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A Strange Blend: Why Are Europeans Mixing Cannabis and Tobacco?

This article was originally published on Leafly.

Cannabis doesn’t carry the sort of health hazards tobacco does, a majority of studies say. But that doesn’t change the European habit of mixing the two. It’s something North American cannabis consumers don’t often do: even cigarette smokers in Vancouver or L.A. tend smoke their flower pure, strictly separating nicotine and cannabinoids. So where does this difference come from?

To answer the question, let’s go back in time to the cannabis renaissance of the 1960s and ‘70s. Consumers in Europe at the time almost exclusively smoked hashish, often crumbling it into cigarettes, as hardly anyone was aware of the dangers of nicotine and smoking tobacco. The vast majority of cannabis consumers in the U.S., on the other hand, overwhelming had access only to dried flower, which could easily be used to roll pure joints.

These differences influenced the size of what was being rolled in North America and Europe. In the U.S. and Canada, pure “mini-joints” became the standard, while on the continent a king-size joint is preferred. A European-sized joint that contains only cannabis might contain 1.5 grams to 2 grams of flower — far too much for most. An American joint, on the other hand, contains about as much herb — about 0.2 grams to 0.5 grams — as a European mixed joint (often called a spliff in the U.S.), but without the nicotine. Scientists have even pinpointed the average amount of cannabis in an American joint at 0.32 grams. In Germany, the Netherlands, or Denmark, that amount of cannabis is typically mixed with another gram or so of tobacco, depending on personal preference.

Smoke Raw

Not only does consuming a cannabis–tobacco blend affect your health more than pure flower, it also complicates efforts to gauge the health effects of cannabis itself. The legalization debate often revolves around the dangers of “smoking,” because almost every European study on cannabis is not about smoking it pure but about cannabis mixed with tobacco. Even in medical programs, little attention is paid to whether patients smoke pure. That means that Europeans who use cannabis alone has to justify the consequences of a substance that has little to do with cannabis.

Even without tobacco, smoking is the unhealthiest form of any medical application. Yet other, healthier forms of consumption, such as vaporization or edibles, seem to catch on much more slowly in Europe. That’s in part because tobacco has long been engrained in European culture; as cannabis grew in popularity among Europeans, that affected how people chose to consume. In other cultures, where cannabis has been part of everyday life for millennia, people consume orally or at least smoke cannabis pure.

Mixing tobacco into a joint increases the addictive risks immensely. Many casual users have only begun to smoke cigarettes because they use tobacco for their joints. “Without cannabis I have no problems, but I then smoke more cigarettes” — you’ll never hear such a statement from a pure-cannabis consumer. Doctors in Germany or the Netherlands treating cannabis patients are often unaware of this phenomenon and fail to advise patients to quit tobacco— or at least to separate the consumption of both drugs so the positive effects of cannabis remain intact. The unfortunate reality is that in most instances in Europe, the pairing of cannabis and tobacco simply isn’t discussed.

Last but not least, pure cannabis acts quite differently than a cannabis–tobacco blend. Patients report that the combination of nicotine and cannabis can lead to pain relief and relaxation, but very often they note fatigue as a negative side effect.

Lung-Killer Nicotine

All these facts should be worrying enough for European cannabis fans to reflect on their consumption habits. To make things worse, there’s the political aspect. Prohibitionists use the dangers of the legal drug nicotine to protest against legalization of cannabis: “How can we have ever stricter laws to control tobacco and at the same time legalize cannabis?”

Professor Donald Tashkin has been a leading American pulmonologists for decades. In the past he was a vocal supporter of cannabis prohibition. Tashkin was convinced that smoking cannabis flowers created a high risk of developing lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At one point, he was convinced that cannabis and lung cancer had a causal relationship worse than tobacco.

But more recent evaluations of long-term studies, however, made him change his mind in 2009: “Early on, when our research appeared as if there would be a negative impact on lung health, I was opposed to legalization because I thought it would lead to increased use, and that would lead to increased health effects,” he has said. “But at this point, I’d be in favor of legalization. I wouldn’t encourage anybody to smoke any substances, because of the potential for harm. But I don’t think it should be stigmatized as an illegal substance. Tobacco smoking causes far more harm. And in terms of an intoxicant, alcohol causes far more harm.”

If the legislators take their task to protect public health seriously, European studies that evaluate the risk potential of pure cannabis consumed in various forms (smoking, vaporizing, edibles) have to be undertaken. These studies should take the international state of research into account, focusing on safer ways of consuming.

Michael Knodt is Leafly’s Germany correspondent.

A Strange Blend: Why Are Europeans Mixing Cannabis and Tobacco? This article was originally published on Leafly. Cannabis doesn’t carry the sort of health hazards tobacco does, a majority

Moke: What It Is and Why It’s Unhealthy for Teens

Understanding Moke and Its Effects on the Body and Brain

Have you noticed the word “moke” being used lately, in the media and among young people? If so, you might have wondered, what is a moke?

Moke is a term for a mix of marijuana and tobacco, typically smoked with a bong, or water pipe. Mixing weed with tobacco is more common in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world. According to some estimates, 90 percent of cannabis smokers in Europe mix marijuana with tobacco.

Furthermore, this mix is gaining popularity among American teenagers. In the United States, a marijuana and tobacco cigarette is known as a spliff.

It’s important to understand the health risks of smoking tobacco and weed together. Moreover, this tobacco and weed mix can have a detrimental impact on teen mental health .

What Happens When You Mix Marijuana and Tobacco

While both tobacco and weed have specific effects, mixing the two also has other effects on the body and mind.

A 2009 study showed that mixing cannabis and tobacco actually increases the THC content of the combined drugs. Thus, a moke produces a stronger high. In addition, both nicotine and THC produce a sensation of euphoria.

Moreover, smoking marijuana and tobacco, mixed, have resulted in what health officials call “respiratory cripples.” In 2016, doctors in St. Lucia reported an epidemic of young patients suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) as a result of this combination of drugs.

COPD is a debilitating, progressive disease that directly affects the lungs and cannot be reversed. Patients with the disease are confined to a bed with oxygen tanks to aid in breathing.

Moke Leads to an Increased Risk of Addiction

Smoking mokes may create a greater risk of teen substance use disorder . A 2008 study conducted with users between ages 17 and 35 showed that using tobacco with marijuana contributes to cannabis dependence symptoms.

Furthermore, a 2016 study confirmed these results. Researchers analyzed responses from 33,687 cannabis users from 18 countries who participated in the 2014 Global Drug Survey, an anonymous online survey of drug use.

Subsequently, they found that people who did not mix cannabis with tobacco were much more motivated to quit and thus more likely to seek professional help for cannabis and nicotine addiction. Therefore, researches concluded that people who regularly mix tobacco with cannabis are at greater risk of psychological dependence than people who use the drugs separately.

“Mixing tobacco with cannabis lowers the motivation to quit using these drugs,” said lead author Chandni Hindocha, a doctoral student at the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit of University College London.

Tobacco, Marijuana, and the Brain

Both nicotine and marijuana interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Furthermore, the ECS has receptors in the brain and body that help regulate basic metabolic functions, including pain, pleasure, mood, digestion, and motor control.

A large number of these receptors are found in the hippocampus and amygdala, the parts of the brain that play important roles in remembering, decision making, emotional responses, and addiction. Therefore, drugs that alter the functioning of these receptors can negatively affect functioning in these areas.

In a study done at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas, scientists uncovered significant differences in the brains of people who use both tobacco and marijuana, as compared to the brains of those who only use marijuana. Researchers studied the size of the hippocampus as it related to memory function.

They found that the combination of nicotine and marijuana had a unique effect on the brain, as compared to the brains of people who did not smoke or who smoked only one of the two substances.

According to the principal investigator in the study, Dr. Francesca Filby, “Our findings confirm that the interaction between marijuana and nicotine is indeed much more complicated due to the different mechanisms at play. Future studies need to address these compounding effects of substances.”

Effects of Marijuana vs. Tobacco

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco and cannabis are used respectively by 1 billion and 182 million people worldwide.

It is difficult to directly compare marijuana and tobacco in terms of the long-term changes they make in the body and brain. However, both substances are dangerous and unhealthy.

Consequently, the marijuana-tobacco mix known as a moke carries two sets of unhealthy effects.

The Mental Health Risks of Tobacco

Most Americans are very familiar with the physical health risks of smoking nicotine, including lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 480,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, smoking tobacco is also associated with substance abuse and depression . This is particularly true for teens.

What Parents Need to Know About Moke

Specifically, statistics compiled by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that teens who smoke cigarettes are five times more likely to drink. They are also 13 times more likely to abuse marijuana, and seven times more likely to abuse drugs like cocaine and heroin. Thus, alcohol abuse and addiction is nine times higher among teens who smoke tobacco than among their peers who do not smoke.

These findings are supported by a report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. The report, titled “Tobacco: The Smoking Gun,” showed that the changes created by nicotine make a teen’s brain more susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol.

The brain’s receptors for nicotine increase when smoking, making it more likely for nicotine addiction to develop and making it harder for teens to stop smoking once they start. Moreover, the brain receptors are also altered, which increases the chances of cravings for other drugs. Additionally, the serotonin receptors change, which increases the chance of depression when not smoking.

Furthermore, the report revealed that smokers ages 12 to 17 are twice as likely as non-smokers to experience symptoms of clinical depression.

Marijuana’s Effects on Teen Mental Health

Like tobacco, marijuana use leads to both physical and mental symptoms. Not only is marijuana addictive, it is extremely harmful to users, especially when they are in the critical developmental stages of adolescence. Teenagers’ use of drugs such as marijuana creates chemical changes in the brain, resulting in disruption of mental and physical growth and health.

Regular marijuana use can lead to the following short- and long-term effects:

  • Changes in mood
  • Impaired memory
  • Cognitive difficulties (thinking and problem-solving)
  • Respiratory problems (coughing, lung infections, etc.)
  • Faster heart rate
  • Hallucinations and paranoia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts in teens
  • Decreased IQ: One study showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and continued to use it lost an average of eight IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38.

In conclusion, not only do marijuana and nicotine each have individual consequences for teen mental health, the combination of both has additional effects. It’s important not to underestimate the negative impact of these addictive and life-threatening drugs. Therefore, parents need to help their teens find safe, healthy ways to navigate challenges and feel empowered.

Sources

Inhal Toxicol. 2009 Feb;21(2):87-90.

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Jun 1; 95(3): 199–208.

Behavioural Brain Research. 2015 October 15; Vol. 293: 46–53.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Oct 2;109(40):E2657-64.

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

Have you noticed the word “moke” being used lately, in the media and among young people? Moke is a term for a mix of marijuana and tobacco, that can be dangerous for teens.