Medical Marijuana Use

Perhaps the first question one could ask is, “Why is marijuana illegal? ” No matter which side of the issue you are on, you will find that the answer to this question is basically that people react irrationally and emotionally to the issue. For example, some years ago I went in search of the death rate for marijuana and other drugs. At that time, I had never heard of a death attributed to marijuana consumption, but it had never crossed my mind that marijuana might never have caused any deaths.

However, the data I encountered revealed that there were no deaths that could be attributed to the consumption of marijuana. So, when I began preparing this brief synopsis, my first decision was to return to the issue of marijuana induced deaths. Although some of the data was contradictory and confusing, all of the available statistics indicated that no matter what the situation, marijuana causes few if any deaths, and certainly causes fewer than any other common drug. For example, aspirin caused 500 deaths in a year with marijuana is not known to have caused a single death!

While this brief report is about the medical use of marijuana, I am led to the conclusion that one medical use of marijuana is to replace all of the other drugs we commonly use, both legal and illegal alike with marijuana so as to reduce the death rate from the use of drugs! Tobacco causes about 400,000 deaths annually and alcohol causes about 100,000, but marijuana causes none. Of course, that would not be viewed as a medical use of marijuana, so let us look at more traditional and accepted views of a medical use.

Perhaps the two most commonly known medical uses of marijuana are for glaucoma and to deal with pain such as in cancer, but its medical value is not limited to these situations. While there have been some studies that have considered the medical value of marijuana to treat medical conditions, many feel that there is too little research to determine its therapeutic value. Research has shown that marijuana can help people deal with pain such as that encountered during cancer.

In situations of AIDS marijuana is of value in helping AIDS victims overcome their weight loss and the loss of appetite. Marinol is one synthetic drug made from marijuana that the FDA has approved for use by chemotherapy patients and patients with AIDS. Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1993; Jones, et al. , 1981) Its major active ingredient is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reclassified Marinol®–the synthetic oral form of the major active ingredient in marijuana on July 2, 1999 so that the drug can be made available to chemotherapy and AIDS patients.

A quick brief list of the possible medical uses of marijuana include its possible value in treating multiple sclerosis (MS) and partial spinal cord injury, epilepsy, particularly generalized and partial tonic-clonic seizures and Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s chorea. Studies on the value of marijuana to treat Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s chorea have not revealed any value of the drug. In the case of epilepsy, there is too little data at present to form a solid opinion. (Agurell 1984, 1986) The evidence for value of marijuana in treating some medical conditions is largely anecdotal.

Individual case studies have reported some benefit of smoked marijuana in treatment of dystonic states. Smoked marijuana or oral THC administrations for Parkinson’s disease or Huntington’s chorea have not been effective. Animal studies have shown that cannabinoinds are valuable as immune modulators in allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) and neuritis, but the long-term risks of smoked marijuana, if any, need to be quantified for use in chronic therapy for neurological conditions. (Friedman et al. , 1995)

In all, the general conclusion arising from what is known today is that marijuana may have therapeutic value in treating some medical conditions, but more research is needed before any definite conclusions can be reached. For the most part, there is presently too little information on the medical value of marijuana and other cannabinoids in the treatment of medical conditions to be certain of its value in treating long-term medical situations, but there is enough information to justify further research.

At present, although there is research to suggest a therapeutic value for marijuana in treating some medical conditions, there is too little research to justify its use at present. Except perhaps in the case of glaucoma and in treating nausea during chemotherapy and AIDS, other medical uses either have not been confirmed or other medications are more effective in treating medical conditions. At present, more research is needed. References Agurell, S. , W. L. Dewey and R. E. Willett, eds.

The Cannabinoids: Chemical, Pharmacologic, and Therapeutic Aspects. New York: Academic Press, 1984. Agurell, S. , M. Halldin, J. E. Lindgren, A. Ohlsson, M. Widman, H. Gillespie and L Hollister. Pharmacokinetics and metabolism of delta 1-tetrahydrocannabinol and other cannabinoids with emphasis on man. Pharmacol Rev 38(1) (1986) 21-43. Barnett, G. , V. Licko T. Thompson. Behavioral pharmacokinetics of marijuana. Psychopharmacology 85(1) (1985) 51-56. Benowitz, N. L. , and R. T. Jones.

Effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on drug distribution and metabolism: Antipyrine, pentobarbital and ethanol. Clin Pharmacol Ther 22(3) (1977) 259-268. Friedman, H. , T. W. Klein, C. Newton, Y. Daaka Marijuana, receptors and immunomodulation. Adv Exp Med Biol 373 (1995) 103-113. Grinspoon, L. , and J. B. Bakalar. Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. Jones, R. T. , N. L. Benowitz and R. I Herning. Clinical relevance of cannabis tolerance and dependence. J Clin Pharmacol 21 (1981) 143S-152S.