Essay – Marijuana and Huntington’s Disease

Another essay written for Intro to Psych. On something I love and something I hate. Enjoy. The website that my teacher wanted me to reference is here.

Marijuana. What comes to mind? Do you see a field covered in blankets occupied by delinquent youth in the sixties? How about a cancer patient attempting to relax in a moment of pain? Do you see yourself trying to let go after a full day of stressful work and tending to your family’s needs? Marijuana has many users, so many actually that it is the most used illegal substance in the wonderful United States of America. Lets take a look inside marijuana and the effects, unbeknownst to myself, it has on the human body.

The heart beats on average 60 beats per minute.  When you smoke marijuana your heart rate jumps another 60-100 beats per minute. When your heart is racing at a rapid 120-160 beats per a minute your heart can do all sorts of things it shouldn’t.  Some of those things are heart palpitations, arrhythmias, and even heart attack.  The chances of you having a heart attack are increased 4.8 fold in the first hour after inhaling the marijuana smoke into your lungs. Not to mention what an increased heart rate can do to the lungs.

Lungs! The involuntary repetitive motion of these air bags helps keep us alive! Our bodies functions need the oxygen that the lungs provide to our every cell.  So what does marijuana do to our lungs? Its really not proven yet as the research is currently unsubstantial.  People who smoke marijuana, however, have more accounts of sick time out of work than people who smoke cigarettes. Though there is not a study to reference, I’m not sure that at least a handful of those missing work weren’t really sick but just too inebriated to care to go into work. But all joking aside when you smoke anything you are exposing our friends, 2 lobes and 3 lobes, to tar, carcinogens, and potential chemicals. Now that’s concerning!

To add to the list of fascinating features the brain has is that the brain produces a chemical like tetrahydrocannabinol. It is called anandamine.  Anandamine still a mystery to researchers. This chemical naturally found in the brain was only discovered in 1992. It’s amazing to me how recently that was realized and then even further, how little we know about the drug, yet it is the most used illegal substance used in the US.

Now like some one who is stoned, we are going to do a 180, forget what we were just talking about and start talking about something completely different. Huntington’s Disease.

I know a handful of things about Huntington’s disease already. For instance that this is a neurological disorder that you can only get if your family has it, or you inherit it rather. I know that it causes movement to be stunted, sudden, and jerky which is a result of damage incurred to the basil ganglia in the brain. I know that my great grandmother died of this disease and that when she died we thought it was the end of the gene pool affected by this disease until my uncle was diagnosed. I also know that this is one of the diseases that will affect your insurance coverage if you want to be tested for it.

What I didn’t know, and what was the most startling fact I found was the number of people affected by HD in the US. A measly thirty thousand people. My jaw hit the floor. I knew it was rare, but that’s not even the total populous of  Burlington VT!  The data was collected in 2001, perhaps its more now as the population continuously increases.

Another amazing fact that I was not privy to prior to this assignment was that of what is available for treatment for HD.  Before I had this knowledge my feelings toward stem cell research was pretty ambivalent, but now I’m 100% pro.  Researchers have been grafting stem cells to the removed section of brain where once lived damaged cells. There are various types of stem cells being used in these studies. The two different types of stem cells currently used for these studies are embryonic and somatic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are taken from embryos that are just beginning to develop. This variety of cell can morph into any cell with in the body. Very Fifth Element. The other variety, somatic, is only cell specific. Theses cells are taken from aborted fetuses’ brains. Very Shawn of the Dead.  Either way, we have a way to treat this horrible debilitating disease, maybe. So far the success rate is decent. I would most likely partake in a study should I ever be stricken with this unfortunate gift from my predecessors.

Symptoms that could initiate a diagnosis could be depression, memory loss, that jerky movement I spoke of earlier, and mood swings. I previously thought that onset was around 20, turns out its more like after 30. I have three of the above mentioned symptoms (could be PMS). Call me in three years to make sure I don’t have any muscle jerks!

I thought this website was a great neurological snap shot for a student of any age. You have to love the 1990’s clip art and the awesome backgrounds. Very nostalgic of my youth. The variety of topics from the minuscule to the big picture will most likely prompt me to revisit. I would like to see some of the articles updated though. The HD article was last updated in 2001. I’m sure more information is out there or at least disproving or approving data that can be entered. It was over all a pretty neat website!


Work cited:

“DrugFacts: Marijuana.” Marijuana. National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nov. 2010. Web. 12 Sept. 2012. <;.

Chudler, Eric H. “Neuroscience For Kids.” – Marijuana. N.p., 1996-2010. Web. 12 Sept. 2012.<;.

“Population in the U.S.-Google Public Data Explorer.” Population in the U.S.-Google Public Data Explorer. Google, 31 July 2010. Web. 12 Sept. 2012.<;.

Kuwana, Ellen. “Neuroscience for Kids – In the News – Huntington’s Disease.”  Neuroscience for Kids – In the News – Huntington’s Disease. N.p., 11 Jan. 2001. Web. 12 Sept. 2012.<;.


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