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Monday, 30 September 2013

Cannabis IS Harmless - So why is it illegal?

Cannabis IS Harmless - So why is it illegal?
Although Marijuana Smoke Contains Many of The Same Constituents as Tobacco Smoke, It Does Not Adversely Affect The Lungs


I'm a huge advocate of using cannabis in its purest form to maximize its therapeutic benefits. Smoking it should be your last resort to achieve the array of health benefits is has to offer. However, a large-scale national study suggests that even moderate use of marijuana is less harmful to users’ lungs than exposure to tobacco, even though the two substances contain at least some of the same components.

This comprehensive study, led by UCSF and University of Alabama at Birmingham, collected data from more than 5,000 U.S. adults for more than 20 years.

The study, published in of Journal of the American Medical Association, also offered up a nugget that likely will surprise many: Evidence points to slight increases in lung airflow rates and increases in lung volume from occasional marijuana use.

Air flow is the amount of air someone can blow out of their lungs one second after taking the deepest breath possible. The volume measure is the total amount of air blown out once someone has taken the deepest breath possible.

In the paper published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers analyzed the relationship between current and lifetime exposure to marijuana and pulmonary function. The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study collected medical data from 5,115 men and women in four U.S. cities from 1985 to 2006.

They measured air flow rate -- the speed in which a person can blow out air -- and lung volume, which is the amount of air a person is capable of holding, typically about six liters of air for an adult male. Lung function was measured using a common medical device called a spirometer that measures air flow when the participant breathes in and out.

Cumulative cannabis use is associated with higher forced vital capacity [the volume of air that can forcibly be blown out after full inspiration], total lung capacity, functional residual capacity [the volume of air present in the lungs at the end of passive expiration] and residual volume.

Cannabis was also associated with higher airways resistance but not with forced expiratory volume in one second [the maximum volume of air that can be forcibly blown out in the first second during the FVC test], forced expiratory ratio, or transfer factor. These findings were similar amongst those who did not smoke tobacco. By contrast, tobacco use was associated with lower forced expiratory volume in one second, lower forced expiratory ratio, lower transfer factor and higher static lung volumes, but not with airways resistance."

"With marijuana use increasing and large numbers of people who have been and continue to be exposed, knowing whether it causes lasting damage to lung function is important for public-health messaging and medical use of marijuana," according to one of the study's co-authors, Stefan Kertesz. "At levels of marijuana exposure commonly seen in Americans, occasional marijuana use was associated with increases in lung air flow rates and increases in lung capacity."

He added that those increases, though not large, nonetheless were statistically significant. "And the data showed that even up to moderately high-use levels -- one joint a day for seven years -- there is no evidence of decreased air-flow rates or lung volumes," he said.

Cannabis appears to have different effects on lung function to those of tobacco.

Smoking cigarettes can cause significant lung damage, including respiratory symptoms, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. It accounts for an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one in every five deaths, each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data for the long-term effects of marijuana use on the pulmonary system has been scarce until now.

"We found exactly what we thought we would find in relation to tobacco exposure: a consistent loss of lung function with increasing exposure," said Mark Pletcher, MD, MPH, associate professor in the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at UCSF. "We were, however, surprised that we found such a different pattern of association with marijuana exposure."

"Essentially with tobacco, the more you use, the more loss you have with both of the indicators, air flow rate and lung volume," said the paper’s last author Stefan Kertesz, MD, MSc, associate professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and the Birmingham VA Medical Center. "There’s a straight-line relationship: the more you use, the more you lose."

The same was not true with marijuana use. Air flow rate increased rather than decreased with increased exposure to marijuana up to a certain level.

"An important factor that helps explain the difference in effects from these two substances is the amount of each that is typically smoked," Pletcher said. "Tobacco users typically smoke ten to 20 cigarettes/day, and some smoke much more than that. Marijuana users, on average, smoke only two to three times a month, so the typical exposure to marijuana is much lower than for tobacco."

"And marijuana is one where a lot of people dabble with it in their late teens and 20s, and some people continue with relatively low levels for a long period of time," Kertesz added.

Heavy Marijuana Use May Take Toll...Maybe

Although there was a suggestion that very heavy use of marijuana might be taking a toll on the lungs, the researchers could not get reliable estimates of the effects of very heavy marijuana exposure, as such smokers were relatively rare in the study population.

All participants in the study began as young, healthy adults 18 to 30 years old from four communities: Oakland, Chicago, Minneapolis and Birmingham. They volunteered to be part of this long-term medical research study, agreeing that their data could be used to explore questions, including about tobacco and marijuana use.

Researchers believe the results can supplement the growing body of knowledge about beneficial aspects of low to moderate marijuana use in controlling pain, stimulating appetite, elevating mood and managing other chronic symptoms.

"Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana for these or other purposes may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function," Pletcher said. "On the other hand, our findings do suggest an accelerated decline in pulmonary function with heavier use -- either very frequent use or frequent use over many years -- and a resulting need for caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered."

Like cigarette smokers, marijuana users can develop throat irritation and coughs, but the study didn't focus on those. It also didn't examine lung cancer, but other studies haven't found any definitive link between marijuana use and cancer.

Raw Cannabis is Best

Despite this findings, raw cannabis is considered by many experts as a dietary essential. As a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, some classify it as one of the most important plants on earth. The biggest benefits from the plant may come not by smoking it, but rather by consuming it in its raw and natural form.

CBD (Cannabidiol), one of the main constituents of the cannabis plant has been proven medically to relieve many diseases including the inhibition of cancer cell growth. Recent studies have shown it to be an effective atypical anti-psychotic in treating schizophrenia. CBD also interferes with the amount of THC your brain processes, balancing the psychotropic effect of marijuana.

A British company, GW Pharma, is in advanced clinical trials for the world's first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana instead of synthetic equivalents and they say they'll have a mouth spray to treat cancer pain on pharmacy shelves by late 2013.

Why raw? Heat destroys certain enzymes and nutrients in plants. Incorporating raw cannabis allows for a greater availability of those elements. Those who require large amounts of cannabinoids without the psychoactive effects need to look no further than raw cannabis. In this capacity, it can be used at 60 times more tolerance than if it were heated.

Contrary To What Many Studies Suggest, Marijuana Use Does Not Lead to Mental Decline

Cannabis is one of the most powerful healing plants on the planet. Dozens of studies have made pseudoscientific attempts to indicate that young people who use cannabis tend to experience psychological, social problems and mental decline. However, there is no evidence that marijuana use is directly linked with such problems, according to the results of a study published in The Lancet.

 Marijuana was *mostly* legal until 1970 when it became classified as a hard drug. No one thought of it as a dangerous or illicit drug until the 20th century.

"Currently, there is no strong evidence that use of cannabis of itself causes psychological or social problems," such as mental illness or school failure, lead study author Dr. John Macleod of the University of Birmingham in the UK told Reuters Health.

"There is a great deal of evidence that cannabis use is associated with these things, but this association could have several explanations," he said, citing factors such as adversity in early life, which may itself be associated with cannabis use and psychosocial problems.

Macleod and his team reviewed 48 long-term studies, 16 of which provided the highest quality information about the association between illicit drug use reported by people 25 years old or younger and later psychological or social problems. Most of the drug-specific results involved cannabis use.

Cannabis use was not consistently associated with violent or antisocial behavior, or with psychological problems.

In another study, Scientists from King's College, London, found occasional pot use could actually improve concentration levels.

The study, carried in the American Journal of Epidemiology, tested the mental function and memory of nearly 9,000 Britons at age 50 and found that those who had used illegal drugs as recently as in their 40s did just as well, or slightly better, on the tests than peers who had never used drugs.

'Overall, at the population level, the results seem to suggest that past or even current illicit drug use is not necessarily associated with impaired cognitive functioning in early middle age,' said lead researcher Dr Alex Dregan.

Dr Dregan's team used data on 8,992 42-year-olds participating in a UK national health study, who were asked if they had ever used any of 12 illegal drugs. Then, at the age of 50, they took standard tests of memory, attention and other cognitive abilities.

Overall, the study found, there was no evidence that current or past drug users had poorer mental performance. In fact, when current and past users were lumped together, their test scores tended to be higher.

But that advantage was small, the researchers said, and might just reflect another finding - that people who'd ever used drugs generally had a higher education level than non-users.

'In a Western population of occasional drug users, this is what you'd expect to see,' said John Halpern, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School.

'In some ways, this is not surprising. The brain is resilient.'

Though some studies have found that drugs like cannabis and cocaine may cloud thinking, memory and attention in the short term, the current findings support the notion that those effects may be temporary, Dr Dregan's team said.

Othher investigators at the University of California at San Diego examined white matter integrity in adolescents with histories of binge drinking and marijuana use. They reported that binge drinkers (defined as boys who consumed five or more drinks in one sitting, or girls who consumed four or more drinks at one time) showed signs of white matter damage in eight regions of the brain.

By contrast, the binge drinkers who also used marijuana experienced less damage in 7 out of the 8 brain regions.

"Binge drinkers who also use marijuana did not show as consistent a divergence from non-users as did the binge drink-only group," authors concluded. "[It is] possible that marijuana may have some neuroprotective properties in mitigating alcohol-related oxidative stress or excitotoxic cell death."

Alarmist claims that experimenting with cannabis will inevitably lead to the use of other illicit drugs persist in the media despite statistical data indicating that the overwhelming majority of those who try pot never go on to use cocaine or heroin.

Moreover, recent research is emerging that indicates that pot may also suppress one's desire to use so-called hard drugs.

In June, Paris researchers writing in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology concluded that the administration of oral THC in animals suppressed sensitivity to opiate dependence.

One of the most important roles cannabinoids play is in the suppression of cancer. The research in this area is being increased every year as many more groups of scientists are discovering the powerful healing properties of cannabis.

Health benefits of marijuana are now well documented. From depression and anxiety relief to reduced blood pressure, pain alleviation and glaucoma treatment. It is not addictive, does not kill brain cells and is not a “gateway” drug -- in fact, when pot is more available, studies show that the use of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine actually decreases.

It's time governments around the world release their restrictions on this plant to all populations so that they may freely use one of mother nature's most healing plants.

Marco Torres
is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.

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From Prevent Disease @ http://preventdisease.com/news/13/091013_Marijuana-Smoke-Does-Not-Adversely-Affect-The-Lungs.shtml and http://preventdisease.com/news/12/010612_Contrary-To-What-Many-Studies-Suggest-Marijuana-Use-Does-Not-Lead-to-Mental-Decline.shtml

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