects of Cannabis abuse vary greatly between individuals depending on the dosage, method of administration, environment and personality of the user. Long-term Cannabis abuse increases the risk of serious psychiatric illnesses.
THC acts upon specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thoughts, concentration, sensory and time perception etc. Obviously, Marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory. Marijuana abuse can increase rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia.
Effects on oral health
Cannabis users are prone to oral infections. Generally, Cannabis abusers have poorer oral health than non-users, with higher decayed, missing and filled (DMF) teeth scores, higher plaque scores and less healthy teeth gums. An important side effect of Cannabis abuse is xerostomia (dryness of the mouth caused by malfunctioning salivary glands). Cannabis smoking and chewing causes changes in the oral epithelium, termed ‘cannabis stomatitis’. Its symptoms include irritation and superficial anaesthesia of the oral membranous tissue covering internal organs. With chronic use, this may progress to neoplasia (growth of a tumor).
Cannabis use causes oral cancer
Chronic smokers of Cannabis have an increased risk of developing oral leukoplakia (thick white patches on mucous membranes of the oral cavity, including the tongue. It often occurs as a pre-cancerous growth), oral cancer and other oral infections. Oral cancer related to cannabis usually occurs on the anterior floor of the mouth and the tongue.
Cannabis consumption also has its effects on driving, affecting motor skills, reflexes, and attention. This increases accidental risks. Cannabis abuse has potential to cause problems in daily life also. Cannabis abuse impairs several important measures of life achievement including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life and career status.
The increasing prevalence of Cannabis use demands awareness of the diverse adverse effects of Cannabis abuse. People should know about these effects and take timely action in order to stay away from its negative implications.