Q & A #3 - Cannabis and cancer, tasteless poisons, and getting high

It's been a while since I've done one of these questions and answers sessions, but I seem to recall people enjoying them and I'm beginning to feel that familiar old research itch coming on. It's either that or all the blackfly bites I got this past long weekend (yay Canada!) decided to make their presence known simultaneously. To recap: I monitor the crazy things that people type into search engines that bring them to this site, pick out the most intriguing questions that people searched for, and then attempt to answer them with my trademark wit and dry humour. Check out the first and second installments of this exciting feature for more Q & A goodness. Onward!

Is THC carcinogenic?

Tetrahydrocannabinol, better known by it's acronym THC, is the primary compound in cannabis that is responsible for getting you high. THC on its own is not carcinogenic. In fact, it's pain-killing, anti-puking, and appetite-promoting (see: the munchies) properties make it an effective adjuvant to cancer chemotheraphy, and it may actually possess anticancer effects. The important thing to realize here is that while THC on its own is groovy, other compounds found in cannabis may cause cancer, and cannabis smoke definitely contains a number of carcinogens.

What organs are affected by MDMA?

MDMA, better known to the world as Ecstasy, obviously has effects on the brain. As these include modulation of the autonomic nervous system, all of the organs that it innervates are indirectly affected by the drug. These include the heart (speeds up), eyes (pupils dilate), and numerous glands (dry mouth, sweating). One of the fun things about MDMA is its propensity to kill people who fail to adequately hydrate themselves while under its effects. It is thought at MDMA can screw with the part of your brain that is responsible for regulating your body temperature, potentially resulting in hyperpyrexia (crazy high fever), rhabdomyolysis (destruction of skeletal muscle) and multi-organ failure. Obviously, in this case, all of your organs are affected, and not in a good way. MDMA has also been reported to cause liver damage independent of this hyperpyrexia business.

What are some tasteless poisons?

I've got to wonder why a person needs to know this. I mean, sure, maybe they are doing a research project for school or writing a novel or something. But what if they are planning on doing somebody in? How would I ever know? Ok, deep breath. There are, after all, about a hundred other sites on the internet that will answer this question, and I'm curious what the answer is. Here we go. There are plenty of poisons that have no taste. To name a few:

  • carbon monoxide
  • heavy metals, including antimony, arsenic, lead, mercury, and thalium
  • bacterial, shellfish, and mushroom toxins
  • ricin, nicotine, and likely other plant alkaloids
  • rat poisons (got to fool the rats, yo)

Does testosterone destroy cartilage?

I sure hope not, 'cause I'm sure going to be in trouble otherwise. Y'know, because I'm a, err, tough manly man. Testosterone is an anabolic steroid, which means that it promotes the synthesis of macromolecules like protein. It has a role in the maintenance of muscle mass and bone density in adult life. Thus, I can't see why it would destroy cartilage. However, a study published in 2005 reported an association between higher blood testosterone levels and an increased rate of cartilage loss, so there you go.

Does 'X' get you high?

I get a tonne of these ones. Might I refer to you the mighty Erowid. They will know.

If you are dealing with opiate drug addiction, treatment options such as methadone detox are available that have been shown to be effective. Another useful method is suboxone detoxification.


Hall AP, Henry JA. Acute toxic effects of 'Ecstasy' (MDMA) and related compounds: overview of pathophysiology and clinical management. Br J Anaesth. 2006 Jun;96(6):678-85.

Hanna F et al. Factors influencing longitudinal change in knee cartilage volume measured from magnetic resonance imaging in healthy men. Ann Rheum Dis. 2005 Jul;64(7):1038-42. Epub 2005 Jan 7.

3 chemically inspired comments:

O'Flannabhra said...

brilliant. I love crazy people. Except when I'm around them.

Chris said...

Hey, interesting coincidence, I just discovered this online "Harm Reduction Journal" and this paper:

Cannabis and tobacco smoke are not equally carcinogenic

probably best to quit smoking all together but... the lesser of two evils right :)

CND said...

But chris, smoking cannabis is illegal! You could get in big trouble!