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Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use
Volkow, N. D., Baler, R. D., Compton, W. M., & Weiss, S. R. New England Journal of Medicine 370.23 (2014): 2219-2227.
In light of the rapidly shifting landscape regarding the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, patients may beRead More...

In light of the rapidly shifting landscape regarding the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, patients may be more likely to ask physicians about its potential adverse and beneficial effects on health. The popular notion seems to be that marijuana is a harmless pleasure, access to which should not be regulated or considered illegal. Currently, marijuana is the most commonly used “illicit” drug in the United States, with about 12% of people 12 years of age or older reporting use in the past year and particularly high rates of use among young people. The most common route of administration is inhalation. The greenish-gray shredded leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant are smoked (along with stems and seeds) in cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes, or “blunts” (marijuana rolled in the tobacco-leaf wrapper from a cigar). Hashish is a related product created from the resin of marijuana flowers and is usually smoked (by itself or in a mixture with tobacco) but can be ingested orally. Marijuana can also be used to brew tea, and its oil-based extract can be mixed into food products.

The regular use of marijuana during adolescence is of particular concern, since use by this age group is associated with an increased likelihood of deleterious consequences. Although multiple studies have reported detrimental effects, others have not, and the question of whether marijuana is harmful remains the subject of heated debate. Here we review the current state of the science related to the adverse health effects of the recreational use of marijuana, focusing on those areas for which the evidence is strongest.

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