There has been a lot of debate over the last few years whether the legalization of marijuana would be a wise thing or not. Some say no under any circumstances claiming it is a “gateway drug”. Others say it has no more potential for harm than alcohol or cigarettes. Still, others take a somewhat middle of the road approach saying that it's only acceptable if used for medical purposes. What does the research say? There have been several studies that have yielded very interesting results that shed some light on what this controversial herb can do.
Marijuana comes from the blooms of the Cannabis plant. Specifically, it’s the cannabinoids of the bloom (one of which is called THC) that hold the medicinal properties. In northern China evidence of its cultivation and consumption dates back to 7,000 B.C. and was used for it’s medicinal and mood altering effects even then. Also, the burial site of an Asian shaman dating back 2,700 years contained over 2 pounds of the herb and due to tests conducted to attest to it’s potency it was affirmed that the most probable use was for treating the physical, emotional and spiritual being.
The United States government prohibits the consumption of this plant despite the studies that show it’s benefits, with a law enacted in 1937. Lawmakers stated that the reasoning for this was that it had no positive benefit, was a gateway drug, possessed a high potential for abuse and in fact was as dangerous as heroin, which is what it was compared to when it was classified as a schedule I substance.
I, myself, grew up as many did being taught that this “street drug” was bad, destructive, highly addictive, a gateway drug and even caused severe memory loss and damage to the brain. Since becoming an adult and reading for myself the study results as well as becoming a nurse and seeing first hand how Marinol (a DEA approved synthetic form of marijuana) has helped many of my patients with chronic nausea and loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy and chemo type drugs, I have changed my view. When I saw how much suffering there was from pain, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss and malnutrition from cancer and autoimmune disease and so few options to effectively treat such symptoms I began to reconsider my opposition. I knew then, that I needed to search for the facts for myself.
McGill University Health Centre and University in Montreal reviewed 23 clinical studies on the drug between the years 1966-2007 and noticed that there was not a higher rate of serious side effects than the non-user control group. This is not to say that the substance is totally harmless and suitable for everyone. Those that are more sensitive to psychological effects of medication (adolescents, pregnant or nursing mothers or those with a history of mental illness, hepatitis C, CIOPD, heart disease or stroke) should take caution or avoid.
As more scientific evidence is found to confirm the therapeutic effects of marijuana there are nearly 1 million patients reported to be using it, under medical supervision, to combat nausea, loss of appetite, pain and sometimes the spread or worsening of disease for conditions such as Cancer, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Huntington’s Disease, ALS, GI disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, Neuropathy and HIV/AIDS just to name a few.
Research has proven that the body produces it’s own endocannabinoid system with it’s own receptors that helps to regulate body responses to stimuli initiated by certain disease processes. The problem is that this effect is short lived. Cannabinoids bind to these receptors providing a more lasting effect.
There are several advocacy groups such as the ACLU that consistently protest and present lawsuits to reverse the governments stand on the use of this drug for medical purposes. Slowly, some states are starting to recognize and authorize its use medically to relieve the suffering of those with chronic disease.
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