In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration agency Scott Gottlieb said quote “I’m worried about the inhalation of a product and the risks associated with that. I’m worried about the perception that somehow there’s no risk associated with youth use of a product”. He was talking about marijuana.
He also said “I think we all need to be deeply concerned about that (weed) in the same way we are deeply concerned about youth access to e-cigarettes and nicotine”
The important question here is, is he right? Is marijuana use just as bad as using e-cigarettes or traditional cigarettes?
Marijuana vs. Tobacco
Today, more and more young people are turning to marijuana as their first substance of choice, why is that? The fact that there are very few studies examining the harmful effects of long-term marijuana use has led some to believe that marijuana is harmless. Also, legalization means that there is more weed on the streets.
According to a report that was released back in May of this year, the percentage of 12-21-year-olds who start using cannabis before other substances has increased significantly over the past ten years. The report warns that young people who start using weed before tobacco and alcohol are more likely to become heavy users and have cannabis-related problems later in life.
With some modifications, it is possible to use e-cigarettes to smoke weed. But most people use e-cigarettes to vape nicotine thinking that it is a safer option.
According to a recent report, the risk of getting cancer from e-cigarettes maybe 15 times higher than the risk from traditional cigarettes, however, just like marijuana e-cigarettes are new, meaning more research is needed.
The point I want you to understand is both drugs (cannabis and nicotine/tobacco) come with risks. The problem with smoking any type of substance is smoke damages your heart and blood circulation, increasing the risk of developing problems such as:
- Reduced blood flow to your legs and skin (blockage)
- Smoking damages blood vessels and increases blood pressure.
- Chronic bronchitis
Close to 90% of cancers in the following areas are caused by smoking tobacco:
Should Young Marijuana Users be Worried?
The table below is a list of cancer-causing carcinogens found in marijuana and cigarette smoke.
|Marijuana smoke (cancer-causing carcinogens)||Tobacco smoke (cancer-causing carcinogens)|
|Ammonia (20 times higher than tobacco)||nicotine|
|Hydrogen cyanide||Hydrogen cyanide|
|Carbon monoxide||Uranium (radioactive)|
|Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons|
The truth is, regular marijuana use leads to lung damage, think about it, does your throat hurt right now, is that cough getting worse?
It doesn’t matter what you are burning, as long as there is smoke near you, your lungs are exposed to carcinogens, toxins, and irritants. What matters is how long you expose yourself to smoke. The thing is marijuana smokers inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers. That means that they are more exposed to tar. On the other hand, cigarette smokers don’t hold their breath for too long but the average smoker smokes about 20 cigarettes per day while the average marijuana user consumes 230 joints per year.
The similarity between marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke doesn’t mean that smoking marijuana causes cancer. What we know is as mentioned above is that it may lead to lung damage, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.
The good news is researchers have found that THC can curb the cancer-causing effects of marijuana smoke. Nicotine or tobacco smoke is just bad for you.
Currently, there are lots of conflicting studies on the connection between marijuana smoke and cancer, some say it causes it and some say it doesn’t. Whatever you choose to believe, you should always remember that smoke is not good for you especially if you are young. Therefore, if you must smoke or are planning to experiment with marijuana, you should consider other methods of consuming it.
E-cigarettes and the Adolescent Brain
Sold as aids to reduce or quit smoking, E-cigarettes are long tubes that look similar to a pipe, cigarette or a pen, but without burning tobacco. You may think that that is a good thing but it’s not, why?
E-cigarettes contain nicotine in varying amounts, some contain little and others contain a lot of nicotine. The problem with nicotine is it is highly addictive and it triggers changes in the adolescent brain. It may cause incomplete development of the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for decision making, impulse control, and executive function. Also, there is mounting evidence that suggests that nicotine causes cancer. Recent studies have found that nicotine abnormally speeds up the growth of new cells in tumors, colon, breasts, and lung. On top of that, it can also lower the effectiveness of cancer treatment and kick-start epithelial-mesenchymal Transition (EMT) which is an important step in the path toward malignant cell growth.
Long-term exposure to nicotine or chronic use may result in mental health problems, behavioral disturbances, substance abuse, and long-term cognitive impairment.
Is Cannabis Bad for the Adolescent Brain?
In my opinion, the answer to that question is it depends on how much weed you smoke and how disciplined you are. A recent study found that the effects of marijuana on young brains diminish 72 hours after use. That means that if you can control marijuana consumption, your chances of developing a lung infection are lower than a person who smokes all day every day. Unlike tobacco or nicotine, marijuana is not very addictive. But it does affect the adolescent brain in some ways, some researchers say that it shrinks the brain and others claim that it protects it. Read more here.
Ask yourself this, why did you start smoking weed?
Did you start because you wanted to look cool or to impress someone?
There is a difference between substance use and substance abuse, substance abuse means that you are misusing a drug. For example, smoking Monday to Friday will affect your school work; on the other hand, smoking on weekends or once or twice per week for enjoyment won’t affect work or school. The point is, learn to prioritize, choose what is important and take responsibility for your actions.
It’s all about moderation i.e. if you don’t abuse it weed will make your life great again, but if you choose to abuse it your life will suck.
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