Letter to the Editor: Another Side of Prop 19

Dear Editor,

I read with interest the well written and well documented article by Nick Gebbia regarding Proposition 19 and the possibility of legalizing marijuana. In all arguments it is important to know what information has been included and what has been left out. I hope that my concern for young student’s health forms the basis for my letter. Mr. Gebbia referred to several articles that involved studies on the dangers of cannabis and then pointed out flaws that were apparent in the scientific methods used. It appear that he felt that those flaws would negate the anti-marijuana result of those studies. I would like to point out that there are a number of well documented scientific studies that indicate the dangers of marijuana.

There are a group of studies that have documented that the early use of marijuana, starting in the early teens, result in a higher rate and earlier onset of psychiatric illnesses. This has been tested using sibling pairs to attempt to eliminate any genetic factors for mental illness. The psychotic illness include anxiety, depressive disorders, panic attacks, suicides, and onset of schizophrenia. There are multiple studies that seem to support these finding from different countries.

It is not so important for young people, but it has been found that there is a higher death rate for people who have survived a heart attack and then who then continue to use marijuana following that event.

There are studies that note that chronic users of marijuana have smaller hippocampus and amygdala areas of the brain when measured with MRI studies. There was a 12% reduction is size of the hippocampus and a 7.1% decrease in the amygdala.

A study from San Francisco noted that those who started using marijuana at or before age 13 had a higher rate of posttraumatic stress disorder, suicide attempts, traffic violations and dependence on other drugs.

There is a study from New Zealand that shows that 32 year-old individuals who use marijuana regularly had a 3 times greater chance of significant gum or periodontal disease than non-users. This will undoubtedly lead to decay and loss of teeth.

Marijuana and other non-marijuana drug use predicted an earlier onset of cardiovascular disease in men and women and and earlier onset of metabolic disease among men. This was a study from the Univ. of Iowa.

We are all, hopefully, aware of the problems associated with alcolol and tobacco use. It has been said that marijuana is relatively benign. It appears that further studies demonstrated that there are real dangers from use of this substance. This is a small sampling of the many articles that have been written from a wide variety of countries.

I hope that this information will be helpful in the students own behavior and may guide voting habits in the future. We all pay for addictive behaviors through higher insurance premiums and taxes.

—Christopher (Kit) Chenault, MD ‘60

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