Pediatrician details dangers of marijuana use marijuana awareness

Published 2:24 am Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Birmingham pediatrician spoke out against medical marijuana on Friday at the Andalusia Civitan Club.

Dr. Shannon Murphy, who has started an organization called SAM or Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which is committed to educating communities on the negative health impact and public safety issues associated with marijuana use.


Murphy said she thinks that the recent hype of marijuana and medical marijuana is a big step backward in the health process.

“We’ve worked on things such as healthy eating, daily exercise, universal vaccines, but we are literally rolling out the red carpet for the marijuana industry,” she said. “And they have become incredibly popular.”

Murphy told a room full of Civitan members and other community members that the marijuana of today is not the same that they grew up with.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, the THC part averaged only 3 percent.

The most recent marijuana has THC of 20-30 percent.

Additionally, Murphy said, there are many more ways than just smoking marijuana to ingest it.

“You can vape it using e-cigarettes,” she said. “You can eat it and you can dab it.”

Dabbing it is taking concentrated marijuana and heating it on a spoon. Doing this makes the effects four times stronger than smoking a joint, she said.

Murphy said that marijuana is different from other drugs in the amount of time it takes to get out of one’s system.

“It stays in the body for a long time,” she said. “It stays an average of seven to 10 days, but if you’re a regular user it can stay four to six weeks.”

Murphy said a study shows that marijuana use has effects even after the high is gone.

“A person’s verbal skills and problem solving skills are still impaired hours to days later,” she said. “There are implications for our kids who use pot on the weekend and then try to do math on Wednesday.”

Regular use of marijuana by teens can cause a decline in IQ points by up to eight points, she said.

“For those under 25, it changes their brain – cognitively and mentally,” she said. “And they never recover the IQ points lost.”

Marijuana use also affects the workplace, she said.

It contributes to a 78 percent increase in absenteeism, 85 percent more injuries at work and 64 percent more disciplinary problems than non-users.

Murphy said proponents of marijuana argue that it’s not addictive.

“It’s absolutely 100 percent addictive,” she said.

Murphy said there’s a direct link between mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, amotivational syndrome and even psychosis as a result of pot use.

Murphy said since marijuana use has become legal in a few states, there have been four people who have been killed due to marijuana use.

Murphy said that smoking or eating marijuana is not a medicine.

“Medical marijuana must be distinguished as meds made from the plant,” she said. “Components may have benefits.”

Murphy acknowledged that morphine is made from opium and aspirin from the willow tree.

She also told the crowd that every major medical society has come out against medical marijuana.

“It is dangerous to our health,” she said. “There are more than 400 chemicals in a marijuana plant and most are untested and undocumented. The impairment it causes should cause us to pause.”

Murphy said that there should be studies conducted before it is produced for the public.

Additionally, Murphy said the average person seeking medical marijuana isn’t a person at the end of his life.

“The average person is a 32-year-old, white male with a history of alcohol and drug use and no debilitating history,” she said. Murphy didn’t dispute that CBD, a component of marijuana, is an ingredient in drugs such as Sativex, which can help with nausea and is used to treat multiple sclerosis, and Epidiolex, which helps epileptic patients.

“CBD doesn’t get people high,” she said. “THC does.”

Carly’s Law, which was authorized by the Alabama Legislature in 2014, allows the study of CBD that could potentially benefit children and adults suffering from seizures.

The study is being conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.