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There is a myth that marijuana users are less likely to develop respiratory and other related problems than cigarette smokers. Cigarettes are products made from tobacco leaves which are rolled in fine pieces of paper for smoking. Similar to any other tobacco product, cigarettes are addictive due to the presence of the psychoactive chemical, nicotine.
Cigarettes have been reported to cause serious health complications to their users/abusers. Marijuana, also referred to as cannabis, on the other hand, is a psychoactive compound made for various uses. Some people use it as a religious rite, others for recreational activities while others use it for medicinal purposes. Debates on the safety of the two drugs on humans have continued to heat up among doctors and political leaders. This paper will examine the extent to which marijuana is much safer than cigarettes.
Health complications caused by marijuana and cigarettes
The health implications related to use of tobacco have been well documented for many years now. Lung cancer and heart diseases are the deadliest facts of tobacco use on human health. Cases of high blood pressure and emphysema have also been reported to result from tobacco abuse.
This is because tobacco contains the psychoactive chemical nicotine which produces carbon monoxide which affects the vital organs negatively (Tashkin 1). Besides these deadly implications, tobacco causes addictive behavior to its users due to the effects of the nicotine chemical which has been reported to result in reduced stress hence the urge to use more and more tobacco.
Although tobacco has hundreds of chemicals many of which are toxic, nicotine is the most notable and it has been reported to travel very fast such that within 10 seconds of cigarette smoking, nicotine can reach the brain and many other parts of the body including breast milk. This shows the extent to which these toxins can cause health complications within short period of time after inhalation.
Additionally, the carbon monoxide released from nicotine binds to blood hemoglobin preventing it from carrying adequate amounts of oxygen to other parts of the body. The carcinogenic compounds present in tobacco cause damage to mechanisms that control growth of cells thus resulting into abnormal growth of cells and disrupting the normal functioning of body cells and organs.
Cigarette smoking has also been reported to cause respiratory infections due to the damage caused in the cells that prevent entry of microorganisms into the respiratory system hence reducing the immunity of the system. Chronic smoking of cigarette has also been reported to cause mutation of DNA through an oxidative process and resulting in hardening of the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis which has been reported as a major cause of death in the U.S
Marijuana, on the other hand, provoked conflicting views on its effects on health from different doctors and researchers. A report given by a principal doctor in the University of California in Los Angeles showed that consumption of high levels of marijuana does not result into adverse effects of lung injury as cigarette smoking does.
However, marijuana results into cancer development due to presence of carcinogenic hydrocarbons that are not present in tobacco (Eisenman 22). Since marijuana has been used medically to treat various disorders, there have been reports that it can actually result into acceleration of the same medical disorders that it had been used to treat.
A study conducted in Harvard University indicated that constant consumption of marijuana can actually cause damage to the cells lining the bronchitis. Since these cells have a protective function of preventing entry of destructive microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria into the pulmonary system, tit results into possible compromise of the immune system in the lungs thus increasing possibilities of pulmonary infections such as pneumonia, especially in patients with compromised immunity such as HIV/AIDS victims.
Additionally, marijuana has been found to be a natural suppressant of the immune system as it destroys various mechanisms meant to defend the body against infections such as the macrophages and the important T- cells. Therefore, the use of marijuana for medical treatment or any other personal reason causes progression of illnesses such as HIV, cancer and complications associated with organ transplants (Brodish 1).
Positive uses of marijuana and cigarettes
Dr. Donald Tashkin of UCLA Medical Center gave a report in 2011 showing facts that make marijuana a safer drug than cigarettes. Despite its health risks, marijuana has various positive medical uses as reported by Dr. Donald. Nausea and anorexia (loss of appetite) are common side effects associated with most of cancer therapies.
These symptoms are also evident in the late stages of cancer. As a result, doctors and other therapists have been using marijuana to counter such conditions. This is usually taken through inhalation of marijuana smoke or through vaporization which is faster in effectiveness than oral way of consuming synthetic marijuana. However, the National Cancer Institute warns that caution should be taken to the amount of marijuana that cancer patients should take in order to make maximum use of the anti-emetic properties of the drug.
Various studies on medical research have been reviewed by the NORML. Org and confirmed that marijuana has anti-cancer properties which can be used medically to reduce size of cancer tumors. The organization’s review on use of marijuana as an anti-cancer agent showed that it can be used effectively on patients with glioblastoma which is a rare kind of brain cancer but very deadly as it results into death in just two years after onset. Studies have shown that marijuana can actually reduce the size of glioma.
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Dr. Chad Stone, a cancer researcher in the Northwest Pacific published a report showing that marijuana can also be used in the treatment of other several cancer types such as breast cancer, cervical, prostrate and colon cancers among others (Stone 1). However, using it in these treatments should be accompanied with other cancer therapies and drugs in order to be more effective.
A clinical study carried out in 2002 and published in the Journal of Pain Management showed that marijuana extracts can be used to relieve pain associated with cancer. The researchers of the study assure that marijuana is a better substitute than placebos in reducing pain in cancer patients who do not respond to ordinary pain killers.
Paul Brodish, a member of the American Council on Science and Health gave a report showing that cigarette smoking helps reduce the risks associated with Parkinson’s disease. However, the protective effect of cigarettes on the diseases has been found to fade away if the infected person quits smoking.
Studies have also shown that smoking cigarettes has positive effects on occlusion of arteries, better known as restenosis which occurs after medical interventions on percutaneous coronary where smokers have been reported to have better chances of surviving or healing occlusion of arteries.
A Swedish study showed evidence with no reasonable doubt that smoking cigarette helps prevent atopic disorders. Although the media says otherwise probably trying to get people to quit and avoid smoking, this study indicated that children whose parents were smokers actually have lower chances of developing asthma and other disorders such as eczema and food allergies.
Shockingly, a researcher in the University of Central California gave a report suggesting that tobacco can be used to treat tuberculosis. The chemical compound in tobacco, nicotine was found to suppress the growth of stubborn tuberculosis infections and can therefore be used to treat resistant tuberculosis.
Additionally, the byproduct of tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide reduces risks of heart attacks and stroke. Small volumes of the gas have been reported to prevent blood clotting and hence facilitating the dissolution of harmful clots within the arteries (Amar 3).
A research conducted at the National Cancer Institute showed that cigarette smoking helps reduce the risks of developing a rare kind of skin cancer that affects older people especially men in the Mediterranean regions. However, these benefits of cigarette should not be used as a vindication to smoke to addiction levels.
Legalized use of medical marijuana in some states
Following a review of therapeutic uses of marijuana by Mohammed Amar in the journal of Ethnopharmacology, as well as other related studies, several states have legalized its use while in other states it is still illegal to use marijuana. Various states including Alaska, California, Hawaii, Arizona, Washington and Maryland among many others have legalized the use of medical marijuana due to the overwhelming medical significance of the drug.
Some of the most notable medical uses of marijuana include prevention/treatment of various types of cancer, pain relief, as an appetite stimulant and treatment for glaucoma among others. However, these states have documented affirmative laws on the use of marijuana.
Some of these laws strictly decriminalize the use of marijuana on medical use with advice or prescription from doctors. Those arrested for marijuana use even if for medical use but without a doctor’s prescription are faced with lesser fines than those using it as a recreational activity. Doctors may as well face the law for prescribing marijuana on diseases that are not listed in the medical marijuana laws (Kaufman 13).
These laws are meant to protect the doctors and patients but they vary between the different states. However, the legality of medical marijuana is still being debated especially in the United States of America. On the other hand, cigarette smoking is legal in almost every state but with laws governing its consumption such as the age at which one should smoke and inhibition of smoking publicly.
One of the most significant testimonials is the use of marijuana in military and army organizations in the world. For example, Napoleon and his army used marijuana as a pain reliever and sedative during their operations. Many celebrities are known to be cigarette or marijuana smokers.
One of the most important of these personalities is President Barrack Obama who has been battling smoking and trying to quit especially since He became president. Other celebrity smokers include Lindsay Lohan, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and the late Whitney Houston among many others.
Cigarette and marijuana smoking is a very common behavior among society members. Marijuana has recently been legalized in some states for its positive use in treating various medical conditions. Therefore, the two drugs should only be used when necessary in treating medical conditions and should be used in right quantities.
Statistics have shown that an estimate of 10,008 people die due to use of medical marijuana within eight years while that of cigarette smoking indicates an estimate of 5.4 million deaths per year. This is a clear indication that marijuana is much safer or less fatal than cigarettes.
Amar, Mohammed. “Cannabinoids in medicine: A review of their therapeutic potential”. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 105.2 (2006): 1 – 5. Print.
Brodish, Paul. “The irreversible effects of cigarette smoking”. American Council on Science and Health, 1998. Web. <https://www.acsh.org/>
Eisenman, Russell. “Using marijuana: positive and negative experiences”. The international journal of psychosocial rehabilitation. 8.1 (2003): 21 – 24. Print.
Kaufman, Paul. “Marijuana and glaucoma”. Archives of Ophthalmology. 116.11 (1998): 12 – 13. Print.
Stone, Chad. “The positive uses of marijuana for cancer patients”. Livestrong.com: in partnership with the lance Armstrong foundation, 2011. Web. <https://www.livestrong.com/article/137065-what-are-prescription-drugs-that-are-substitute-marijuana/>
Tashkin, Donald. “Marijuana is safer than tobacco”. UCLA Medical center. 2011. Web.