In my practice, I have heard from many late adolescent and adult patients that they have smoked marijuana for years and they have not seen any problems. They claim they are not dependent upon marijuana, it does not negatively effect their thinking or skills, and they further claim that it is not harmful to them. I have been successful in getting most to stop their habit for a while and then tell me if they see a difference. I have to say that almost all of the patients who have tried my experiment have found that they think and feel better. Many have also reported some kind of negative effect (withdrawal) for a while after stopping using marijuana. The prevalence of marijuana use in adolescents and adults prompted me to write this article.
Upon reviewing the research, I have found there are data that have shown that marijuana withdrawal can produce symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and depressed appetite. In one study from Harvard University about 60 percent of participants, who were long time smokers did have withdrawal symptoms. A study out of Columbia University that men were more likely to become dependent than were women and adolescents were at greater risk than were adults. Further research is needed to study who becomes dependent and who does not.
Many individual who smoke marijuana have seemed to not make the connection that they are sucking impurities into their lungs. They do not equate marijuana smoke with lung problems. However, recent data suggested the damage done by two marijuana cigarettes a day was the equivalent to the damage done by smoking a pack and a half of regular cigarettes a day.
There are other interesting studies about marijuana. Recently an article reported that marijuana negatively affects the male sperm. Couples in which the male was a regular smoker of marijuana had trouble becoming pregnant. It appeared that marijuana made the sperm swim initially too quickly and they lost energy and could not reach the egg. Another study showed that a single dose of marijuana could impair learning and thinking for at least 5 hours. The suggestion of the authors was that marijuana might be seen as a possible contributor to learning problems in school. An additional study found that in the test tube, the major psychoactive component (THC) of marijuana was able to weaken human immune cells. These cells are needed to fight off tumor and fungal cells. Clearly, this research is only at the laboratory level, but it suggests that it is possible that THC can impair the human immune system.
I came across an article in the "National Psychologist" which presented even more serious side effects of marijuana. According to the article, research in Sweden, Holland, and New Zealand have found correlations between marijuana use and later schizophrenia and major depression. In these studies, frequent users of marijuana had increased their possibility of developing schizophrenia and major depression between four and seven times then the non-marijuana using population.
So, in response to those individuals who claim marijuana is harmless, the data would suggest that marijuana might be even more harmful than tobacco
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