The Effects Of Cannabis On The Human Reproductive System

1749 words - 7 pages

In sitting in class I have learned a tremendous amount about my own body that I had never known before. I find that I am most interested in my reproductive system as I am getting to that age where I am starting to think about future pregnancies. So far I have learned that we should all be careful with our bodies as, "for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction." I have chosen to find out about the effects of drugs, more specifically marijuana, on both male and female reproductive systems.Marijuana is derived from the plant cannabis sativa and has been grown for over five thousand years. The major source of the psychoactive substance in marijuana is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Along with THC, there are over four hundred other chemicals in the plant, all of which have close to no psychoactive effect. The effects of marijuana reported were lethargy, elation, a dream-like state and tiredness. There are many effects to the oral use of marijuana, some of which are psychological, physiological, cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological.In searching for evidence of the effect of marijuana on the reproductive system I learned of how they figured out that it does have consequences on males. They found a cellular signaling system that responds to THC as well as to anandamide. Now anandamide is a substance that has been found in human semen and is the chemical that activates a receptor for cannabinoids. Now these may help to regulate sperm functions necessary for fertilizing humans. Now if the brain produces its own THC-like substance, what happens when you smoke and have more of this substance in your brain?Herbert Schuel, Ph.D. is the University at Buffalo professor of anatomy and cell biology. He introduced findings of male sperm and the effects of exposure of varied amounts of THC. After sampling at different time intervals it was found that their sperm had a sixty-seven percent reduction in premature acrosome reactions. This is the state in which the sperm go into hyper activated swimming to fertilize the egg. The sperm goes into this spastic swimming because women's reproductive tract has fluids that prepare the sperm to impregnate. Introducing lower levels of THC, otherwise known as AM-356 (synthetic version), actually stimulated the hyperactivity, which is how they have proven that anandamides do regulate sperm swimming patterns and the precise timing needed for the sperm to nestle up to the egg.The findings concluded AM-356 regulated the sperm's ability in three different ways:* AM-356 produces opposite effects on hyper activated sperm swimming,depending on the amount. Too much (a concentration of 2.5 nano Moles) inhibitshyper activated motility, while at a 10-fold lower concentration, it stimulateshyper activated swimming. Because anandamide is present in human-reproductivefluids and human sperm contain cannabinoid receptors, it is possible thatlocalized differences in anandamide concentration may regulate sperm swimmingpatterns within the female-reproductive tract.* Both AM-356 and THC inhibit structural changes over the acrosome. Thestructural integrity of the acrosome during capacitation is known to be acritical factor in sperm's ability to fertilize eggs.* AM-356 significantly inhibits sperm binding to the zona, or egg coat. Thisobservation provides the first evidence that anandamide (which AM-356 mimics)can regulate directly sperm fertilizing potential in humans.The National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1984 did these very same studies and found the same conclusion with different means of explaining it, as they did not know about anandamides. There are factors involved in how much it affects males as it is dependant on how much they smoke, how long they smoke and whether or not they were fertile before ingesting THC. Basically what this says is that THC makes sperm lazy and unproductive, which is exactly what we would all agree that most people who have orally ingested marijuana are.Now the effect of THC on the female ovary system is that (in rats) that it reduces the weight of the ovaries themselves. Studies showed that THC inhibits the ovarian steroid synthesis and LH secretion. The fascinating thing about it is that it is the non-psychoactive cannabinoids that affect the ovaries more than the psychoactive properties. Which is interesting because that is the opposite of what THC affects in male sperm.Since we have learned that the pituitary gland and hormones produced there, lend themselves to the creation of testosterone in males, which tells the testes to create sperm, it also controls the sex drive or desire for sex in females. Since THC acts on the pituitary hormones we can conclude that THC directly affects women's sex drive. Perhaps males will learn that pumping a female full of pot will not necessarily conclude in sex. There are variables associated with how much THC affects females by how much, how long they have been smoking and how fertile they were to begin with. Doctors C. Smith and R. Asch concluded from their studies with rhesus monkeys that chronic exposure to THC did inhibit the primate menstrual cycle. Depending on where you stand with the issue of marijuana you might be happy or disgusted that after some time the monkeys had developed a tolerance for the doses given them (average of what 3-5 joints a day does to humans) and normal cycles began again. Why they started to produce normally again can be credited to your body adapting its neural mechanisms in the hypothalamus. That is a part of the brain that regulates certain function like body temperature and certain metabolic processes.Another thing to look at in our quest for information on the effect of THC on female reproductive system is what happens to women who are pregnant, attempting to become pregnant or by women who are making a go at becoming pregnant. It has been shown to decrease weight of the impregnated female due to a decrease in food consumption (what about munchies?). The most significant effects were on pregnant women giving birth as they tested higher for premature labor and me conium passage. The me conium passage is a dark green fecal material that accumulates in the fetal intestines and is discharged at or near the time of birth (yucky).Other big differences between women who had THC in their system and those that didn't were prolonged or arrested labor, deliveries that required surgery(c-section), atypical fetal tests and the need to manually remove the placenta. Another serious consideration of THC ingestion in pregnant women was that a small percentage of women had children with fetal alcohol syndrome-like features. It may be small but it was significantly more than those that had not drank or ingested THC. Another influence of THC on women is in lactation. It inhibits the production of milk in the mammary glands and in that THC binds to tissue we can say that THC is living in the tissues of the breasts, which are reservoirs for the milk. We can then say that THC could then be transferred to babies as they are feeding on the very same milk. Since THC stays in the tissues longer than the blood, passing THC to your child for longer than one might think.The effect of THC on developing and growing fetuses relies on what phase of development they were exposed to and how much. If exposed at the early stages of gestation, when organs have not been formed yet, they may become deformed. If exposed during the latter part when organs have already been produced, then it might affect the growth of the fetus as a whole. If given THC at even later dates in pregnancies, there didn't seem to be any affect at all (in rats). Unfortunately, THC did cause more deaths in utero and those children that did survive were underweight and showed signs of lethargy from the get-go.To sum up what the National Institute on Drug Abuse as well as other educational institutions have said is that, cannabinoids make sperm sluggish, ova lazy and will have an effect on babies born to those who are using. Now I can only draw from my own experiences with THC in that a large percentage of people between the ages of 15-25 just here in Santa Barbara, are ingesting it. There are 35 people in my apartment complex alone and I asked them all whether they smoke currently. Thirty of the 35 answered yes that they did smoke. That means 85% of my population is consuming THC. Though it is small in comparison with how many people in these age groups live in Santa Barbara, I still feel that it can be applied to most of the population of Isla Vista alone. Many variables are associated with the use of THC and its affect on humans, how much have they smoked? How long have they consumed marijuana for?In my hours of reading the research on the effect that marijuana has on the human reproductive system, I have become more educated on a subject that frankly, doesn't seem to be interesting to the average person. Though some of this research was done over 20 years ago, it still correlates with what is said now. I agree that ingesting THC does and will have adverse affects on our bodies as a whole, not just our reproductive organs. Marijuana has become a drug that some people have shrugged off, thinking it is harmless. Fortunately for those that did not ingest frequent/large doses of THC, they will be fine. For those that continue on, be scared, be very very scared. Perhaps its better that those that abuse marijuana are not able to have children, maybe in a way the effects are just a way of screening out those that shouldn't have children in the first place.

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