Medi-snippets: Kerala Ganja users are at risk of heart failure, stroke | Sunday Observer

Medi-snippets: Kerala Ganja users are at risk of heart failure, stroke

8 September, 2019

“Users of Kerala Ganja now on the rise in Sri Lanka have been warned that the illegal drug could put them at risk of heart failure, stroke, disruption of women’s menstrual cycle and other serious illnesses, Emeritus Prof of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, University of Colombo, Senior Prof of Forensic Medicine, General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, and Former Chairman of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, Prof. Ravindra Fernando told the Sunday Observer.

He said Ganja was one of the oldest and most commonly used synonym for marijuana.

“Marijuana is a combination of shredded leaves, stems and flower buds of the Cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana can be smoked, eaten, vaporized, brewed and even taken topically, but most people smoke it. The intoxicating chemical in marijuana is tetrahydracannabinol, or THC. A 2017 study by the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia found that those who used marijuana were 26 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who did not use it. They were also 10 percent more likely to develop heart failure.

Marijuana can raise the heart rate by 20 to 100 percent shortly after smoking and the effect could last up to three hours. Marijuana also can reduce sperm production in men and disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle.

About 30 percent of users may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. Long-term marijuana users who try to quit experience cravings, irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite and anxiety - similar physical symptoms of those trying to quit other types of drugs or alcohol,” he warned.

He said Sri Lankan officials have of late been reportedly raising alarms about the continuous movement of cannabis (Ganja) and other drugs from India, especially Kerala, to Sri Lanka.

In the past couple of months alone more than 300 kilograms of ganja, labelled as ‘Kerala ganja,’ have been seized in various parts of the country, especially in the Mannar district, valued several millions of rupees.

“ This is a serious public health problem due to its far reaching adverse health implications,” he noted. He said a 2016 study found a link between certain genetic markers and symptoms of marijuana addiction, suggesting that some people may have a genetic predisposition to marijuana addiction. The same study showed an overlap between the genetic risk factors for marijuana dependence and for depression, suggesting a possible reason why these two conditions often occur together.

“More stringent application of existing laws and awareness raising are key to halting this dangerous trend,” he reiterated.

Dengue suspected cases pass 40,000 mark

Health officials have expressed concern at the rising incidence of dengue fever in the country following the monsoonal rains. According to the Epidemiology Unit, 42,051 suspected dengue cases were reported to the Epidemiology Unit from all over the island up to August 28 this year as compared to 51,659 for the whole of last year. They said, approximately 45.7 % of dengue cases were reported in the Western province, with Colombo district taking the lead.

The dengue control authorities told the Sunday Observer that the incidence of dengue related deaths was relatively low due to extensive and regular removal of possible mosquito breeding sites from the environment, along with strengthened patient education on the management of fever. “It is important to seek medical attention in the event of fever and to do relevant laboratory investigations at least by day three of the illness. Pregnant women and young children below 5 years should seek immediate medical attention and get themselves screened for dengue from day one if they live in any of the high risk areas for dengue which have already been identified,” a Health official said.

Cancer now No. 1 killer

Sep 3: The world is slowly seeing cancer surpass cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death among middle-age adults in several countries, according to a new study.

Among adults ages 35 to 70, cardiovascular disease still ranks as the leading cause of death globally, but the new research, published in the journal The Lancet on Tuesday, found that deaths from cancer are now more common than those from cardiovascular disease in some high-income and middle-income countries.

Those countries include Sweden, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Poland and Turkey.

The study is the largest of its kind analyzing causes of death across five continents, said Dr. Salim Yusuf, distinguished professor and executive director at the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Canada, who was senior author of the study.

“We have been watching the decline in cardiovascular disease for a while in many countries,” he said. “It was just a matter of time that the progress we make in reducing cardiovascular disease mortality will lead to a fall in death rates from cardiovascular disease below that of cancers.”