Literature Review on the Health Effects of Cannabis: Essay

With respect to some of the most important side effects that have been medically demonstrable, one has to note that the smoking of any substance provides a greatly increased risk of developing a host of cancers. Ditmeyer et al. (2013) discuss these realities with regards to the following: lip cancer, tongue cancer, cheek cancer, esophageal cancer, and lung cancer. Naturally, the authors reference the fact that these are Similarly, it has been proven that smoking marijuana also demonstrably weakens the body’s immune system. This is of vital importance to many individuals who will be taking it to assist in providing them with a means to survive a given illness or extreme situation that requires such a method. In this way, the individual is likely to prolong the amount of time that they are suffering from an illness due to the fact that the prolonged use of marijuana has a negative effect on the total white blood cell count and the body’s inherent ability to fight off infection.

In addition, Hendricks et al. (2010) discusses the increased risk of a litany respiratory illnesses that the marijuana user faces. Therefore, the authors discuss the fact that inhaling the smoke from even 1 joint per day can noticeably affect the bronchial linings in the air way which serve to protect the individual from a host of airborne viruses. Additionally, the authors discuss the commonly known reality that the amount of tar in a single cigarette is itself one of the most harmful factors of smoking as it is this specific action that causes a plaque like buildup to form within the lungs of the user over time (Zemel, 2013). As such, a little known fact is that a single joint contains 4 times the level of tar as a single cigarette. In this way, the individual can see that even smoking a single joint per day is the equivalent of smoking 4 cigarettes with respect to the overall level of tar and the negative health effects that this portends for the user. As well as current research has been able to demonstrably prove that cigarettes are harmful for a number of reasons to the average smoker, it is reasonable to assume that almost each and every one of these reasons can be transferred to medical marijuana and compounded. However, due to the fact that marijuana is still illegal in almost each and every state, not to mention at the federal level, it is not surprising that few pharmacologists have sought to provide this controlled substance to their patients.

Naturally, if the situation is terminal and has no hope of improving, then the tangential health drawbacks of marijuana smoking or usage are not and should not be heavily considered. However, if the condition is terminal with a chance of long life suffering from a particular disorder or disease, prescribing a drug that is smoked and necessarily engenders a great litany of different tangential health concerns, is not an intelligent or wise prescription to seek to give a drug that is known to have such a great many drawbacks with regards to overall health and longevity (Simoni-Wastila & Palumbo, 2013). Ultimately, the many negative factors that sustained marijuana use engenders prove it to be a great deal more dangerous than some of the other pain management drugs that are currently within the regimen of medical professionals around the globe.

Claros & Sharma (2012) discuss the fact that another long-term side effect that marijuana is known to portend has to do with the fact that it has been known to trigger psychological reactions among many of the test groups that have been analyzed. In other words, panic attacks, bipolar incidents, anger/rage/aggression, and other psychological responses have been proven to be noticeably and measurably higher in patients who have been dosed with marijuana on a regular basis as compared to the control groups which of course have not. Similarly, studies have also shown that memory loss is oftentimes a key side effect of the continued and/or prolonged use of marijuana.

Naturally, the previous cases have all dealt with the main drawbacks of medical marijuana. Similarly, the following section of analysis will concern some of the potential benefits associated with it. Naturally, one of the first of these has to do with the overall level of pain management that medical marijuana can effect as compared to other (oftentimes more powerful narcotics). What is of extreme importance to note here is whether or not the medical marijuana itself is being used as a maintenance drug or used to ameliorate the effects of extreme pain due to debilitating and/or terminal illness. The reason that this is of such great importance is concentric upon the fact that many of the negative side effects that marijuana has for its users are oftentimes not immediately exhibited. Furthermore, if the medical marijuana is being used to lessen the pain of a terminally ill patient, it only stands to reason that the medical professionals responsible for proscribing and monitoring the pain management of given individual will likely not be highly concerned with the fact that a litany of negative long-term side effects for the drug exist as they do not normally expect the patient to live long enough to experience these.

Another positive attribute of medical marijuana is the fact that it can be “pharmaceuticalized” to the extent that many of the aforementioned health risks associated with its use would be minimized. Without necessitating the smoking of the marijuana, the overall pros and cons would fall into entirely different subcategories. However, it should be clearly noted that the smoking of the drug is one of the most efficient ways to extract the vital TCP from the plant matter and transmit that into the human blood stream.

Delving into the history of marijuana use and cultivation within the United States, it has definitively been noted that one of the main reasons for why marijuana is not currently legal, as compared to a litany of opiate derived pharmaceutical drugs targeted at managing various aspects of pain, is due to the fact that it posed a fundamental threat to large tobacco companies and was thus sidelined via legislation over 100 years ago. Naturally, it cannot be said that any and all reasons for marijuana being outlawed has to do with special interests and or big money. Rather, marijuana, as compared to tobacco, is a psychoactive drug. What is meant by this is the fact that whereas one can smoke a cigarette, or derived nicotine via a litany of different delivery methods the psychological mindset of the individual remains unaltered (Riggs & Pentz, 2009). Although they may feel a sense of well-being, their ability to make decisions and react to situations is unaltered. However, the case of marijuana is quite different; as the individual is ultimately impacted psychologically by the drug itself.

Goode (2012) references the fact that it is oftentimes assumed that smoking marijuana is somehow safer than smoking cigarettes. This incorrect assumption is oftentimes the derived from the belief that the lack of man-made carcinogens that are found in marijuana make the smoking of marijuana more “healthful” and the smoking of tobacco. However, scholarship has indicated that the differential of health impacts from smoking cigarettes as compared to smoking marijuana is in fact quite the same. The ultimate reason for this is not contingent upon whether or not mass-produced cigarettes have a higher concentration of carcinogens than do the homemade application of marijuana smoking; instead, it has to do with the fact that the marijuana delivery mechanisms and the means by which marijuana is smoked is necessarily quite different from the means by which cigarettes are smoked. For instance, medical studies have indicated that an individual who smokes marijuana tends to inhale 2 to 3 times as much smoke as the typical cigarette smoker. By the same token, the means by which marijuana is smoked is usually either via a bong or via some type of self-made/home-made rolled cigarette. As such, these do not have any way of blocking the harmful tars and other carcinogens that are extant within this inhaled smoke. Moreover, the ultimate reason behind marijuana smokers attempting to inhale more of the smoke at each and every opportunity has to do with the fact that there is a direct psychoactive connection between the amount of smoke inhaled in the overall feeling of well-being and satisfaction that is derived. Naturally, it can be stated that medical marijuana does not have to be smoked; it can alternately be made into a tea, capsule, or even baked; however, due the way in which TCP is accepted into the blood stream and exhibits its primary and secondary effects, the users almost invariably prefer to smoke it. As such, in the case that medical marijuana is legalized, the prescribing physician must not only consider the health ramifications to the individual patient in question, they must also consider the potential ramifications and drawbacks that those exposed to the smoke might experience as well.

From a policy analysis, Brook et al. (2012) conclude that the existing policy concerning the use and regulation of marijuana is partially unjustifiable. The rationale for this is contingent upon the fact that if the government seeks to outlaw marijuana as a result of the fact that it inhibits an individual to perform a given task in an effective manner, then by the very same token alcohol and similar products must also be outlawed. Conversely, from a social health standpoint, it is definitively recognized, from the information that is been provided, that cigarette smoking and marijuana smoking are ultimately just as harmful to the health of the individual (Ramo et al., 2013). As such, government regulation does not have an effective means of clearly delineating why cigarettes and tobacco products are allowed whereas marijuana products are strictly prohibited. From the information that is been provided, it can be understood that marijuana and big tobacco companies have had something of a difficult past. However, if the ultimate intention of the current societal structure is to allow the individual with choice with regards to whether or not they choose to treasure and improve their health or whether or not they choose to devalue and destroy it, the only obvious approach is to allow marijuana and tobacco usage simultaneously.

Odden (2012) furthers this approach by engaging in a public health debate. Ultimately, if the governmental structure comprises health and safety of society above all other aspects, neither tobacco products nor marijuana products should be allowed; due to the fact they both have the potential and likelihood of slowly eroding the health of those societal stakeholders to engage with the drug at all. However, as has been noted within the past 30 to 40 years, the war on drugs has been an abysmal failure and is accounted for the loss of billions of taxpayer dollars and the imprisonment of countless young and nonviolent offenders; mainly from an African-American ethnic background. As a direct result of this complete failure to control substances and demand that society behaves in a certain way, it is the approach of this author that any and all governmental regulations demanding that an individual not integrate with a particular substance are ultimately useless and extraordinarily expensive. An alternative view of this particular topic may promote the idea that if all societal and governmental regulations against illicit substances were removed then necessarily a larger number of health problems would be exhibited within the population. Although this may indeed be true, the individual who ascribes to such a standpoint is not necessarily consider the fact that billions upon billions of dollars would be saved by the federal government with respect to the strain that is placed on the legal system, dispense these, expanded state federal and local police forces, drug interdiction teams, the drug enforcement agency, and a litany of others. Moreover, this money can very well be applied to public health and seek to ameliorate the problems that are already exhibited within society.


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Claros, E., & Sharma, M. (2012). The relationship between emotional intelligence and abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco among college students. Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education, 56(1), 8-37.

Ditmyer, M., Demopoulos, C., McClain, M., Dounis, G., & Mobley, C. (2013). The effect of tobacco and marijuana use on dental health status in Nevada adolescents: A trend analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(5), 641-648. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.11.002

Goode, E. (2012). Drugs in American society. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Hendricks, P. S., Delucchi, K. L., Humfleet, G. L., & Hall, S. M. (2012). Alcohol and marijuana use in the context of tobacco dependence treatment: Impact on outcome and mediation of effect. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 14(8), 942-951.

Odden, H. L. (2012). Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and hallucinogen use in Samoan adolescents. Drug & Alcohol Review, 31(1), 47-55. doi:10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00280.x

Ramo, D. E., Delucchi, K. L., Hall, S. M., Liu, H., & Prochaska, J. J. (2013). Marijuana and tobacco co-use in young adults: Patterns and thoughts about use. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74(2), 301-310.

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SIMONI-WASTILA, L, & PALUMBO, F 2013, 'MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGISLATION: WHAT WE KNOW– AND DON'T', Journal Of Health Care Law & Policy, 16, 1, pp. 59-75, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 December 2013.

Zemel, FI 2013, 'Medical Marijuana: A Crossroads Between Land Use Planning and Environmental Health', Journal Of Environmental Health, 75, 9, pp. 56-57, CINAHL Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 December 2013.