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New research on marihuana

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The Minister for Health Dr D.N. Everingham, today drew attention to

a recent scientific study in the United States which confirmed evidence that

marihuana users are more liable to contract infectious diseases than non-users.

Details of the study, first reported in the British journal 1 Nature1

are given in the latest issue of the Technical Information Bulletin* which is

published by the Health Department for the National Drug Information Service.

Dr Everingham said a research team at Columbia University has'tested

une lymphocytes (white blood cells which produce antibodies to germs) in 51

1 pot1 smokers, and compared them with those of 81 healthy volunteers who did

not use marihuana.

The smokers, none of whom used any other drugs, were aged from 16

to 35, with a median age of 22 years, while the non-smokers had a median

age of 44. .

The researchers found that the mean value of lymphocyte response

registered in the smokers was 40 percent lower than that of the older group.

Usually the younger the person the greater, the immune response.

Dr Everingham said that the researchers likened the 1 pot1 users'

response· Lo those of' aged, or sick people who have lowered resistance to


This was con Γ i r.inod also by rinding a similar loss of response in 60

cancer patients, 20 patients with kidney failure, and 24 with kidney trans­

plants who had drug-induced suppression of their normal immune reactions in

order to prevent transplant rejection.

The level of marihuana use was four times a week for four years on

average. The minimum levels of use were once a week for one year. ,

l)r Eve r : i ngham said the researchers found further confirmation in

that very low love I . s of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) , the. main drug constituent

of' marihuana., prevented completely normal multiplication rates of lymphocytes.

Microscopic samples of the cells from four users showed a reduction

in chromosome division, the first visible step in the production of new cells.

The samples also revealed, that increased numbers of chromosomes

were broken, which could lead to deficient or abnormal new cell production.

Canberra, August 28, 1974.