From my experience living in East last year, I can tell you that freshmen are not strangers to the smell of marijuana wafting through the halls. Whether it’s coming from outside, your next-door neighbor, or even from your own room, one is bound to smell the infamous “skunk scent” somewhere. Recent news has brought to light many cannabis-linked health benefits. Despite this, medicinal marijuana is only legal in half of the United States.
Doctors and healers have been utilizing marijuana since ancient times. Uses for cannabis include anesthetics, pain relievers, and treatments for epilepsy. Even today many doctors still believe in its healing abilities. So I wonder, are there legitimate health benefits to utilizing marijuana in medical treatments?
Marijuana and Pain
A 2007 placebo-controlled study was one of two studies concerning medical marijuana conducted by University of California integrative medicine specialist, Donald Abrams. The 2007 study showed that marijuana was more effective than morphine for treating pain caused by nerve damage in HIV patients.
It is thought that this is due to cannabinoids, active ingredients in cannabis. The primary cannabinoid known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) directly interacts with the brain’s CB1 receptor, signaling the body to suppress pain response. This would be considered to be the mechanism behind the reduced pain.
As discussed in class, correlation does not always mean causation, however due to the controlled study and identification of a mechanism, one can reject the null hypothesis that marijuana had no effect in reducing patient’s pain.
Marijuana and Cancer
I have even seen the benefits of medicinal marijuana in my own life.
In 2011, my grandmother, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her chemo treatments caused her to loose her appetite. She was becoming weaker everyday, and malnutrition was impeding her progress. After evaluating the situation, her doctor prescribed her a medicinal marijuana pill, in hopes that would encourage her to eat more regularly.
Clinical evidence has led many doctors to prescribe marijuana to cancer patients in order to relive nausea, increase appetites, and reduce pain and anxiety. However other studies show that cannabis-related drugs are not as effective as other treatments to treat symptoms in patients. However, marijuana’s ability to treat several side effects simultaneously makes it a formidable option for sick patients.
In my grandmother’s case the marijuana proved to be effective. Though her appetite was still quite low, when taking the marijuana pill she asked for food more often. It also reduced the nausea she was feeling due to her chemo treatments. Though she only took the pills on her “worst days”, she found comfort in the fact that she had options.
Why is Mary Jane still taboo?
Still despite our modern research and studies the majority of Americans are denied the right to utilize medical marijuana. An agent for this could be a serious lacking of studies. As we talked about in class some subject material is just difficult to test, marijuana falls into this category.
Since marijuana is an illegal drug, in order to perform any studies with it, researchers must be granted special permission by the DEA. This is not only expensive, but also very complicated and time consuming.
In addition, it is hard to obtain good placebo trials. Since many of the symptoms being examined are qualitative, it is difficult to get hard evidence to successfully prove or reject any hypothesis.
Medical marijuana has a place in modern medicine. However limited studies, leave many to question the validity of its benefits. I think that more research has to be invested in the subject, so that we can get patients the help that they need. So next time you smell skunk in East, just think about the amount of sick people that one joint could help.