First things first: the "This Week" series is a new addition to our blog. Every week, you can look forward to some commentary on a health issue affecting our community. Public Health is a broad field, so expect to see a wide range of topics covered. We only ask two things: if you want a certain topic discussed, email us your suggestions! And secondly, remember that these opinions are put out there to spur discussion , so please leave us your two (or twenty) cents in the comments section. Here goes the first edition of This Week.
An Ode to the Ounces
An Ode to the Ounces
We’ve been told since the release of AOL 2.0, by computer un-savvy old heads, that ‘the media’ was destroying our generation. Blame WWF, blame Eminem’s first three albums, or blame Facebook- as each year goes by, something else is made a scapegoat for low performance in the classroom, or even lower baggy jeans. A consistent theme has been to blame hip-hop music for encouraging these infatuations with the wrong ideas, especially in the minds of young Black men. For once, the grown-ups might be right. Although they may not be able to appreciate the musical genius of Kanye West or Wale, there is a recurring theme in hip-hop music that may be encouraging a harmful habit – marijuana use.
Take, for example, the huge buzz spurred by up-and-coming rapper, Wiz Khalifa. His most recent mixtape, Kush and OJ, was the number one download on Google’s hot search trends, and after the April 14th release of the mixtape, #kushandorangejuice became the number one trending topic on Twitter, and remained on the list for three days. The mixtape opens with a track entitled Waken Baken, and throughout the mixtape, Wiz Khalifa continues to hail marijuana use- “why can’t everyone smoke like me?/give me a quiet place let me roll my weed” he croons in Still Blazin’. Sure, we aren’t as naive as we once were, way, way back in our impressionable years (also known as, the ‘90s). But, what about the kids who are just now growing up, listening to artists like Wiz Khalifa and trying to emulate those habits? The voice of popular artists is sometimes louder than a parent’s or teacher’s voice; likewise, the messages that are spread will be taken that much more seriously, whether positive or negative in context.
Wiz Khailfa can’t take all the credit, though. Even before the rapper bragged about his expensive taste- “I might spend 10 grand on weed a month,” he said in a recent interview- plenty of hip-hop artists were declaring their love for Mary Jane. “I still stay high and I still got my diploma,” Weezy claims on Cali Dro released in 2006. (The NIH notes that marijuana affects judgment, memory, and coordination- good luck passing finals when you can’t remember what class you’re in). Some artists even glamorize the act, like Jay-Z on the 2003 track, Excuse Me Miss- “You can’t even roll a blunt to this one- you gotta light a J.”Artists spoke, and American youth listened- in December 2009, the University of Michigan reported that over the previous 12 months, marijuana use was at 12% among the nation’s 8th graders, 27% of 10th grades, and a third of 12th graders. Further, since marijuana use itself is still arguably dangerous, the behaviors accompanied with it can certainly pose serious health risks. In 2008, Emory University public health researchers presented a study which found that “black girls who used marijuana had significantly higher rates of incident STDs than non-marijuana users. They also had “more sex partners, and… more recent episodes of [vaginal intercourse] while their partner was under the influence.”
What about taking a step away from adolescents, and looking at marijuana use among college-aged students and adults? A June 2008 report on a study of alcohol and marijuana use by HBCU students showed that violence-related problems appeared to be most frequent among students who used alcohol and marijuana, as opposed to alcohol alone. Another study, published in 2008 in the North American Journal of Psychology, showed that risky sexual behaviors often accompanied marijuana and alcohol use. Accordingly, rates of newly reported HIV infections in the state of study were “higher in black men of all age groups than white men overall.”
Here are some more facts:
- Marijuana can cause panic, anxiety, and paranoia; in large doses, it can cause temporary toxic psychosis
- From 1993-2000, the number of emergency room marijuana mentions more than tripled
- Someone who smokes five joints a week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes a day.
- A Columbia University study showed that people who smoked one marijuana joint every other day for a year had a white blood cell count that was 39% lower than normal
This last fact may be the most relevant against arguments for the medicinal use of marijuana. Currently, there are 14 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized a possession of certain amounts of marijuana. Oftentimes, marijuana is prescribed for patients who are dealing with AIDS (to increase appetite) and cancer (as a pain reliever). However, these patients are already immunocompromised, so smoking marijuana is in fact making them more susceptible to potentially life-ending disease.
It wouldn’t be fair to blame hip-hop as an entire genre for the increased use of marijuana among our generation. However, it is important to shed light on the fact that these artists who kids (and even some adults) revere are not setting the best examples. Marijuana can be an expensive and harmful hobby. It alters our health, detracts from education, increases incidence of crime, and overall, leads to poor decision-making. The rockstar drug-filled lifestyle might not make it when the lights dim, and the rest of us are too high to notice.
What say you?