Pros and cons of medicinal marijuana

(KTSF by Sean Au)

A recent UC San Francisco study shows that marijuana use causes significantly less harm to the pulmonary functions as compared with cigarette use. But before patients rush to get a prescription for medicinal marijuana, it is probably better to consider the other potential effects of the drug.

Proponents of marijuana use claim that marijuana can help to mitigate chronic pain, increase appetite and improve one’s mood. In the UCSF study of 5,000 marijuana users, it is found that marijuana causes less harm than cigarettes to a person’s pulmonary functions.

“Even though perhaps they have smokers cough,” says Professor Mark Pletcher of UCSF’s Department of Clinical epidemiology. “There is no evidence to show that they go on to develop severe life threatening and life altering lung disease that we see with tabacco smokers.”

In fact,  the air flow rate, which is a way to measure pulmonary functions, even increased rather than decreased with increased exposure to marijuana up to a certain level. Professor Pletcher says this is a surprising finding in the study.

Some doctors and health practitioners, however, say that marijuana also has negative properties to the human body.

UC Berkeley Professor of Neurobiology David Presti says, “It is a medicine and a poison at the same time.”

Some studies show that long term heavy use of marijuana can help produce psychotic symptoms and lead to memory loss.

Professor Presti says the chemical properties in marijuana has complex effects on the human brain. While it can amplify the sensory perception of a person, it can also have a calming effect. He points out that between 10 and 20 percent of users risk developing an addiction.

Furthermore, any substance that can impact the development of the brain of a young person should be avoided, as any use of any powerful brain active substance may be disruptive to the normal process. Professor Presti says, “the younger the person is, the more active it is going to be happening.”

Experts in the field advise that any decision of marijuana use should be first consulted with one’s physician.

(Copyright 2012 KTSF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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