People who live with chronic pain and muscle rigidity have long turned to marijuana to relieve suffering, whether legal or not. Patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions use pot to alleviate pain, nausea, spasticity, and other issues. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot for medical use. New pill and spray versions of medical marijuana are also more widely available elsewhere in the world and studies show they are effective. Isn’t it time to legalize marijuana, at least for medical use, throughout the country?
Prescriptions drugs that contain marijuana plant derivatives are available in pill and spray forms in many countries including Canada, the US and the United Kingdom. However, the ailments that they are approved for vary by country. For example, Marinol (which contains Dronabinol, the active THC from marijuana), is approved in the US to help chemotherapy and AIDS patients deal with nausea, but not for other conditions, like MS that tests have shown it to be effective against. Additionally, the oral spray form of cannabis is not legally available in the United States, but some Americans obtain it in Canada, where the spray is legally available, or in other countries.
Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it is an illegal substance that hasn’t been thoroughly tested by the Food and Drug Administration. But, what are they waiting for? As for the illegal argument, morphine and other narcotics are illegal unless prescribed.
Study after study has shown a positive medicinal benefit to pot use. Here are a few :
For Parkinson’s: An Israeli study published in the March/April edition of Clinical Neuropharmacology looked at patients with Parkinson’s, a progressive central nervous system disorder that impairs movement, at baseline and 30 minutes after inhaling marijuana. They showed considerable improvement in tremors, muscle rigidity, pain and other attributes. (Note: Israel has allowed medical marijuana since 2011.)
For Chemotherapy and AIDS: A study, conducted at Columbia University and published in The Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, looked at patients who were marijuana users after smoking pots, taking a pot pill, or unknowingly taking a placebo. They tested their pain sensitivity and found those who had cannabis in either form had less pain sensitivity and more pain tolerance.
For Multiple Sclerosis: A just published study offers strong support for medical marijuana pills and spray, which evidence showed helped ease MS patients’ pain, frequent urination and muscle spasticity. While not approved for MS, doctors sometimes have prescribed the pills for “off-label” use by MS patients with positive results.
Are there potential negative impacts to medicinal marijuana? Yes. Smoking a joint has the same adverse effects on lungs as smoking 2 1/2 to five cigarettes, according to a New Zealand study published in July 2007. An Australian study published in January 2008 also showed that regular pot smoking can lead to lung disease. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also emphasizes that “repeated use could lead to addiction,” adding that some heavy users experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop suddenly. The agency also claimed that daily use of marijuana affects the brain areas that control memory, attention and learning based on a study published in June 2008 in the Archives of General Psychiatry. On the latter two, one could argue many prescription drugs are habit forming and affect the same brain areas. As for the first one, taking a pot pill or using an inhaler erases the negative impact of “smoking” cannabis.
Regardless of where one stands on legalization of marijuana overall, it seems ridiculous that something that has been known to ease pain and symptoms is available only to people who live in the right states. It is time to legalize medical marijuana use throughout the country.
By Dyanne Weiss