For those suffering with serious illnesses and chronic pain, taking handfuls of prescriptions meds, each with worse side-effects than the last, can seem like a horrible joke.
The truth is, we don’t have viable medicines for every kind of ailment and even some of what we call medical know-how and scientific data is really just the newest stab in the dark to relieve the pain of those among us who are fighting for their lives. Many have found relief with the use of one of the oldest medicinal treatments in human history–medical marijuana, or cannabis, as it is more appropriately called.
In the majority of the U.S. states, lawmakers and voters have come to the conclusion that cannabis is at least an option to be offered to the very ill, for whom other medications have not brought relief. In over 25 states and in Washington DC, there are legal programs for dispensing it for specific ailments. Some of the common specific ailments mentioned in the policies are Epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, Cancer, and Multiple Sclerosis. Many medicinal treatments with cannabis are non-smoked, which often means the dose may be infused into oil or prepared in special foods, such as cookies.
In most of these states, in order to obtain or possess cannabis legally, a recommendation from a doctor is involved, as is a doctor’s supervision over treatment. However, contrary to popular belief, a doctor may not “prescribe” cannabis in the usual way they prescribe other medicines. This is because there is a federal law in place that makes it illegal to do so (because of the federal classification that marijuana is under) and also because insurance does not cover the use of medical cannabis.
There is a great deal of support in the scientific community for the movement forward with studies on cannabis. The most recent research suggests that cannabis provides relief in the areas of pain, nausea, spasticity, movement disorders, and glaucoma. It has been proven to aid in the treatment of patients who have otherwise lost their appetites. Also, emerging studies suggest that some of the medicinal properties of cannabis may protect against malignant tumors and encourage neuroprotective benefits.
As a result, over 60 U.S. and international health organizations support granting patients legal access to cannabis under a physician’s supervision. It’s clear that if cannabis were to be treated as a medicine, one that researchers could obtain under normal legal conditions, manufacturers could hold to standards, and dispensaries could sell under (albeit strict) regulations, there are tremendous potential benefits for those who are suffering most.
But cannabis is controversial because of its illegal classification on the federal and state levels as a drug when used recreationally. Even though statistics prove it is far less dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes, it is still seen as a potential problem by many. Some of the campaigns against it prey on fears of availability to children or the possibility of a dispensary on every corner, neither of which is a likely outcome according to any study.
In the end, we’ll have to listen to those among us who have—in many cases out of desperation—began cannabis treatments. They are the test cases. Overwhelmingly the results are positive—especially for pain patients frantic to get away from pain prescriptions that took away their sleep or gave them conditions that were almost as bad as the pain they were trying to escape.
In a moving Boston Globe feature entitled “Rejecting opioids, pain patients find relief with marijuana” a freelance writer from Cambridge, Julia Sullivan, is interviewed in order to demonstrate the benefits of the treatments now legalized in Massachusetts.
According to the article:
“Sullivan turned to cannabis because the opioid her doctor prescribed — tramadol — gave her insomnia. Others are trying marijuana because their doctors, worried about new guidelines on opioid use, have cut back on prescribing pain relievers.
Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, a Natick family practice physician who specializes in assessing patients for marijuana certification, said she has lately seen an increase in pain sufferers looking for an alternative to opioids.
“Cannabis is not an entrance drug, it is an exit drug from pharmaceuticals and narcotics,” she said.”
It would behoove us all to look into the research on this issue prior to November 8, as this issue is on the ballot for many states.