High and Mighty

By Anna Sachse

Posted April 30, 2009 in Mind Body Spirit

Weed—that giggle-inducing, munchies-generating, mood-enhancing, ridiculous conversation-causing, pain-relieving, occasional paranoia-producing beloved of college students/slackers/hippies across the land, as well as past and current presidents of the United States. 


It probably won’t come as a shocker, but pot is, in fact, the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S. According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 25 million Americans age 12 and older had used marijuana at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. And like the narcotic version of Lay’s potato chips, most people can’t just have one (toke).


Whether this reefer madness is bad for you, good for you or somewhere in the middle is a subject that is constantly up for debate. I am not a doctor or a scientist, but what I can say is that while partaking of some kind ganja may not be as healthy as, say, running five miles a day or eating lots of veggies, there are definitely some smarter ways to weed. 


Here’s the straight dope on how to maintain reasonably good health when partaking of cannabis products:


Protect Your Lungs

Marijuana smoke actually contains about 50 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke, so says the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Weed users also tend to inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers do, thereby increasing the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke. To that end, pot has the potential to promote lung cancer, in addition to other respiratory problems such as bronchitis, chronic cough and asthma.


The answer? 


1. Eat your Maui wowie instead. From tea to brownies to mac ‘n’ cheese, cannibalizing your cannabis won’t fuck up your lungs and throat. It can, however, occasionally cause upset stomach and the high tends to be a little more intense, so start out with small portions.


2. Invest in a vaporizer. These machines heat weed to a temperature at which the psychoactive ingredients evaporate and become a fine mist, no combustion necessary. That mist is captured by the vaporizer so that you can inhale it, getting all the toke without the smoke and thus little or none of the carcinogenic tars and noxious gases. Like eating marijuana, the effects of the vaporizer tend to be stronger, so start slow.


Protect Your Heart

When THC hits your brain, it stimulates brain cells to release the chemical dopamine, causing you to feel euphoric or “high.” At the same time, your heart rate may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute or even double, the bronchial passages relax and become enlarged, and blood vessels in the eyes expand, leading to those tell-tale red eyes. Studies suggest that chronic use of the chronic can be hard on your heart because the increase in blood pressure and heart rate and a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. 


The answer?


Moderation, moderation, moderation. And if you already have high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries, or if you’re prone to heart attacks or strokes, skip it entirely. 


Don’t be an Idiot

THC attaches to sites called cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, affecting the way those cells work. Cannabinoid receptors are abundant in parts of the brain that regulate pleasure, but also movement, coordination, learning, memory and judgment. Studies show that approximately six to 11 percent of fatal accident victims test positive for THC.


The answer?


Don’t drive (seriously—I mean you) or do any sort of complex or dangerous task while high. Say no to drugs at school or at work. Don’t mix it with any other intoxicants. Do make sure you are in a safe environment with people you trust.


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