A recent letter to the editor in the Oct. 22 Steamboat Today stopped me in my tracks. Most of us are kind of numb about folks stretching the truth during a political season, but this enchanting fairy tale was over the line. Young people are going to get hurt, or worse.
The British Medical Journal “The Lancet” has been quite vocal about the respiratory effects of smoking cannabis. Consider the following excerpts: “Chronic heavy cannabis smoking is associated with increased symptoms of chronic bronchitis, such as coughing, production of sputum, and wheezing. Lung function is significantly poorer and there are significantly greater abnormalities in the large airways of marijuana smokers than in non-smokers. Tashkin and colleagues have reported evidence of an additive effect of marijuana and tobacco smoking on histopathological abnormalities in lung tissue.
“Long-term cannabis smoking may also increase the risks of respiratory cancer. There have been reports of cancers in the aerodigestive tract in young adults with a history of heavy cannabis use.
“Cannabis smoke may be carcinogenic; it is mutagenic in vitro and in vivo. Cannabinoids impair cell-mediated and humoral immunity in rodents, decreasing resistance to infection, and non-cannabinoids in cannabis smoke impair alveolar macrophages.”
If that were not enough, on Nov. 15, 2010, Roni Rabin wrote in his New York Times column Vital Sign that “Marijuana smoking often starts in adolescence — and the timing could not be worse, a new study suggests. Young adults who started using the drug regularly in their early teens performed significantly worse on cognitive tests assessing brain function than did subjects who were at least 16 when they started smoking, scientists reported Monday.
“The findings ... led researchers at McLean Hospital to surmise that the developing teenage brain may be particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of marijuana.
“‘We have to understand that the developing brain is not the same as the adult brain,’ said Dr. Staci A. Gruber, the paper’s senior author and director of the cognitive and clinical neuroimaging section at McLean, a Harvard-affiliated hospital in Belmont, Mass.”
Please keep children in mind. There are lots of Piped Pipers out there. Protect your homes and families from the harmful effects of smoke. Should one be willing to risk his or her children’s lungs and brains, that person might wake up one day to discover that his or her offspring have severe lung problems, expensive legal issues and marked difficulties keeping a decent job.
Steven Ross, MD, FAAP