Marijuana as Medicine: More Harm Than Help

Marijuana as Medicine: More Harm Than Help

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Marijuana as Medicine: More Harm Than Help Joan Daly
smokes marijuana. She is also a former member of the San Francisco
Police Department. When Joan was diagnosed with cancer she began
a rigorous chemotherapy program, which has left her in an almost
constant state of nausea, to battle her disease. She, and many like
her, claim that the only drug they have tried that works to ease their
pain is marijuana (Lacayo np). Claims such as this have led to a
national movement pushing the legalization of medical marijuana.
Marijuana should not be legalized for medicine or any other purpose.
(98) Naturally, those who support the cause of legalization will have
their arguments, which can be summarized into three main areas. The
first is the claim that marijuana is an instrumental treatment for the
nausea associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients. The next
assertion is that marijuana is an effective controller of glaucoma.
Finally, marijuana advocates claim that it is effective in stimulating the
appetite for the prevention of AIDS wasting syndrome. (71)
Proponents of medical marijuana swear by its ability to ease the
suffering of chemotherapy patients, however there is no research to
back these staunch claims. To be sure, there is a large body of
research regarding cannabinoids, the chemicals found in plants of the
same type as marijuana- the cannabis family, but the overwhelming
majority of those studies use the already USDA approved dronabinol,
a synthetic pill version of marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient,
THC (NIH np). The pill, claim legalization supporters, does not work to
relieve nausea (Lacayo np). There is, in fact, only one study that has
compared smoked marijuana and synthetic THC pills. Of the 20
patients studied, 9 had no preference, 7 preferred dronabinol, and only
4 preferred smoked marijuana (NIH np). Critics of the legalization
Cleland 2 movement say that using the drug before its safety and
effectiveness are determined is foolhardy ("Weed Wars" np). There is
evidence enough to support this claim. The number of patients who
have been clinically dosed with marijuana for research purposes is a
staggering 56 (NIH np). That is an extremely small number to base
such large claims on. The treatment of nausea debate generally
focuses on the synthetic pill/smoked marijuana trade off. The simple
truth is that treatments are available that much more effective than the
pill in the form of ondansetron, granisetron, and others. Their
effectiveness has not been rated against that of marijuana, but the
vast majority of patients respond well to these new treatments, and the
benefits of marijuana for the remaining few is simply not known (NIH
np). (255) Another use of medical marijuana, says advocates, is for

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the treatment of glaucoma, but this has not been in any way proven
more effective than existing treatments. Glaucoma is a gradual
reduction of optical capability caused by increasing intra ocular
pressure (IOP), or the pressure of the eye's fluids against its outer
walls. Marijuana is a proven IOP reducer, but so are many other legal
drugs. The trick that makes marijuana advocates cite this benefit is
that it seems to work for some patients whose current medicines do
not. The problem is that researchers do not know what mechanism
marijuana uses to lower IOP (NIH np). There are risks to using
marijuana as a cure. It has been proven to lower blood pressure
alongside IOP, apparently to the point where blood flow to the optic
nerve can be cut off. This worried researchers enough that they
created a topical form of marijuana to avoid side-effects, however the
cream did not relieve IOP (NIH np). According to unbiased
researchers at the National Institutes for Health, "if marijuana uses the
same mechanism as other IOP reducing drugs, it would suggest an
unfavorable benefit/risk ratio" (NIH np). In short, there are too many
unknowns to make it an effective glaucoma treatment. (204) Cleland 3
Marijuana advocates also claim that it prevents the wasting caused by
AIDS when in fact it is likely to prove harmful. The number one cause
of death in all AIDS patients is pneumonia, a fact verifiable in any
number of publications. So why would a patient want to smoke in that
kind of situation? Smoking of any kind is proven to greatly increase
the risk of developing pneumonia in patients with compromised
immune systems (NIH np). In several independent studies examined
by the NIH, the effects of marijuana on appetite and weight gain were
examined. Researchers discovered that the anecdotal "munchies"
were just that- the widely renowned appetite increase is a social, not
chemical effect. It is true that an appetite is gained, regardless of the
source, but scientists in the same group of studies concluded that the
weight gained was in water retention or fat, not lean body mass. It
must also be noted that the vast majority of these studies used
dronabinol instead of smoked marijuana, but no differences were
reported in effects. (174) The plight of cancer patients and others who
suffer from glaucoma, AIDS, and related illnesses has not gone
unnoticed and treatments are being developed, but in the meantime
do not be fooled by the outward good looks of the marijuana
treatment- treatment because it can never be a cure. Cancer and
AIDS research develops more and more legal treatments each year,
so why turn to an unproven and possibly unsafe drug when so many
alternatives are available? Legalizing marijuana as medicine is a bad
idea- the facts say so. Until more research is done and its superiority
to current treatments is proven, marijuana remains an anecdotal cure
with a lot of advertisement, and legalizing it for any reason is as
senseless as dying of hemorrhoids. (125) (927) Cleland 4 Works Cited
Lacayo, Richard. "Marijuana: Where There's Smoke There's Fire."
Time 1996. Online. Pathfinder. 17 Mar. 1998. United States. National
Institutes of Health. Study on the Feasibility of Medicinal Marijuana.
Online. Internet. 17 Mar. 1998. "Weed Wars." CNN Online. Online.
Internet. 17 Mar. 1998.

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