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The Physiological Effects Of Marijuana Essay

1283 words - 5 pages

The Physiological Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana derives from the dried leaves and flower of the
hemp plant Cannabis sativa; for thousands of years, physicians
regarded marijuana as a useful pharmaceutical agent that could be
used to treat a number of different disorders. In the 19th
century, physicians in the United States and Europe used marijuana as an
analgesic, as a treatment for migraine headaches, and as an
anticonvulsant (Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1993, 1995). In 1938, a
physician used marijuana (hashish) to completely control the
terror and excitement of a patient who had contracted rabies
(Elliot, 1992, p. 600). Results from a research conducted in the
1880s indicated that smoking marijuana might help manage certain
forms of glaucoma; regrettably, other studies disproved such
claims. (Watson, Benson, & Joy, 2000). Even though smoking
marijuana temporarily reduces the pressure within the eye, 60 to
65 of the patients who smoked marijuana, experienced the desired
medicating effects (Green, 1998). New findings indicated that in
order for an individual to obtain and maintain satisfactory
results in the reduction of eye pressure levels, the patient would
have to smoke between 2 to 3 cigarettes every hour. Marijuana is
believed to be an effective treatment of multiple sclerosis and
rheumatoid arthritis; furthermore, it seems to yield positive
results in the treatment of chronic pain conditions (Watson,
Benson, & Joy, 2000). However, although marijuana has served as a
medicinal agent, marijuana can also produce some adverse
physiological effects; especially with patients with pre-existing
medical conditions who use marijuana may be at particular risk.
For instance, although THC acutely increases the respiratory rate
and the diameter of bronchial airways, chronic use of marijuana
results in epithelial damage to the trachea and major bronchi, and
decreased diameter of the bronchial airways (Schackit, 1989).

However, when it comes to immediate lethality, marijuana is
reasonably safe; nevertheless, its content can produce long term
physical effects caused by Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the
active chemical ingredient in marijuana that inhibits the immune
system's ability to fight of infectious diseases and cancer
(Adams, & Martin 1996). Even occasional marijuana smokers may
experience unpleasant effects; such as burning and stinging of the
mouth and throat, often followed by a heavy cough. Regular
marijuana users may have similar respiratory problems than tobacco
users: daily cough, frequent chest illness, and an increased risk
of lung infections (Tashkin, 1990). Because marijuana contains 50
to 70 percent more carcinogenogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco
smoke, and it also produces high levels of the enzyme that
converts certain hydrocarbons into their carcinogenic form-levels
that may speed-up the changes that ultimately produce malignant

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