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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Is An Occasional Toke Really So Bad?

A few hits of weed never hurt anyone...
I have these friends and you do too. They’re smart, educated, healthy, and successful. They also recreationally smoke pot: they’ll light up a joint at a dinner party or have a few hits before a concert.

You wouldn’t dare saying anything, but if you did they would dismiss their casual use as just “an occasional thing” and then subtly imply you were being uptight for even mentioning their vice.

Smart as our friends are, they aren’t likely aware of
pot smoking’s impact on their lungs, brains, weight, and overall health.

Here’s the deal. Marijuana is largely unregulated. So whereas tobacco growers have strict guidelines about what methods they use to grow their crop, marijuana is a free-for-all where growers (many of them who do so illegally) spray God-knows-what pesticides for bigger, faster crop yields.

Little surprise, then, that pot carries more toxins than cigarettes and 20 times more cancer-causing ammonia than cigarettes. (For the record, I don’t condone tobacco use either.)

A very recent study in the Journal of Toxicology found pesticide residues in pot as high as 69.5%. Researchers concluded “the potential of pesticide and chemical residue exposures to cannabis users is substantial and may pose a significant toxicological threat.”

Among those repercussions is diminished brain health. A study in the Pacific Health Dialog found that among its many detrimental affects, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) attaches to cannabinoid receptors in your brain’s nerve cells, affecting how those cells function.

Most studies focus on cannabis’s mental and psychological effects. One in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry detected some cognitive deficits at least 7 days after heavy cannabis use, although they appeared reversible. The truth is, we’re not entirely certain what those long-term effects are, but they aren’t likely good.

Besides your brain, your heart and lungs especially feel the brunt of pot use. Toxins in cannabis smoke, for instance, can create lung inflammation and other damage. One study in The European Respiratory Journal found young adult pot smokers increase their risk for lung cancer.
Smoking pot can also make you fat. Now, I know we often joke about this, and we laugh at the amicable stoner in movies who tokes up and then raids the fridge. Folks, it’s not so funny in real life, especially if you’re health conscious and want to stay lean and healthy.

A study in the journal Appetite found pot smokers consume a whopping 40% more calories, mostly from candy bars and other sweet stuff. An earlier study in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior also found pot smoking triggered between-meal sugar gorging.

Ultimately, increased sugar consumption sets the stage for metabolic disorders including insulin resistance, high triglycerides, and eventually diabetes.

Now, we all know one or two “functional potheads” who can get high after breakfast and bluff their way throughout the day. Frankly, these people scare me. They put others’ lives at risk when they drive, and whatever job they do, they’re not completely focused and more prone to mistakes. Could you imagine if your surgeon or even your banker was high? The outcome might turn out fine, but it’s a risky gamble.

Let’s face it too: these “functional tokers” aren’t exactly likely to hit the gym or do much exercise. Even if they did, smoking pot would hinder their performance. A study in the journal Sports Medicine found an “increase in heart rate and blood pressure, decline of cardiac output and reduced psychomotor activity [as] some of the pharmacological effects of THC that will determine a decrease in athletic performance.”

Simply put: pot smoking can stall fat burning as well as reduce physical performance and recovery. Cannabis has no place in a healthy fitness and dietary routine. If I had a client show up to Gold’s Gym high, I would send them home. Sorry folks, you’re wasting your time and mine because no way could I train you effectively when you’re high.

Am I over-reacting and sounding like one of those 1950s scare-documentaries warning you about the repercussions of smoking an occasional joint? Well, science is on my side here. You’ll repay any short-term relaxation with long-term adverse physical and mental consequences.

You’ve probably heard marijuana is a “gateway drug” for harder stuff. A study in the Drug and Alcohol Review gave several reasons why:
1.     Pot smokers may have pre-existing traits including genetics that encourage dabbling in other drugs
2.     Peer groups who get high may have a favorable attitude towards harder drugs

Now, I get it. Most people aren’t going to smoke a joint and suddenly discover themselves a heroin or crystal meth addict next week, but the pleasure centers in your brain are similar.

It could happen, and I would far rather see you head in the other direction and find pleasure in non-drug recreational activities. Some favorites to unwind, lower your stress hormone cortisol, and boost feel-good serotonin include:

1.     Walk your dog in the park (hot runners/ eye candy are extra incentives here!)
2.     Have an amazing workout
3.     Get a massage
4.     Get a great night’s sleep
5.     Rent a stupid comedy and invite your friend over
6.     Have great sex (or pleasure yourself!)
7.     Take yourself (and maybe a friend) to an amazing new restaurant
8.     Spend an afternoon getting lost in a great (or trashy) novel

Aldington S, et al. Cannabis use and risk of lung cancer: a case-control study. Eur Respir J. 2008 Feb;31(2):280-6. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00065707.

Campos DR, et al. Marijuana as doping in sports. Sports Med. 2003;33(6):395-9.
Foltin RW, et al. Behavioral analysis of marijuana effects on food intake in humans. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1986 Sep;25(3):577-82.

Foltin RW, et al. Effects of smoked marijuana on food intake and body weight of humans living in a residential laboratory. Appetite. 1988 Aug;11(1):1-14.

Hall WD, et al. Is cannabis a gateway drug? Testing hypotheses about the relationship between cannabis use and the use of other illicit drugs. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2005 Jan;24(1):39-48.

Nixon PJ. Health effects of marijuana: a review. Pac Health Dialog. 2006 Sep;13(2):123-9.

Pope HG Jr. et al. Neuropsychological performance in long-term cannabis users. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001 Oct;58(10):909-15.

Sullivan N, et al. Determination of pesticide residues in cannabis smoke. J Toxicol. 2013;2013:378168. doi: 10.1155/2013/378168. Epub 2013 May 12.

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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