Dangers of Marijuana

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There is a strong push to legalize marijuana in the United States.  However, the dangers of this drug are not completely known.  We are still in the process of discovering all of the detrimental aspects of its use.  A recent study published March 12, 2015 in the journal Hippocampus revealed that teens who were heavy marijuana users–smoking it daily for three years–had an abnormally shaped hippocampus and performed poorly on long-term memory tasks.
The hippocampus is that part of the brain important to long-term memory (also known as episodic memory), which is the ability to remember autobiographical or life events.  Young adults who abused cannabis as teens performed about 18 percent worse on long-term memory tests than young adults who never abused cannabis.  “The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family” (Dr. John Csernansky, the Lizzie Gilman professor and chair of psychiatry and behavior sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital–a senior author of the study).
The study is the first to say the hippocampus is shaped differently in heavy marijuana smokers and the different looking shape is directly related to poor long-term memory performance. Previous research by the same Northwestern team showed poor short-term and working memory performance and abnormal shapes of brain structures in the sub-cortex including the striatum, globus pallidus and thalamus.  Marijuana is detrimental to brain function.  Decriminalization will inevitably lead to greater abuse.  In the United States, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug.  Young adults have the highest and growing prevalence of use.  Young adults who abuse this drug are damaging their brains and  mortgaging their futures.
The study also found that young adults with schizophrenia who abused cannabis as teens performed about 26 percent more poorly on memory tests than young adults with schizophrenia who never abused cannabis.
The study is titled, “Cannabis-related episodic memory deficits and hippocampal morphological differences in healthy individuals and schizophrenia subjects.” The other Northwestern authors include: senior authors Lei Wang and  Hans C. Breiter and coauthors Derin J. Cobia, James L. Reilly, Andrea G. Roberts and Kathryn I. Alpert.  The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health. (The details of the study were reported at www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2015).
While we are concerned about the physical effects of obesity among our young people and spending large sums of money to improve their health, we, at the same time, are pushing to legalize marijuana which is damaging to their brains!  Such hypocrisy is tolerated only because we are driven by greed and desire to indulge the flesh.  The lusts of the flesh war against the soul (I Peter 2:11).
The Christian virtue of temperance is sorely needed today (II Pet. 1:5-8).  Temperance is self-control.  Every Christian should strive to bring their body under the control of God’s will and wisdom.

Marijuana and the Bible

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What is happening in America?  At least 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes (these are restricted).  Two states (Washington and Colorado) have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Other states are watching this experiment and will have to decide if they will legalize this drug or not.
The President of the United States minimized the use of marijuana comparing it to alcohol and cigarettes.  He said, “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life.  I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol” (Huffington Post, 1/19/2014).  Please refer to the article that I wrote on this blog site titled, “Alcohol and Marijuana” to see the dangers of alcohol and that 88,000 Americans lose their lives each year to heavy drinking of alcohol.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, which contains the psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as other related compounds. This plant material can be smoked or concentrated into a resin called hashish or a sticky black liquid called hash oil (National Institutes of Health).
Facts About Marijuana
1.  Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used in the United States.
2.  The drug is being used more among young people (since 2007) and at the same time viewed as being less harmful.
3.  Marijuana is usually smoked (rolled in cigarette wrappers) called “joints” or in pipes called “bongs.”
4.  Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive usually sweet-and-sour odor.
5.  Marijuana can be mixed with tea or used in food products.
General Effects of Marijuana
1.  Short-term memory loss.  Slowness of learning.
2.  Impaired lung function (similar to that found in cigarettes).
3.  Extended use–causes cancer and other lung disease.
4.  Causes decreased sperm count and sperm mobility.
5.  Impairs immune response.
6.  Adverse effects on heart function.  Increase of heart rate–20-100 percent after smoking.
7.  Developmental effects in children and adolescents:  amotivational syndrome–energy loss, poor school performance leading to dropouts, harmed parental relationships, behavior disruptions and psychotic episodes.
Effects on the Brain
1.  THC acts on specific molecular targets on brain cells called cannabinoid receptors.  These in turn affect other neural receptors and play an important part in brain development and function.  Marijuana affects every part of the brain.
2.  THC affects the parts of the brain responsible for pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.
3.  THC produces altered perceptions and mood, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory.
4.  THC also affects brain development.  Prolonged use can have permanent results.  A long-term study in New Zealand showed that heavy users lost an average of 8 points in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38.  (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Contrary to public myth, marijuana is addictive.  It can also lead to the use of more potent drugs like cocaine or heroin.  It is referred to as a “gateway” drug for this reason.
Is Marijuana Medicine?
Clinical evidence has not shown that the therapeutic benefits of the marijuana plant outweigh its health risks (NIDA).  There are many harmful ingredients in marijuana that have not been fully evaluated at this time.
Marijuana and the Bible
The Bible teaches that the body of a Christian belongs to God by virtue of redemption through Jesus Christ (I Cor. 6:19-20).  The body must be used for the glory of God and not for drug abuse or fornication.
Christians are not to pursue the lusts of the flesh, but rather the spiritual things of God.  Rom. 8:5-10; Col. 3:1-5.
Christians must not be brought under the power of any illicit drug that impairs judgment and compromises personal restraint against sin.  When a person is “high” there is a loss of self-control (temperance) II Pet. 1:6.
Marijuana is a means of seeking  pleasure through a mind-altering drug.  The pleasures of sin must be rejected.  Heb. 11:24-25 (The example of Moses).
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2).

Alcohol and Marijuana

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In an interview with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, President Obama said, “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a y0ung person up through a big chunk of my adult life.  I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol” (Molly Reilly, www.huffingtonpost.com, 1/19/2014 updated: 1/25/2014).
Perhaps we should ask, “how dangerous is alcohol?”  There are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the U.S.  This makes excessive alcohol use the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation.  Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death.  In 2006, there were more than 1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits due to excessive drinking.  The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion.  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–Fact Sheet Alcohol Use and Health).
The standard measure for a drink is 0.6 ounces (1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol.  Generally, this amount of alcohol is found in:  12-ounces of regular beer or wine cooler; 8-ounces of malt-liquor; 5-ounces of wine; or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  Binge drinking is defined for women as 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.  For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.  Heavy drinking for women is more than 1 drink per day on average and for men it is more than 2 drinks per day on average!  A small amount of alcohol becomes very dangerous very quickly.
Here is a list of the immediate health risks of excessive alcohol use:  unintential injuries, including traffic injuries, falls, drownings, burns, and unintential firearm injuries;  violence including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment.  About 35% of victims report that offenders are under the influence of alcohol.  Alcohol use is also associated with 2 out of 3 incidents of intimate partner violence.  Alcohol is the leading factor in child maltreatment and neglect cases, and is the most frequent substance abused among these parents;  risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault.  These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases;  miscarriage and still birth among pregnant women, and a combination of physical and mental birth defects among children that last throughout life;  and alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that suppress the central nervous system and can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure and body temperature, coma, respiratory depression, or death.
Some of the long-term health risks of excessive alcohol use are:  neurological problems, including dementia, stroke and neuropathy;  cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and hypertension;  psychiatric problems including depression, anxiety, and suicide;  social problems including unemployment, lost productivity, and family problems and  cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast.  In general, the risk of cancer increases with increasing amounts of alcohol.  Liver diseases including, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, which is among the 15 leading causes of all deaths in the United States, and among persons with Hepatitis C virus, worsening of liver function and interference with medications used to treat this condition. Excessive alcohol use also causes gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  I gave this list because I wanted you to read what the President of the United States left out of his statement that marijuana is not any more dangerous than alcohol.  Do you see how dangerous alcohol is?  Do we need another drug that destroys the brain and other vital organs of the body?  Do we need another drug that will rob of life, peace and happiness?  By our choices we reflect a penchant for the indulgence of the flesh at the expense of our own well-being and that of others.  Such self-indulgence leads to self-destruction!  Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is!  The President of the United States was minimizing a grave danger.  Don’t be fooled.