Introduction – Fourteen percent of Canadians reported abusing cannabis (marijuana) in 2003, according to a 2004 Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) study. The study showed 30% of 15-17 year olds and 47% of 18-19 year olds were abusers.
?The rise in cannabis use, especially among young Canadians, is of concern because we know that cannabis is not a benign substance. There are a number of health risks associated with use and these risks increase with a lower age of initiation and more frequent use.? – CCSA CEO Michel Perron.
Heart ? A recent study indicates an abuser?s heart attack risk increases by a factor of four in the first hour after smoking cannabis. Such an effect may occur due to cannabis? effects on blood pressure, heart rate and a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Mittleman MA, Lewis RA, Maclure M, et al: Triggering myocardial infarction by marijuana. Circulation 103:2805-2809, 2001.
Lungs – Abusers who smoke cannabis frequently have greater health problems and use more sick days than nonsmokers. Respiratory illnesses were common among the cannabis smokers. Polen MR, Sidney S, Tekawa IS, et al: Health care use by frequent marijuana smokers who do not smoke tobacco. West J Med 158:596-601, 1993.
Immune system suppression ? THC, the psycho-active ingredient in cannabis, appears to impair the immune system?s ability to fight off cancer and various infectious diseases. In laboratory experiments that exposed animal and human cells to THC, the normal disease-preventing reactions of many of the key types of immune cells were inhibited. Adams IB, Martin BR: Cannabis: pharmacology and toxicology in animals and humans. Addiction 91:1585-1614, 1996.
Pregnancy – Smoking cannabis during pregnancy harms unborn children. Babies are smaller, and in childhood, their cognitive functioning shows impairment up to the age of six. Day NL et al. Neurotoxm Teratol 1994. Fried PA: Archives of Toxicology 1995 (suppl) 17: 233-60.
Addiction – Drug craving and withdrawal symptoms were reported by long-term cannabis abusers attempting to cease using the drug. Kouri EM, Pope HG, Lukas SE: Changes in aggressive behavior during withdrawal from long-term marijuana use. Psychopharmacology 143:302-308, 1999.
Impairment – A study of 6,000 Canadian teenagers found that drivers who had smoked cannabis were four times more likely to be involved in an accident than non-abusers. Asbridge, M., Poulin, C., and A. Donato: ?Driving under the influence of cannabis and motor vehicle collision risk: evidence from adolescents in Atlantic Canada?, Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2005
Mental Health – Cannabis abuse increases the risk of developing mental illnesses including schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, suicidal behaviour and anxiety. Significant cannabis abuse severely increased the risk of psychosis. Arsenault L et al: Arch Gen Psychiatry, vol 57 Oct. 2000 and Zammit S et al.: British Med Journal 2002; 325, 1195ff.
Social problems Cannabis abusers self-reported that use of the drug impaired their cognitive abilities, careers, social life, physical health and mental health. Gruber, AJ, Pope HG, Hudson HI, Yurgelun-Todd D: Attributes of long-term heavy cannabis users: A case control study. Psychological Medicine 33:1415-1422, 2003. Conclusion ? Cannabis is associated with significant risks to human health and social order. Regular usage carries physical health risks similar to those associated with regular tobacco usage, in addition to various mental health risks. Numerous studies highlight the addictive nature of cannabis abuse. Other studies document serious social dysfunction experienced by abusers. Canadian Institute for Education on the Family (CIEF) is an independent non-profit research organization. Our mission is to educate and inform the public as to societal trends and social practices that impact families and children. Canadian Institute for Education on the Family P. O. Box 2376 Station R Kelowna BC V1X 6A5 Web: www.cief.ca Email: firstname.lastname@example.org