About two million people in the UK currently smoke cannabis. Half of all 16 to 29 year olds have tried it at least once. In spite of numerous warnings about health risks, many people see it as a harmless substance that helps you to relax. On the other hand, recent research has suggested that it can be a major cause of illness.
The plants that produce cannabis are members of the nettle family, and have grown wild throughout the world for centuries. Cannabis has been produced for a variety of purposes, but it is its use as a popular recreational drug that has drawn the most controversy.Cannabis was re-classified in January 2009, and is now a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act .
The June issue of the journal of Chemical Research in Toxicology reported that cannabis smoke contains substances that can damage DNA (our genetic code), and increase the risk of cancer just like tobacco smoke. Using a new highly sensitive technique used by chemists, the researchers looked at the make-up of cannabis smoke. They found that a substance called “acetaldehyde” was partly responsible. They also found cancer-causing chemicals in cannabis smoke in amounts 50% higher than those found in tobacco smoke. The researchers even observed that light cannabis use could possibly prove to be even more damaging because cannabis smokers usually inhale more deeply than cigarette smokers.
Finally, the smoking of three to four cannabis cigarettes a day was found to be associated with the same degree of damage to tissue in the airways of the lung as 20 or more tobacco cigarettes a day.
These results taken together provide evidence for the DNA-damaging potential of cannabis smoke, but leaving open the possibility to begin cancer development in people at risk.