A very common question from people trying to quit smoking is: “Will smoking marijuana help or hurt as I try to quit smoking cigarettes?” Whether marijuana will relieve side effects or withdrawal symptoms is dubious. But the risks of using any tobacco product and of smoking pot are unmistakable.
Marijuana has been used as a medical treatment for thousands of years. Marijuana was listed as an approved drug in the United States until the 1940s, when probably due to political pressure, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws allowing medicinal use of marijuana must adhere to the federal law banning it. However, proponents still contend that marijuana successfully treats pain, nausea and other uncomfortable side effects of conventional medical treatment as well as some disease symptoms.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2006, 14.8 million Americans aged 12 or older used marijuana at least once in the month prior to being surveyed.
About 6,000 people a day in 2006 used marijuana for the first time, the majority of whom were under age 18. This makes marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.
Marijuana is a dry, shredded green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana contains at least 60 chemicals called cannabinoids. Research has indicated that some of these cannabinoids might be effective in controlling symptoms in certain situations:
- THC. THC is the main component responsible for marijuana's mind-altering effect. It also may help treat signs and symptoms such as nausea and vomiting that are associated with a number of medical conditions.
- Cannabinol and cannabidiol. These compounds have some of the properties of THC, but cause less psychoactive effects or the “high”.
- Dronabinol (Marinol). Dronabinol is the prescription form of THC. It is used to prevent nausea and vomiting after cancer chemotherapy and to increase appetite in people with AIDS.
Marijuana has also been found to help treat a variety of other medical conditions.
- Nausea. One of THC's medical uses best supported by research is the treatment of nausea. It can improve mild to moderate nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy and help reduce nausea and weight loss in people with AIDS.
- Glaucoma. In the early 1970s, scientists discovered that smoking marijuana reduced pressure in the eyes though how the cannabinoids in marijuana produce this effect remains unknown.
- Pain. People widely used marijuana for pain relief in the 1800s. THC may work as well in treating cancer pain as codeine. Cannabinoids also appear to enhance the effects of opiate pain medications to provide pain relief at lower dosages.
- Multiple sclerosis. Research results on the effectiveness of cannabinoids in the treatment of the tremors, muscle spasms and pain of multiple sclerosis (MS) are mixed though one fairly recent study found that cannabinoids significantly reduced pain in people with multiple sclerosis.
But in addition to marijuana being illegal, smoking marijuana poses several health risks, including: