To understand marijuana's potential medical benefits, one must first understand how it works. Essentially, the components of the drug act as neurotransmitters, and are especially reactive to sensors in the brain that control body movement, memory, and vomiting to name a few (thus why people when under the influence of pot have decreased coordination, impaired learning, and increased hunger). By stimulating these specialized receptors, one can induce certain reactions from the body that will help treat specific disorders. For example, if a person were to undergo chemotherapy and acquire the typical side-effects of the treatment; weight loss, nausea, and pain, smoking marijuana afterwards would stimulate their appetite as well as reduce or remove the other effects. However, its beneficial qualities are not limited to just cancer patients. A 1986 study in the
The amount of research performed by those hoping to see the optimistic side of cannabis use is shadowed by an equal amount of projects aiming to expose marijuana as a deadly substance. Risks of smoking marijuana even as treatment for specific conditions are very large, and provide enough evidence to deem its use unsafe. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2005 44.8% of twelfth graders had smoked marijuana at least once during their lifetime. This is a scary thought considering these students probably do not suffer from a disease where marijuana use is an acceptable treatment (of course teen drug use in America is a completely different issue all together, but it begs the question of whether non-medical professionals support marijuana for its health benefits or simply because they enjoy using it). The figure is even more startling when one considers the negative side-effects marijuana can have on users. When high on marijuana, immediate effects on the body are a decrease in coordination, distorted perception, and difficulty problem solving. Imagine if a person who was under the influence of marijuana were to perform an everyday task such as driving., the drug would negatively affect that person, and make them a danger to the rest of the drivers on the road due to their inability to react or think quickly. In addition to these side-effects, marijuana also disrupts the circulatory system; blood pressure drops, and heart rate speeds up, more than quadrupling the risk of heart failure. Long term effects of the drug are even more detrimental to one’s health.
Chronic users who smoke the drug are putting themselves at the highest risk possible. Marijuana smokers essentially face the same problems that plague long-term tobacco smokers. Obstructed airways, increased phlegm production, and exposure to carcinogens are among the most prevalent. However, the most serious side-effect of the drug is that even teeth are put at risk by habitual smoking of marijuana. Periodontal disease, or the regression of one’s gum line for laymen, can lead to loss of teeth and infection in the mouth. Recent studies have linked oral health to bodily health, and even proved that bacteria in the gums and mouth can travel through the blood stream and into the heart to cause cardiovascular disease. The fact that the drug already increases the risk of heart attack is even more likely because of the negative effects it has on oral health. With enough exposure, smoking the drug can cause irreversible damage that dental professionals can not fix. As a future dentist, it is worrisome that many users do not need to smoke marijuana for its benefits and curative powers, but do anyway, and in turn put their mouth in jeopardy.
Although there are positive results from using marijuana medically, the risks one takes when using it for “recreational” purposes completely outweigh the benefits. When taken on a strict regiment created by a doctor, and in pill form, marijuana is an excellent treatment for many ailments. However when smoked, and abused whether through medical means or not, pot is dangerous and can be very detrimental to overall health. While chemotherapy is a treatment that has many side-effects, it is still in use because it is one of the only ways to combat cancer. Although one can argue that the same can be said about smoking marijuana, this is not entirely true as the medical world has developed pills and other methods to cure symptoms that marijuana can also treat. In any case, in order to maintain good dental health, smoking pot in general should be avoided because it puts teeth and the body as a whole at risk.