Medical Uses of Marijuana-Good or Bad?
There are two sides of marijuana being used for medical purposes. Many people think it is great and say it will help the pain go away. Other people believe it is a bad idea and become additive over time. Many propositions and court cases have contributed to marijuana use. A popular one is Proposition 215. This is a medical marijuana initiative. The biggest argument is that there is no real evidence that smoked marijuana is more effective than any other available treatment (McCaffery). It has been said that marijuana is a temporary relief medicine for diseases such as AIDS, Cancer, Strokes, and so on. The main reason why it is said to help these patients that have acquired these sicknesses is because the treatment called Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a long tedious process and it really takes a toll on the recipient of this treatment. There is a chance that this process can cure or prolong the patients life. But there is a price to pay for having to have this done to their bodies. The chemotherapy has side effects and the one that the marijuana helps is the vomiting. It helps the patient to keep their food down and it gives them a hunger so they don’t waste away to nothing.
Marijuana has been around for over 5,000 years and has been used in many different ways (Zeller 20). Greeks and Romans made medicines from this. Americans did not start to “get high” until the 1900s, and then it was legal. Marijuana became illegal in 1937, under the Marijuana Tax Act. This restricted marijuana use everywhere in the United States. Strict regulations governing cultivation of the plant made its production impractical. New synthetic drugs caught the fancy of physicians and marijuana was used less frequently. In 1942, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics convinced the U.S. Pharmacopedia to remove the drug from its listing.
During the 1960s “hippies” and “flower children” used this drug to show how mature and independent they were, even though it was illegal (Zeller 24). Not all doctors and scientists thought marijuana was harmful either. Now, the facts about pot is getting out to more and more people.
Marijuana has a chemical called THC, which is very harmful to your body. THC affects your senses, movement, thoughts, and feelings. THC remains in our body for a long time. It may take up to one month if you smoke several times a week. It is stored in fatty tissues of the body.
Proposition 215 is the medical marijuana initiative. This is part of California’s medical rights. Most people have heard that marijuana is sometimes used as a medicine. Patients with cancer, glaucoma, and AIDS are among those who find that marijuana reduces their pain associated with chemotherapy and powerful drugs like AZT. By reducing nausea and stimulating appetite in severely and terminally ill patients, marijuana can help lengthen life span and improve quality of life. Many doctors have been convinced that marijuana works in some cases, and many doctors now quietly recommend it. Unfortunately, because marijuana is illegal, patients must break the law to get it. Patients using marijuana today must risk arrest. These seriously ill people have been put in an impossible position by the current marijuana laws. The laws do not distinguish between legitimate medical need and illegal drug ABUSE.
A new government report cautiously endorses Pot as a painkiller and it not only embarrasses drug czar Barry McCaffery but also may help to undermine the 17 billion war on drugs (Dreyfuss, 32). Perhaps they didn’t inhale, but many Americans were surprised when a scientific study funded by the White House’s drug czar reports in March that marijuana’s active ingredients seem to have medical value, “particularly for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation.” As much as the contents of the report, its irony – as if the 1950s House Un-American Activities Committee had paid for a report finding that communists were good guys after all – attracted a barrage of media attention (Dreyfuss 32). Gen. Barry McCaffery, director of the office of national Control Policy, was forced to put on a brave face.
McCaffery has been in office since 1996 and has called medical marijuana a “cruel hoax” and “Cheech and Chong” medicine. California and Arizona became the first two states to endorse the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The study, “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” was conducted by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute if medicine, which in August 1997 assembled an eleven-person panel to conduct an eighteen-month investigation of marijuana’s benefits and risks through a series of public hearings and exhaustive study of current research.
Cancer chemotherapy can often prolong the patient’s life by several years. In some instances, a complete “cure” can be obtained. Unfortunately, these drugs also have severe side effects, most notably nausea and vomiting. Patients sometimes find these effects so distressing they abandon chemotherapy entirely.
People with AIDS also experience these problems. Powerful anti-viral drugs such as AZT and the new protease inhibitors can induce severe nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal effects. In September 1998 the chief administrative law judge of the Drug Enforcement Administration ruled that marijuana has medical value in the treatment of side effects caused by cancer chemotherapy. His decision was over-ruled by the administrator of the DEA and marijuana remains illegal for medical purposes.
Glaucoma is an eye disease, which afflicts more than four million Americans and is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. According to the National Society for Prevention of Blindness, there are 178,000 new cases of glaucoma diagnosed each year. Treatment of narrow-angle glaucoma is primarily surgical. In approximately 90% of the open-angle and secondary glaucoma topical (eyedrop) preparations along with some oral medications can effectively control the disease, but at least 10% of all cases fail to be completely controlled by available prescriptive drugs. In some instances available glaucomic medications can cause side effects such as headaches, kidney stones, burning of the eyes, blurred vision, insomnia, and nervous anxiety. These side effects become so severe that the patient must discontinue use.
Marijuana has shown promise as a possible glaucoma treatment. In controlled studies at UCLA, it was discovered that patients smoking marijuana experienced, on average, a 30% drop in eye pressure. The reduction was dose related and lasted 4 to 5 hours. Tolerance to conventional medications is a common problem in glaucoma control. The use of marijuana for additional IOP reduction could eliminate the need for surgical intervention. Glaucoma surgery costs Americans an estimated $8.8 million per year (www.marijuana-as-medicine.org).
Scientists have been working to develop a marijuana eyedrop for several years. Until recently, they concentrated on delta-9-THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. Some researchers, however, have begun to wonder if other constituents in the marijuana plant might be more effective in reducing IOP. The few glaucoma patients who have continued legal access to marijuana reinforce this theory. In these cases, synthetic THC is only effective for a short period of time. Natural marijuana, however, consistently lowers IOP.
Marijuana has many important and practical uses. If given in moderation and under a controlled environment people should be able to use marijuana for illnesses such as glaucoma, AIDS, and cancer. Marijuana helps aid chemotherapy patients that have advanced side effects. These side effects include insomnia, vomiting, nervous anxiety, and cardiac arrhythmia. Spasticity patients also need this drug to feel better. Many of them use Valium but this makes them very sedated, they also build a tolerance to this, and they are more apt to become additive.
Marijuana also can become additive but doctors give many of their patients a controllable dosage. Today, you cannot obtain this drug unless prescribed by a doctor, however the potential damages to the human body far outweigh the known benefits.
Dreyfuss, Robert. “Another Victory for Medical Marijuana.” Rolling Stone 13 May 1999: 32-33, 105.
Facklemann, Kathleen. “Marijuana: useful medicine or dangerous drug?” Consumers’ Research Magazine, May 1997: v80 n5 p15. [Infotrac]. Available http://web5.searchbank.com/itw/session/822/131/28856999w3/3!xrn_6_0_A19482646.
Was not a very informative article.
Hager, Mary, Adam Rogers, Claudia Kalb, and Patricia King. “Can marijuana be medicine?” Newsweek. February 3, 1997:p22. [Infotrac]. Available: http://web6.searchbank.com/itw/session/216/489/8247655/42!nxt_7. [March 11, 1999]
“Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine, rev.ed.” JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. March 25, 1998: v279 n12 p963. [Infotrac]. Available: http://web6.searchbank.com/itw/session/216/489/8247655 w5/36!xrn_3_0_A20443702.
Only talked about AIDS patients and research. NDA also provided some important information.
McCaffrey. “Woman fights for legalizing marijuana as medicine.” Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. May 26, 1998: p526 K/626. [Infotrac]. Available: http://web5.searchbank.com/itw/session/822/131/2885699w3/3!xrn_2_0_A20629748.