Dark side of green

Looking at the health risks of marijuana use

Amid all the talk about the drug-inforcement and medicinal-use issues surrounding marijuana, one conversation that gets pushed to the background is the negative impact that pot can have on the human body. According to the National Institutes of Health, those who smoke marijuana not only take in 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than do tobacco smokers, but they also experience an increased heart rate and have a greater risk of heart attack. Probably the most common health impact of using marijuana, however, is that of addiction. In a 2008 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, marijuana was, not suprisingly, by far the most commonly used illicit drug in 2008 (15.2 million users, making up 75.7 percent of all illicit-drug users), with 4.2 million of those users reporting dependence on or abuse of marijuana, and just under 1 million seeking treatment for their dependence.

Drug dependence in 2008 (among persons age 12 or older—alcohol and tobacco not included):

Marijuana/hashish: 4.2 million

Pain relievers (prescription, non-medical use): 1.7 million

Cocaine/crack: 1.4 million

Tranquilizers (prescription, non-medical use): 451,000

Hallucinogens (mushrooms, ecstasy, LSD, etc.): 358,000

Stimulants (including meth): 351,000

Heroin: 282,000

Inhalants (nitrous, glue, etc.): 175,000

Sedatives (prescription, non-medical use): 126,000