The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently offered adolescents the first ever "Drug Facts Chat Day." Students from high schools and middle schools across the country submitted anonymous questions online—about alcohol, the brain, addiction and everything in between—to NIDA scientists, including some of the nation's top experts in substance abuse. The scientists then responded with personalized, nonjudgmental answers. Below is a sample of the inquiries that relate specifically to marijuana. All the questions and answers below are unedited.
Among the scientists were Wilson Compton, director of NIDA's Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research; Nancy Pilotte, psychologist and expert in the neuroendocrine aspects of drug abuse; Marsha Lopez, an epidemiologist at NIDA's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse who has expertise in behavioral pharmacology, drug epidemiology, and co-occurring psychiatric conditions as they relate to drug use; David Shurtleff, director of NIDA's Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research; Kevin Conway, deputy director of NIDA's Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research; Joni Rutter, who manages NIDA's programs related to human genetics research; Cora Lee Wetherington, NIDA's coordinator for research aimed at promoting the study of women and sex and gender differences into all areas of drug abuse; Petra Jacobs, a psychiatrist and a recognized expert in the field of substance abuse prevention and treatment; and Joe Frascella, director of Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research at NIDA. —Compiled by Sarah Baldauf
10 Questions Adolescents have about Marijuana:
Samantha - Marlington High School - Why is Marijuana a gateway drug?
Wilson Compton - Your question about marijuana as a "gateway" drug has been debated a lot. The term "gateway" is the idea that an early drug leads to other drugs later in life. marijuana, tobacco and alcohol are generally the first drugs used.Scientifically, the jury is still out. But when we look at people who abuse illegal drugs, they tend to have also used marijuana and nicotine and alcohol. Still, research has shown that it is not true that most marijuana users go on to use other drugs. In and of itself, though, marijuana can pose significant health risks, including the risk of addiction. Check out http://www.marijuana-info.org for more information. I hope you find this information helpful.
Sara - Briarcliff - does marijuana cause lung cancer?
Nancy Pilotte - Great question. Although we know that smoking tobacco is a major cause of lung cancer, we do not have as definitive an answer for marijuana. When you smoke cigarettes, you get a lot of nicotine, but you also ingest a lot of other chemicals that are responsible for the damage to the delicate lining of your lungs. Similarly, when you smoke marijuana, you ingest a lot of other chemicals that you don't think about that can similarly irritate your lungs. It normally takes a long time to develop lung cancer from cigarettes; we do not have the long-term data from smoking marijuana yet, but we think it is reasonable to expect that it will have similar effects. For more information about marijuana, go to http://www.marijuana-info.org
a - asd - Have most teens used marijuana in their life?
Marsha Lopez - Although it may seem that everyone is doing it, it is probably way fewer that you guess. In a national school survey last year, about 15% of 8th graders, 32% of 10th graders, and 42% of 12th graders reported having used marijuana in their lifetime.
Your MOM - behind you - Did you know you cant get addicted to marijuana.
David Shurtleff - In fact, marijuana can be addictive and can lead to compulsive use—individuals who are addicted abuse the drug even though it often interferes with family, school, work, and recreational activities. Marijuana can also produce "withdrawal" symptoms when trying to quit, such as difficulty sleeping and anxiety.You can find out more at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/default.html
vboutsidehitter32 - Lower Merion - what are the long term effects of smoking pot
Kevin Conway - There are many long-term effects of smoking marijuana. The use of marijuana can produce adverse physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral changes, and,contrary to popular belief,it can be addictive. Marijuana smoke, like cigarette smoke, can harm the lungs. The use of marijuana can impair short-term memory, verbal skills, and judgment, and also distort perception. Marijuana has been associated with a number of mental conditions, including schizophrenia (psychosis), depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. It also may weaken the immune system and possibly increase a user's likelihood of developing cancer.For more information about marijuana, go to http://www.marijuana-info.org
BoBo - Westhill - Does Marijuana really stunt your growth?
Joni Rutter - I'm really short, but I have never used marijuana. I don't think it does stunt your growth, but there are worse harmful effects of marijuana, for example it can impair your ability to form memories and recall events. It can also decrease your reaction time, and cause delusions and hallucinations that can be dangerous.For more information about marijuana, go to http://www.marijuana-info.org
shaner - Sterling - how long does marijuana stay in your system?
Cora Lee Wetherington - If one uses marijuana occasionally, then it (and its metabolites) will leave the body after 1 to 2 days. If one is a heavier user, it can stay in your body as long as 30 days. For more information about marijuana, go to http://www.marijuana-info.org
hotdog - blackneos(adam steiner):D - is medical marajuana bad for you or good for relieving your pAIN?
Petra Jacobs - Currently, the FDA has not approved medical marajuana for pain management. There are some research studies looking in to this, but there is not enough information to know for sure right now. Only the pill form is FDA approved, which means that this medication contains ingredients found in marijuana and can legally be prescribed to relieve some of the symptoms of seriously ill patients, such as those with cancer or AIDS - to help them eat more by reducing nausea. This medication has very serious adverse effects, for example drowsiness, dizziness, fainting, overdoses, mental or mood changes (eg, anxiety, confusion, depression, feeling disoriented or "high") and addiction. Therefore, if it is not indicated and supervised by prescribing physician, it shouldn't be used.
dkzjfghjrtr - Eastern - can u die from weed
Nancy Pilotte - That's a really great question. It is not very likely marijuana (weed) use will kill you directly, but its use can affect your decision-making ability which can lead to harm to yourself and others. For example, marijuana makes your reaction time to stimuli longer (it seems like you have a lot more time than you do to do something) . This can lead you to make a poor decision, like driving while under its influence. These two things together may prevent you from responding appropriately while driving and can lead to a traffic accident. You, or someone else, may die as a result of the accident, but not directly from the pharmacological activity of the drug. For more information about marijuana, go to http://www.marijuana-info.org
FreIdzIe - Lower Merion High School - Does marajuana have any bad side affects?
Joe Frascella - Thanks for the fantastic question! Scientists have learned a great deal about how one of the key components of marijuana, known as THC, acts in the brain to produce its many effects. When someone smokes marijuana, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to organs throughout the body, including the brain. In the brain, THC connects to specific areas called "cannabinoid receptors" and changes the activity of those cells. Many cannabinoid receptors are found in the parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. The short-term effects of marijuana can include problems with memory and learning; distorted perception; difficulty in thinking and problem solving; loss of coordination; and increased heart rate. Research findings for long-term marijuana abuse indicate some changes in the brain similar to those seen after long-term abuse of other major drugs. One study has indicated that an abuser's risk of heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana. The researchers suggest that such an effect might occur from marijuana's effects on blood pressure and heart rate and reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. Even infrequent abuse can cause burning and stinging of the mouth and throat, often accompanied by a heavy cough. Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers do, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, a heightened risk of lung infections, and a greater tendency to obstructed airways. Smoking marijuana possibly increases the likelihood of developing cancer of the head or neck. You might find it interesting that a recent study compared 173 cancer patients to 176 healthy individuals - and the results produced evidence that marijuana smoking doubled or tripled the risk of these cancers, Marijuana abuse also has the potential to promote cancer of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory tract because it contains irritants and carcinogens, In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke. It also induces high levels of an enzyme that converts certain hydrocarbons into their carcinogenic form levels that may accelerate the changes that ultimately produce malignant cells. Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which increases the lungs' exposure to carcinogenic smoke. These facts suggest that, puff for puff, smoking marijuana may be more harmful to the lungs than smoking tobacco. Some of marijuana's adverse health effects may occur because THC impairs the immune system's ability to fight disease. In laboratory experiments that exposed animal and human cells to THC or other marijuana ingredients, the normal disease-preventing reactions of many of the key types of immune cells were inhibited. In other studies, mice exposed to THC or related substances were more likely than unexposed mice to develop bacterial infections and tumors. If you would like more information, you might want to check out: http://www.marijuana-info.org. I hope this information helps!