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WHO Project on Health Implications of Cannabis Use:
A Comparative Appraisal of the Health and Psychological
Consequences of Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine and Opiate Use
There are health risks of cannabis use, most particularly when it is used daily over a period of years or decades. Considerable uncertainty remains about whether these effects are attributable to cannabis use alone, and about what the quantitative relationship is between frequency, quantity and duration of cannabis use and the risk of experiencing these effects. Using analogies with the known effects of alcohol and tobacco, the most probable of the health risks of chronic heavy cannabis use over a period of years are; the development of a dependence syndrome; an increased risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents; an increased risk of developing chronic bronchitis; an increased risk of respiratory cancers; an increased risk of giving birth to low birth weight babies when used during pregnancy; and perhaps, an increased risk of developing schizophrenia among those who are vulnerable. Many of these risks are shared with alcohol and tobacco, which is not surprising given that cannabis is an intoxicant like alcohol which is typically smoking like tobacco.
On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies. This is no cause for complacency, however, as the public health significance of alcohol and tobacco are major, and the public health significance of cannabis could increase if the prevalence of its heavy daily use were to approach that of heavy alcohol use among young adults, or the prevalence of daily cigarette smoking among adults.
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