Low to moderate marijuana use didn’t affect lungs
More than 5,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 were recruited in 1985 and 1986 and went to an average of four medical exams over 20 years. They were asked at each about current and past smoking habits for tobacco and marijuana.
The volume and force of their breath were measured with spirometry devices.
As expected, tobacco use was associated with a decline in lung function. That wasn’t the case for marijuana use, which was measured in “joint-years,’’ each equivalent to smoking 365 joints or filled pipe bowls.
Within seven joint-years - the equivalent of having a joint a day for seven years or one per week over 49 years - there was no evidence that an increase in marijuana exposure negatively affected lung function, the authors wrote. They noted that people who were heavier users may have experienced negative effects.
BOTTOM LINE: Low to moderate marijuana use did not hurt lung function among study participants.
CAUTIONS: The study included few people who were heavy marijuana users, and even fewer who were not also tobacco smokers. Marijuana and tobacco use was self-reported, meaning researchers relied on participants to recall their habits.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 11
Marijuana Smoking Does Not Harm Lungs, Study Finds
Marijuana, the country’s most widely used illicit drug, has become increasingly popular and less stigmatized in recent years, particularly among young adults. One government report released in December found that one out of 15 high school students now smokes marijuana nearly every day, a growth fueled in part by the spread of medicinal marijuana, which is legal in 16 states. With its use rising, questions about the drug’s long-term medical consequences have garnered more attention.
The new research is one of the most extensive looks to date at whether long-term marijuana use causes pulmonary damage, and specifically whether its impact on the lungs is as harmful as smoking cigarettes. The researchers followed more than 5,000 people over two decades and found that regularly smoking marijuana — the equivalent of up to a joint a day over seven years — did not impair performance on a lung function test. The test, a measure of pulmonary obstruction that looks at the amount of air a person can force out in one second after taking a deep breath, is typically worsened by smoking tobacco.
In something of a twist, the researchers found that compared to nonsmokers, marijuana users performed slightly better on the lung function test, though the improvement was minuscule. “Even with this tiny increase in airflow, I have to admit that I really doubt that there’s any real increase in lung health,” said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham school of medicine and an author of the study. The finding may merely reflect marijuana smokers’ years of “training” in taking deep inhalations and holding the smoke, the researchers said.
In the near term, smoking marijuana irritates the airways and can cause coughing, and public health advocates stress that it causes impairment that reduces attention, lowers motivation and heightens the risk of accidents. Over days or weeks, chronic use can lead to problems with learning and memory. But whether smoking marijuana sets off the type of pulmonary changes that lead to lasting damage like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a leading cause of death among Americans, was not entirely clear.
Earlier research suggested that the impact of marijuana smoke, which contains some of the same noxious chemicals as tobacco, was not as harmful to lung function as cigarette smoke. But many of the studies were carried out over relatively short periods and contained hundreds, not thousands, of subjects.
In the new study, which was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and financed by the National Institutes of Health, roughly 5,100 men and women in four cities – Oakland, Calif.; Chicago; Minneapolis; and Birmingham – were interviewed and given lung function tests repeatedly over 20 years. They were on average about age 25 at the start, and more than half smoked marijuana, cigarettes or both.
The researchers found that for marijuana smokers, an exposure of up to seven “joint years” — with one joint-year equivalent to smoking 365 joints or filled pipes, or an average of one joint a day for seven years — did not worsen pulmonary function. Dr. Kertesz noted that with heavier marijuana use, described as 10 joint-years of exposure or more, lung function did begin to decline. And for a person who smokes both marijuana and cigarettes, “the net effect is going to be continued loss of lung function.”
Dr. Donald Tashkin, a pulmonologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has studied marijuana for over 30 years and was not involved in the study, said it confirmed findings from several other studies showing “that essentially there is no significant relationship between marijuana exposure and impairment in lung function.” He said one reason marijuana smoke may not be as harmful as tobacco smoke, despite containing similar noxious ingredients, may be the fact that its active ingredient, THC, has anti-inflammatory effects.
“We don’t know for sure,” he said, “but a very reasonable possibility is that THC may actually interfere with the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
Dr. Tashkin said he and his colleagues had found in their own research — unexpectedly — that even smoking up to three joints a day did not appear to cause a decrease in lung function. “I think that the bottom line is that there does not appear to be any negative impact on lung function of marijuana smoking,” he said, “and that therefore marijuana is not a risk factor for the development of C.O.P.D. Tobacco smoking is the most important risk factor for C.O.P.D
Cigarettes Down, Marijuana Use Steady in Teen Survey
» Cigarettes Down, Marijuana Use Steady in Teen Survey
By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 15, 2011
Federal officials report a yearly survey suggests cigarette and alcohol use by eighth, 10th and 12th-graders are at their lowest point in more than 25 years.
However, abuse of other tobacco products (e.g., hookahs, small cigars, smokeless tobacco), marijuana and prescription drugs remains an issue.
The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey has been administered since 1975 and is one of three major surveys sponsored by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services that provide data on substance use among youth.
Researchers say that even though some areas are improved, survey responses suggests more teens continue to abuse marijuana than cigarettes; and alcohol is still the drug of choice among all three age groups queried.
“That cigarette use has declined to historically low rates is welcome news, given our concerns that declines may have slowed or stalled in recent years,” said National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director Dr. Nora D. Volkow.
The 2011 results showed that 18.7 percent of 12th-graders reported current (past-month) cigarette use, compared to a recent peak rate of 36.5 percent in 1997 and 21.6 percent five years ago. Only 6.1 percent of eighth-graders reported current smoking, compared to a recent peak of 21 percent in 1996 and 8.7 percent five years ago.
Officials would like to see the cigarette reduction decline even more.
“The actual decline is relatively small compared to the sharp declines we witnessed in the late nineties,” said Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health.
For alcohol, 63.5 percent of 12th-graders reported past year use, compared to a recent peak of 74.8 percent in 1997. Similarly, 26.9 percent of eighth-graders reported past year use of alcohol in 2011, compared to a recent peak rate of 46.8 percent in 1994.
There also was a five-year decrease in binge drinking, measured as five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks, across all three grades. Binge drinking was reported by 6.4 percent of eighth-graders, 14.7 percent of 10th-graders, and 21.6 percent of 12th-graders, down from the 2006 rates of 8.7 percent, 19.9 percent and 25.4 percent respectively.
One area in which declines were not noted was in the use of marijuana.
Among 12th-graders, 36.4 percent reported past year use, and 6.6 percent reported daily use, up from 31.5 and 5 percent, respectively, five years ago. The upward trend in teens’ abuse of marijuana corresponded to downward trends in their perception of risk.
For example, only 22.7 percent of high school seniors saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 25.9 percent five years ago. Similarly, 43.4 percent of eighth-graders reported that they saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 48.9 percent five years ago.
A new concern for policy makers is the use of synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or spice. As such, this substance was included in the survey for the first time in 2011. Surprisingly, 11.4 percent of 12th-graders reported past year use.
“K2 and spice are dangerous drugs that can cause serious harm,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy.
“We will continue to work with the public health and safety community to respond to this emerging threat but in the meantime, parents must take action. Parents are the most powerful force in the lives of young people and we ask that all of them talk to their teens today about the serious consequences of using marijuana, K2, or spice.”
There was mixed news seen in the non-medical use of prescription drugs. Abuse of the opioid painkiller Vicodin was reported by 8.1 percent of 12th graders — similar to 2010 and down from 9.7 percent in 2009. There was also a decline reported by 10th graders — to 5.9 percent from 7.7 percent in 2010. However, no such declines were seen for the opioid painkiller OxyContin.
In 2011, the non-medical use of the ADHD medicines Adderall and Ritalin remained about the same as last year among 12th-graders, at 6.5 and 2.6 percent, respectively.
There was, however, a significant decline in the abuse of over-the-counter cough medicine among eighth-graders, down to 2.7 percent in 2011 from 4.2 percent in 2006, when the survey first asked about its abuse. A similar decline in cough medicine abuse was seen among 12th-graders, to 5.3 percent from 6.9 percent five years ago.
“To help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, NIDA is launching an updated prescription drug section on our teen website,” said Dr. Volkow.
“Teens can go to our PEERx pages to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make healthy decisions and understand the risks of abusing prescription drugs. We are also encouraging teens to provide feedback on these resources through NIDA’s teen blog, Sara Bellum, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or email.”
Overall, 46,773 students from 400 public and private schools participated in this year’s MTF survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th-graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Nauert PhD, R. (2011). Cigarettes Down, Marijuana Use Steady in Teen Survey. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2011, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/12/15/cigarettes-down-marijuana-use-steady-in-teen-survey/32614.html
Marijuana arrests fall in New York after rule change
(Reuters) - Arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession have fallen 13 percent in New York City since September, when the police department relaxed its enforcement policy, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.
New York City police made 1,190 fewer marijuana arrests since Commissioner Raymond Kelly's September 19 directive, compared to the same nine-week period a year ago, spokesman Paul Browne said.
A coalition of groups that has criticized the police force for its aggressive approach to marijuana possession called the numbers a "disappointing drop" and said New York City remains the "marijuana arrest capital of the world."
"Unfortunately, these figures are cause for outrage, not celebration," Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement. "In this economy, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD are wasting millions of tax dollars by using illegal searches and false charges to sweep tens of thousands of black and Latino youth into the criminal justice system.
A person who is caught smoking marijuana, or has a small amount of it in public view, is still subject to arrest, according to the guidelines. But in cases where "the same small amount" is discovered in a suspect's pockets during a police search, it is considered a violation, punishable by summons, Brown said.
Where Have All the Stoners Gone?
sfweekley.com chris roberts
It's hard to say exactly where the American marijuana movement is at present. For every Alabama, where a Republican state legislator will sponsor a bill to legalize medical cannabis, there's an Arizona or a Montana, where lawmakers overturned the will of voters and rolled back medical marijuana laws.
But with marijuana so often in the news -- with reports of its surprising medical benefits receiving more and more mainstream attention -- it's perhaps not surprising that more Americans are experimenting with the magic herb, according to a federal study.
Nearly 7 percent of Americans ages 12 and older used marijuana in 2010 -- an increase of 3 million from about 10 years ago, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. And where these smokers are located will be even more surprising to you: California -- the birthplace of medical marijuana -- is only the 10th most stoned state.
Where have all the smokers gone? Think cold and colonial.
Along with a story on the report, CBS News compiled a handy photo essay using data from the 2009 edition of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. By sheer numbers, California would appear to have the most stoners -- 12.88 percent of those living in the Golden State smoke. That means 4.4 million tokers out of a total population of 37.2 million.
In other words, there's more marijuana smokers in California than the populations of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine combined -- all states where there's more marijuana use per capita.
New England cleaned house, with every state in the northeast, aside from Connecticut, in the top 10. Connecticut was 13th, with 12.53 percent marijuana use. And despite no medical use permitted in New York, the state claimed a 12.83 percent marijuana use rate.
Now onto the winners: Some 16.29 percent of Alaskans admitted to smoking marijuana in 2009, making it the state with the highest reported use of marijuana in the country. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Vermont rounded out the top five -- in that order.
So kudos to you, New England -- and why not? Gotta find some way to get through those winters.
Other facts from the study:
• Drug use on the whole has decreased since 2000; Tobacco use and binge drinking among teens has also declined.
• Meth use is down by half.
• Fewer Americans are receiving treatment for substance abuse.
• 23 million Americans reported a need for treatment, but fewer than 3 million received it.
Drugs and Alcohol: Not My KidBy LISA BELKIN
Not my children.
Only 10 percent of parents nationwide believe their teenagers have used alcohol in the last year, and half that percentage believe their teenagers have used marijuana. Yet when the National Institutes of Health polled teenagers recently, more than half (52 percent) admitted to drinking, and nearly a third (28 percent) said they have smoked pot.
Those same parents overestimate what other teenagers are doing, guessing that 60 percent are probably using alcohol and 40 percent are using marijuana.
And what about your teenagers? How about their friends?
The report, released today, includes advice for parents:
1. Talk to your teenager about substance use in a non-threatening way.
2. Carefully monitor teenagers when they come home and look for signs of substance use.
3. Try not to overreact to a single instance of substance use. Instead, use the opportunity to talk to your teenager in a non-judgmental way and be available as a resource for resisting peer pressure.
4. Talk with your teenager’s friends and talk with other parents. Sometimes others will share information that your own child won’t.
5. Read information from resources such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse to become educated about common signs and symptoms of substance abuse.
And it suggests resources for more information, such as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and the University of Michigan Health Library—Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
But mostly it includes the message that it quite likely is your kid.
Marijuana use rising in U.S., national survey shows
Here's to good passes all weekend! -UA
* Medical marijuana may be fueling increased use of pot
* Meth use has fallen by half since 2006
(Reuters) - Marijuana is increasingly becoming the drug of choice among young adults in the United States, while use of methamphetamines is waning, according to a national survey of drug use released on Thursday.
Overall, 8.9 percent of the U.S. population or 22.6 million Americans aged 12 and older used illicit drugs in 2010, up from 8.7 percent in 2009 and 8 percent in 2008, according to the survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Marijuana use appeared to be fueling the increase, with some 17.4 million Americans -- or 6.9 percent of the population -- saying they used marijuana in 2010, up from 14.4 million or 5.8 percent of the population in 2007.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the United States, said increases are especially prominent in states in which medical marijuana use is legal.
"Emerging research reveals potential links between state laws permitting access to smoked medical marijuana and higher rates of marijuana use," Kerlikowske said in a statement.
According to the survey, 21.5 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25 used illicit drugs in 2010, up from 19.6 percent in 2008 to 21.2 percent in 2009.
"This increase was also driven in large part by a rise in the rate of current marijuana use among this population," Kerlikowske said.
Use of methamphetamines, meanwhile, has decreased, the survey found.
The number of current meth users fell by about half between 2006 and 2010, with the number of people aged 12 and older who used meth dropping to 353,000 last year, down from 731,000 in 2006.
Cocaine use also fell, dropping to 1.5 million users in 2010, from 2.4 million in 2006, the survey found.
And among youths aged 12 to 17, drinking rates fell to 13.6 percent in 2010 from 14.7 percent in 2009; and smoking use fell to 10.7 percent in 2010, from 11.6 percent in 2009.