There was a case study that consisted of 30 patients that were part of the Canadian Marijuana Medical Access Regulations (CMMAR). These regulations permitted the participants access to the use of marijuana to treat pain without the repercussions of the law. The patients that participated in the study had to have been under the CMMAR for 1-5 years. They were asked to answer questions on the how they reacted to the regular use of marijuana for the alleviation of chronic pain. Also the patients were asked about dosage size and if they experienced any side effects.
The dosages used ranged from 1 to 5 grams of marijuana a day smoked or either orally ingested (Lynch 2006). There was positive feedback from the group of patients on the effectiveness of marijuana. Ninety-Three percent of the patients said they had a moderate or greater pain relief (Lynch 2006). Along with the benefits there were some side effects mentioned. Some of the side effects were increased appetite, weight gain, a sense of well being and slowed thoughts, seventy-six percent of the patients experienced these symptoms (Lynch 2006).
In another study conducted on the use of cannabis dealt with the effects it had on persons with HIV. There was an anonymous survey placed at a clinic and again the results from the usage of marijuana seem to be positive. Out of the surveyed group of 523 people twenty-seven percent said that they use cannabis to treat symptoms of HIV (Woolridge 2005). Out of this group there were many positive side effects. Ninety-seven percent of people said they had an improved appetite, Ninety percent had less nerve pain, eighty six percent had less depression, and ninety-four percent had less muscle pain (Woolridge 2005).
The use of marijuana for medical purposes seems to have a positive effect on the users. Diminished pain is side effect that seems to be a repeating occurrence, this along with other positive effects. The ability to get lower chronic pain or to get rid of it without the use of strong addictive drugs seems to be a better way of doing this in the medical profession. So far the evidence that cannabis has a positive impact is apparent.
Although there are positive results from studies, there are still some effects from marijuana that can have a negative outcome for the user.
There are many benefits to short term use of marijuana, but what some doctors are worried about are the long term effects. One of the major negative side effects of smoking marijuana is increased risk of cancer, due to carcinogens (Degenhardt 2008). This becomes a worry because the people usually using medical marijuana aren't in the best of health to begin with. The concern with medical marijuana is that some doctors don't feel as though there is enough long term research on the regular use of marijuana. The risk of cardiovascular disease is potentially more concerning given that the population using cannabis for medical purposes probably has a higher prevalence of cardiovascular problems (Degenhardt 2008). Although there have been cases of negative side effects surveyed, the doctors in this article feel there needs to be more research done on the long term effects of regular cannabis use.
Still relevant are the negative effects of marijuana use, especially in those who use it for longer periods of time. It was estimated that users of the drug have a 4.8-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug (Marijuana 2009). This would be a serious risk for someone who is in a weakened state from already being sick and the aging population. This is due to increased heart rate when marijuana is smoked (Marijuana 2009). Another worry that is had with people who smoke marijuana is the effect it has on the lungs.
Numerous studies have shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 5070 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke. Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which further increase the lungs' exposure to carcinogenic smoke. (Marijuana 2009)
The problem with smoking marijuana seems is that it puts the group of people in some of the same risks as those who smoke cigarettes. People who smoke marijuana can have the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, and a heightened risk of lung infections (Marijuana 2009).
In conclusion I feel that the AMA's decision to rethink the use of medical marijuana could lead to great advances in the ability for doctors to help patients with things like pain and other symptoms such as low weight, nausea, and loss of appetite. Even though there seems to be some evidence of adverse effects with the long term usage of marijuana, the results are most times scattered and not precise to make a concrete answer. I think that even though marijuana use isn't being tested, the AMA's decision is a step in the right direction. They will be able to discover if there are longer term negative effects and how to deal with them and other ways of administrating the drug. From what I can see marijuana will probably be, in the near future be legal and in ready supply for those who are in need of it.
- Degenhardt, L., & Hall, W. (2008, June 17). The adverse effects of cannabinoids: implications for use of medical marijuana -- Degenhardt and Hall 178 (13): 1685 -- Canadian Medical Association Journal. Canadian Medical Association Journal - December 3, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2009, from http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/178/13/1685
- Lynch, M., Young, J., & Clark, A. (2006). A Case Series of Patients Using Medicinal Marihuana for Management of Chronic Pain Under the Canadian Marihuana Medical Access Regulations. Journal of Pain and Symtom Management, Vol. 32, 497-501.
- Marijuana - InfoFacts - NIDA. (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse - The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction. Retrieved December 2, 2009, from http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/marijuana.html
- Woolridge, E., & Barton, S. (2005). Cannabis Use in HIV for Pain and Other Medical Symptoms. Journal of Pain and Symtom Management, Vol. 29, 358-367.