General and oral health implications of cannabis use

Dental School, The University of Adelaide, South Australia.
Australian Dental Journal (Impact Factor: 1.1). 07/2005; 50(2):70-4. DOI: 10.1111/j.1834-7819.2005.tb00343.x
Source: PubMed


Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, is the most frequently used illicit drug in Australia. Therefore, oral health care providers are likely to encounter patients who are regular users. An upward trend in cannabis use is occurring in Australia, with 40 per cent of the population aged 14 and above having used the drug. There are three main forms of cannabis: marijuana, hash and hash oil, all of which contain the main psychoactive constituent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis is most commonly smoked, however it can be added to foods. THC from cannabis enters the bloodstream and exerts its effects on the body via interaction with endogenous receptors. Cannabis affects almost every system of the body, particularly the cardiovascular, respiratory and immune systems. It also has acute and chronic effects on the mental health of some users. Therefore, chronic abuse is a concern because of its negative effects on general physical and mental health. Cannabis abusers generally have poorer oral health than non-users, with an increased risk of dental caries and periodontal diseases. Cannabis smoke acts as a carcinogen and is associated with dysplastic changes and pre-malignant lesions within the oral mucosa. Users are also prone to oral infections, possibly due to the immunosuppressive effects. Dental treatment on patients intoxicated on cannabis can result in the patient experiencing acute anxiety, dysphoria and psychotic-like paranoiac thoughts. The use of local anaesthetic containing epinephrine may seriously prolong tachycardia already induced by an acute dose of cannabis. Oral health care providers should be aware of the diverse adverse effects of cannabis on general and oral health and incorporate questions about patients' patterns of use in the medical history.

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