Marijuana vs. tobacco: Which is worse?

By Jane Chastain

Marijuana is fast becoming an accepted drug. In fact, smoking marijuana is considered by most young people to be “cool,” while smoking cigarettes is frowned upon.

Children are born with a natural desire to succeed. Ask a group of children what they want to be when they grow up. They will answer, “astronaut, doctor, fireman, teacher, etc.” without any hesitation. There is never a doubt that their chosen professions might be unattainable. However, smoking marijuana will make those dreams much harder if not impossible to achieve.

We need an eduction program, not just on the danger of drugs, but on this drug specifically.

Everyone knows that smoking cigarettes is harmful to your health. However, due to the push for the legalization of marijuana because of its alleged medical benefits, most people consider it safe, if not beneficial. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just because something is used as a drug doesn’t make it safe. Next time your doctor gives you a prescription, read the list of dangers and side effects. For every medical benefit there is a downside. Your physician must weight these to determine if the benefit outweighs the risk to you.

It should noted that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, has been available by prescription in pill form for years and has been used by doctors for their patients’ chronic pain.

However, the prescriptions for the medical marijuana in states that require them for what is widely accepted as “recreational use” are a joke. You can get one for a headache or a hangnail. The doctors that hand them out are making a killing, so to speak.

A recent study for the Governors’ Highway Safety Association found that, for the first time, drugs accounted for more traffic fatalities than alcohol. In 2015, of those tested, 43 percent of motorists had drugs in their system, compared to 37 percent of motorists who tested positive for alcohol.

Of the more than 400 drugs the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tracks, marijuana accounted for 35 percent of those positive tests.

However, there are other dangers that should be apparent. Despite some of the literature out there to the contrary, smoking marijuana is much more harmful than smoking cigarettes. While the harmful effects on health from smoking cigarettes have been well-documented, research on marijuana use is still in its infancy. However, a recent study reported in HealthDay News found that smoking just one marijuana joint is equivalent to smoking five cigarettes, in terms of the damage it does to your lungs.

Smoke is harmful to the lungs, whether from burning wood, tobacco or marijuana. Toxins and carcinogens are released from the combustion of materials. However, marijuana smokers tend to inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers, which leads to a greater exposure per breath to tar.

Smoking marijuana hurts the lungs’ first line of defense against infection by killing cells that help remove dust and germs as well as causing more mucus to form. In addition, it also suppresses the immune system and injures the cell linings of large airways, which leads to chronic cough, phlegm production, wheezing and acute bronchitis.

Recent studies also show that those who use marijuana may be three times more likely to die from high blood pressure than non-users of the drug. The researchers also say their findings indicate that marijuana use is a greater risk factor for poor cardiovascular health than cigarette smoking.

Of course the health risks of marijuana largely depend on how it is consumed. It can be ingested in dozens of different ways, including candy, brownies, etc. This has raised concerns for pediatric poisonings, and bear in mind that there are no child-proof caps on eatables.

But put those health risks aside for a moment and consider the risks to one’s ability to succeed. Cognitive tests show that chronic marijuana users have lower IQ. Other side effects include loss of sense of time, changes in visual perception, impaired memory and cognitive function, delayed brain development in younger people, depression, anxiety and a potential development of psychosis.

Studies suggest that one in 10 regular users become dependent on the drug. In fact, the number of people seeking professional help to quit or control their cannabis habit has risen in the past 20 years behind only alcohol and tobacco.

So let’s picture that you are standing in front of the elevator of life. The upper floors lead to success, health and happiness. The floors below – the marijuana floors – lead to reduced mental capacity, sickness and even dependency. You choose.

Who wants to go down?

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