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Eat, Pray, Toke: Restricted Research on Medical Marijuana Prevents Evidence of Risks and Benefits

Recently when I search for news articles related to psychology, the most prominent topic is the psychological effects of medical marijuana: the good and bad.

SanjayGupta
Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Specifically, the first and most interesting article I found was “Dr. Sanjay Gupta: It’s time for a medical marijuana revolution” by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. According to Gupta, marijuana as a medicine has potential uses for pain, nausea, epilepsy, concussions, Alzheimer’s disease, and bipolar disorder.

For the purpose of being an ethical writer, I disclose that I am in favor of the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes and restricted recreation. However, I will provide both sides of the argument for the use of marijuana as a medicine.

Even though renowned doctors such as Gupta strongly believe in the medicinal properties of marijuana, there are other doctors and researchers who think the evidence of these properties is not legitimate.

patti
Patti Neighmond

According to NPR‘s Correspondent Patti Neighmond in “Review Raises Troubling Questions About Marijuana’s Safety, Effectiveness,” researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom analyzed findings in studies on the benefits of medical marijuana and found that the studies did not find quality evidence to support the benefits of marijuana used as a medicine.

“[They] reviewed findings from 79 different studies looking at the effect of Marijuana on symptoms ranging from chronic pain to sleep difficulties and mental illness. At best, they found only moderate evidence indicating that Marijuana reduced nerve pain and pain from cancer,” said Neighmond, “When it came to other conditions, like nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, difficulties sleeping or weight loss among HIV patients, there was some anecdotal evidence suggesting that people may be helped by Marijuana, but it was just that – anecdote.”

Dr. Deepak C. D'Souza
Dr. Deepak C. D’Souza

In the same NPR article, Dr. Deepak C. D’Souza from Yale University’s School of Medicine told his concerns for the possible risks associated with marijuana.

“…The big question is how routine daily use – the way one might use marijuana to treat a medical condition – affects the body and the brain over the long term. Concerns have been raised about memory loss, panic, paranoia and other severe disorders,” says D’Souza, “There is a small risk of schizophrenia or psychotic disorders associated with Marijuana use. We don’t fully understand why some people appear to be more vulnerable to those effects, but that is a devastating mental disorder for anyone to have.”

While some researchers and doctors such as D’Souza have their oppositions, others, like Gupta, have observed the medicinal benefits of medical marijuana through research, experiences of patients, and their own experiences; according to NPR‘s “When Weed Is The Cure: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana.”

Dr. David Casarett
Dr. David Casarett

Dr. David Casarett, director of the hospice and palliative care program at the University of Pennsylvania, has found medical marijuana to benefit epilepsy, cancer, post traumatic stress disorder, neuropathic pain, sleep disorders, mental illness, and other illnesses.

Dr. David Casarett's book Stoned: A Doctor's Case for Medical Marijuana
Dr. David Casarett’s book Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana

Casarett tried medical marijuana for the relief of his back pain. “I was really hoping for any form of relief whatsoever, even just a few hours of relief from those muscle spasms, and I found it,” said Casarett, “I found it though, at least for me, at the cost of most of the most common side effects of acute use of medical marijuana — confusion, hallucinations. I think — mostly because the dose I gave myself, being relatively unfamiliar with marijuana and very unfamiliar with the strength of what I managed to obtain…”

People other than doctors have also observed the potential benefits and side effects of medical marijuana.

Arnold Alaniz, former Legislative Director for the State Representative of Texas, has met patients through his work that tried medical marijuana.

“They advocate that this is the only known treatment for their ailment. Patients that suffer from Dravet Syndrome, for example, have only cannabis as a viable treatment,” said Alaniz, “From what they have told me there were no real side effects. As far as benefits, the patients I have met were seemingly cured, but it was only for a period of time. The only critique I would think of is maybe something like cannabis can help, but it cannot cure.”

Taken from Gupta's article on CNN.com.
Taken from Gupta’s article on CNN.com. A cannabis strain can dramatically reduce seizures in epileptic children.

Chris, management information major at Texas Tech University from Newberg, Oregon, suffered a nearly fatal skateboarding accident resulting in two skull fractures, severe migraines, and occasional seizures. He used medical marijuana to help with the pain and seizures.

“[Marijuana] never fully got rid of the pain, but I wouldn’t notice it and avoided the addicting potential of prescribed oxycodone. The drug also used to end my head aches that I had for 8 months after my accident,” Chris said, “I went through 7 prescription drugs until the doctor found a medication that was able to have similar effect [to marijuana] to end the headaches and seizures.”

According to the previously mentioned articles on NPR, professionals such as D’Souza and Casarett may disagree on the possible risks versus the ambiguous benefits, but they do agree on the need for improved access to marijuana for research to provide quality evidence.

“Marijuana is difficult to study because there are hundreds of different components in different strains. But focused study’s are exactly what’s needed… federal and state health officials [should] remove any legal or financial obstacles to getting that done,” says D’Souza.

Some of the many various marijuana strains.
Some of the many various marijuana strains.

“Marijuana in the United States is classified as a schedule 1 substance…and that categorization really has slowed down the process of research,” says Casarett.

At the most, researchers should be given more access to the drug to proceed with further testing to provide evidence for whether the drug should remain illegal or it should be made legal for medical purposes.

Discussion

What are your thoughts on the possible risks versus the ambiguous benefits of medical Marijuana?

Have you or do you know anyone who has experienced the effects of it?

References

Casarett, David, Dr. “When Weed Is The Cure: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana.” NPR. NPR, 14 July 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/07/14/422876973/when-weed-is-the-cure-a-doctors-case-for-medical-marijuana>.

Gupta, Sanjay, Dr. “Sanjay Gupta: Time for a Medical Marijuana Revolution – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 20 Apr. 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2015. <http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/16/opinions/medical-marijuana-revolution-sanjay-gupta/index.html>.

Neighmond, Patti. “Review Raises Troubling Questions About Marijuana’s Safety, Effectiveness.” NPR. NPR, 24 June 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2015/06/24/417045126/review-raises-troubling-question-about-marijuana-s-safety-effectiveness>.

YoungMustapha. 5 Chick Flick Movies Remade for Stoners. Digital image.Cannabisdestiny.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2015. <http://cannabisdestiny.com/5-chick-flick-movies-remade-for-stoners/>.

Edited by Hamad Hussain

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Eat Pray Toke Video: Restricted Research on Medical Marijuana Prevents Evidence of Risks and Benefits