Health Tips: Cannabis users end up in the ER more often than nonusers


When Cheech and Chong sing “I’m in Love with Marijuana, Makes Me Feel Just Like an Iguana,” it might be smart to ask if those two slightly addled hippies could actually leap safely from branch to branch or plummet 40 feet from a tree to the ground without injury, as the wily reptile can do.

A study in BMJ Open Respiratory Research indicates that the answer would be a resounding no. It reports that one out of every 25 folks using cannabis will end up in the emergency room during the year; and overall ER visits are 22% higher among cannabis users than nonusers. They’re literally tripping and crashing because cannabis use reduces motor skills and coordination, and impairs driving.

In addition, 14% of users in this study reported respiratory problems. (All smoking harms the lungs and heart.)

This study is one in a long list that indicate cannabis may cause health problems. Plus, there are an alarming number of kids who accidently ingest edibles, and there’s the harm from secondhand smoke.

Where does that leave would-be users? I think cannabis edibles are safer than smoking but make sure they aren’t accessible to youngsters. Topical creams with CBD (a pain-soothing ingredient in cannabis that doesn’t make you buzzed) are beneficial for many. And in specific medical situations -- some cancer cases, for example -- the active ingredient, THC, brings relief. Just know that like alcohol impairs reaction time and judgment, so does cannabis. And never smoke and drive -- that’s one smart way to stay out of the ER.

Making sure your natural-gas stove isn’t toxic

There are more than 8 billion people in the world, and each one passes gas about 13 to 21 times a day, mostly odor-free, containing nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane -- and sometimes smelly hydrogen sulfide. That’s one form of natural gas.

The other is the natural gas that may power your stove, furnace or water heater. According to a study from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, if it leaks out, it delivers varying levels of chemicals that are toxic, linked to cancer and can help form ozone and particulate matter. The researchers found 21 federally designated hazardous air pollutants in the 296 samples they took from folks’ homes in the Boston area.

What does this mean for folks who love their gas stoves? You can opt for electric -- these days the burners are more responsive to temperature changes, and convection ovens are a great new tool. But if you are stuck with or sticking with gas, here’s what the researchers suggest:

-- Get an in-home natural-gas leak detection survey by a professional to check that no small leaks are present. This check is more sensitive than the methane detector you should have in the kitchen and near your furnace 24/7/365.

-- In the kitchen, open windows and run an over-the-stove vent that sends exhaust outside. 

-- Ask the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state regulators to set performance standards for gas stoves. And lobby for legislation to set lower odor-detection levels so even the smallest gas leak can be identified.


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