In a recent study by the school of dentistry at The University of Otago, New Zealand, periodontal disease was linked to over 900 people who smoked marijuana at least forty times a year since they were 18 years old. The study was published February 6th in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and can be added to the ever augmenting evidence that cannabis use is not as risk-free as it seems. Research projects concerning the negative impact of illegal drugs on bodily health are a constant hindrance to those people who extol the numerous uses of not illegal, but “recreational” drugs.
A 1986 study in the United States found that after treating three patients suffering from Huntington’s disease with cannabidiol (a major chemical found in marijuana) for two weeks, the spastic movements that are associated with the disease had decreased 20% – 40%. The drug has also been proven to help people with glaucoma (by lowering the pressure in the eyeball and therefore counteracting the disease’s negative effects) as well as other very virulent diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies like Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base contain countless trials and research that attest to the health benefits of medical marijuana, however, the studies fail to accurately cite the negative effects that (medical and non-medical) marijuana users face. The amount of research performed by those hoping to see the optimistic side of cannabis use is shadowed by an equal amount of projects aiming to expose marijuana as a deadly substance.
The risks of smoking marijuana even as treatment for specific conditions are very large, and provide enough evidence to deem its use unsafe. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2005 44.8% of twelfth graders had smoked marijuana at least once during their lifetime. This is a scary thought considering these students do not suffer from a disease where marijuana use is an acceptable treatment (of course teen drug use in America is a completely different issue all together, but it begs the question of whether people support marijuana for its health benefits or simply because they like to use it). The figure is even more startling when one considers the negative side-effects marijuana can have on users.
The most serious side-effects of marijuana cause the brain to not function completely. While on marijuana, some immediate effects are a decrease in coordination, distorted perception, and difficulty problem solving. Imagine if a person who was under the influence of marijuana was to perform an everyday task such as driving. The drug would negatively affect the person, and make them a danger to the rest of the drivers on the road due to their inability to react or think quickly. In addition to these side-effects, marijuana also disrupts the circulatory system. While on marijuana, blood pressure drops, and hear rate speeds up, more than quadrupling the risk of heart failure. The long term effects are even more detrimental to one’s health.
Chronic users who smoke the drug are putting themselves at the highest risk possible. Marijuana smokers essentially face the same problems that plague long-term tobacco smokers. Obstructed airways, increased phlegm production, and exposure to carcinogens are among the most prevalent. Additionally, as the title of this post suggests, even teeth are put at risk by habitual smoking of marijuana. Periodontal disease, or the regression of one’s gum line for laymen, can lead to loss of teeth and infection in the mouth.
Recent studies have also linked oral health to bodily health, and even proved that bacteria in the gums and mouth can travel through the blood steam and into the heart to cause cardiovascular disease. As a future dentist, the question I ask is, is it worth losing your teeth just to be “high” for a couple of hours if you do not actually need to be?