FYBROMYALGIA AND MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Fybromyalgia is a very debilitating condition that is difficult to understand and treat. The pain is so excruciating that many patients would be willing to try anything if it would help relieve their symptoms, including medical marijuana. While there is a lot of controversy over this, the history, legality, and possible value it may have as a bonafide treatment should be explored. Personally, I would have a hard time with this treatment option because I understand the effects that this “drug” has on many people. It tends to make them lazy, un-focused, and zombie-like. Of course, that is just my opinion.
WHAT IS MEDICAL MARIJUANA?
Medical marijuana refers to the smoked version of the drug. It does not refer to the synthesized version of THC, one of the active chemicals in the drug. THC is available in a medication called Marinol. The FDA approved Marinol in 1986 to help patients with the vomiting and nausea involved with chemotherapy. Later, it was approved for vomiting and weight loss from AIDS.
HISTORY BEHIND MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Medical marijuana was prescribed by doctors until 1942, when it was taken off the U.S. list of commonly available drugs. There are a handful of oncologists that really take a stand on using medical marijuana as a treatment for the effects of chemotherapy. According to one oncologist, marijuana has been used as a medicine for 5000 years. It has only recently been banned as such. Although it has been abused by folks, he claims the war on drugs is really a war on patients.
Why research medical marijuana if a “pill” named Marinol is already available? The answer has to do with using whole herbs or combinations of them as opposed to isolating just one component of an herb. The Latin name for marijuana is cannabis. This herb has 60-70 different components called cannabinoids that may have medicinal properties. Marinol isolates only one of these cannabinoids, delta-9 TCH. While this has helped those with nausea and vomiting, other cannabinoids may also prove useful for other ailments like fybromyalgia. If fact, in 1999 a report from the Institute of Medicine stated that cannabinoids relieve pain, increase appetite, and provide relief from nausea and vomiting.
IS IT LEGAL?
In the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the federal government placed drugs into five groups called “schedules” based on three criteria:
Potential for abuse and addiction
Dangers for abuse and addiction, both physically and psychologically
Marijuana, LSD, and heroine have been placed in schedule 1 – the most addictive, and least medically useful, category.
To further complicate the legal issues, some states have passed their own controlled substance policies which conflicts with federal law. These “compassionate use” laws and reforms allow patients with terminal and debilitating conditions to use the drug provided they show documentation from their physician. While physicians can prescribe it, the federal government still threatens prosecution if they continue to prescribe medical marijuana.
USES FOR MEDICAL MARAJUANA
While medical marijuana doesn’t cure diseases, patients worldwide use the drug to help reduce a variety of symptoms such as:
Increased intraocular pressure from glaucoma
Nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy from cancer
Pain, muscle spasticity, and insomnia from spinal cord injury
Pain, muscle spasticity, and stiffness from muscular sclerosis
Weight loss and appetite loss from HIV
While there is evidence that medical marijuana is beneficial for HIV patients and those who suffer from peripheral neuropathy, not all doctors agree of its potential use as a treatment option for disease. According to one doctor, using medical marijuana as a prescribed medicine depends on how the physician reads the data and the evidence. The drug certainly makes you feel good, but then so does alcohol.
Another problem doctors have with medical marijuana is the fact that it is an herb, untested, and quality control is not applied. You never know exactly what you are going to get when you buy it. Also, social responsibility is important when doctors decide to prescribe this drug. There has to be responsibility because there are those patients that would honestly use medical marijuana just for their symptoms and there are those who will abuse the privilege and use it for whenever they want. All these reasons make using this drug a continuous controversy.
As far as fybromyalgia is concerned, medical marijuana may be useful for reducing pain, muscle stiffness, and insomnia, but the drug needs to have further studies in order to be sure that it has a reasonable, safe drug delivery system. Since there are an estimated 400 chemicals in marijuana and marijuana smoke emits as many as 2000 chemicals, it is not responsible to prescribe this herb as a treatment when researchers really do not know which chemicals of the mix is actually the medicine.
A more responsible approach would be to research the different chemicals in marijuana, isolate the ones that show promise for fybromyalgia and other diseases, work with the chemicals in a purified state, and produce a medicine with controlled doses. This would satisfy the patients’ needs for relief while not risking the physician’s responsibility to his patients’ well-being.