Medical Marijuana -pros and cons
Marijuana is a name given to the dried flowers, stems, seeds and leaves of the hemp plant. The plant also referred to as Cannabis sativa, comprises of the brain-altering delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) chemical and compounds related to it (Balakrishnan 26). It can also be used to make extracts of THC for various purposes. Marijuana is probably the most widely used illicit drug in the United States (Balakrishnan 30). Medical Marijuana is a term used to refer to the utilization of the cannabis plant or the essential extracts acquired from it for the treatment of certain symptoms. The marijuana plant has not been fully approved or recognized as a medicinal drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (Berlatsky 27). Scientific research on some of the chemicals in marijuana has nonetheless led to the FDA approving two medications containing the marijuana chemicals. The two approved drugs are in pill form and contain the required amount of cannabinoid chemicals. More research on the medicinal value of the plant is still ongoing, and these may result in more medications from the FDA. The paper here in looks into the pros and cons of medicinal marijuana.
Due to the ability of the chemicals in the Cannabis plant to treat some conditions, there has been a continuous public support for its legalization for medical purposes. A growing number of states have in fact legalized its use as medicine, California was the first of them (Berlatsky 32). These states have passed laws safeguarding usage of the drug for purposes of treatment. However, these state laws legalizing Marijuana do not alter the fact that Marijuana use, according to the Federal Law, remains an offense. The legislations do not change the process by which the FDA approves safe and powerful medicine either. Different states implement the state laws governing the medicinal use of marijuana in unique ways. Many states continually have debates over the legality, efficacy, and safety of their laws on marijuana. Some governments even go as far as creating enforcement regulations and zoning to prevent marijuana clinics from operating within their societies (Berlatsky 40). Important to note, is the fact that Marijuana has been determined to be a hazardous drug by the Congress (Berlatsky 47). The illicit sale and distribution of Marijuana are, therefore, a serious offense as far as the Congress is concerned.
The department of justice, on August 29, 2013, issued guidelines on the Federal prosecutions regarding Marijuana (Borglet 33). These roadmaps are now available on the department’s website and give further detail (Borglet 36). Most of the Marijuana retailed as medicine has similar qualities and pose the same health hazards as the typical marijuana traded on the streets. The particular interest in the Marijuana chemicals for the treatment of certain conditions has, however, led scientists to breed the marijuana plant in a special way. The reproduced plants have since been used to make the marijuana cannabinoids in oil form that is then used to treat certain conditions. The cannabinoids are marijuana chemicals related to THC; more than 100 cannabinoids exist within every marijuana plant (Donatelle 24). For those who use marijuana for recreational purposes, these drugs may be undesirable since they are not as intoxicating as the green ones. However, some illegal manufacturers, as well as scientists, have come up with different types of cannabinoids in the lab 22). Some of these are exceptionally powerful and have led to serious health effects when improperly used. Other than the plant, the body has also been discovered to produce its cannabinoids that aid in certain body functions 30). These functions are like memory, concentration, thinking, pressure regulation, body movements, and senses. No matter how good the drug might be regarding its medicinal properties, a lot of concerns have been raised about its clinical usage. These concerns are majorly due to the various scientific findings on the effects of using this drug whether for recreation or treatment. Growing evidence exists about the severe mental health complications brought about by the use of marijuana. A major study published in the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings of August 2012 provides evidence that the long-term use of marijuana adversely affects the brain (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). The study reveals that the drug detrimentally affects the intellectual function of adults especially those who started using it during their teen years. The impairment kept increasing with increasing dependency on the drug according to the study. Participants who started the use during their teens and went on to adulthood showed a notable decline in their intelligence quotient (IQ) (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). Even after quitting smoking, the neuropsychological deficits were never recovered amongst the long-term users (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.).
Those who never used cannabis showed no significant decline in their IQ (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). Another study by doctors at the Harvard Medical School and the Northwestern University revealed that brain regions might differ in shape and size due to the usage of marijuana (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). The parts involved in emotion and motivation took a different shape and size in the brains of the people who used marijuana not less than once weekly (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). The findings of this research indicate that recreational use of marijuana can lead to previously unknown brain changes in the user. The study strongly challenges the notion that the casual use of marijuana does not have detrimental consequences.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded a study on the usage of drugs carried out by researchers from the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the Maryland University (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). The study discovered that one in every ten college students in their first year at a mid-Atlantic college had a cannabis use disorder (CUD) (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). Students who had used marijuana at least five times in the previous year, regardless of whether they met the CUD threshold, recounted problems concerning the cannabis use. 25 percent of them reported having put themselves in physical danger more than once (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). 40 percent mentioned reduced concentration levels and 18 percent recounted drugged driving (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). A report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONCPD) about marijuana use and depressions amongst teens revealed that depressed teenagers are twice more likely to use marijuana. The research also discovered that using marijuana could worsen depression as most of the teens reported increased depression upon continuous use of marijuana. The increased depression could lead to anxiety disorders, schizophrenia or even suicide.
The University of Otago New Zealand school of dentistry carried out a long-term study on more than 900 of the country’s citizens (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). This study found that heavy smoking of marijuana contributes to gum diseases as well as the commonly known effects of smoking tobacco. Canadian researchers in December 2007 reported that marijuana smoke contains more toxic substances than the tobacco smoke (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). A New Zealand study reported that marijuana smoking may account for approximately 5 percent of lung cancer incidences in the country (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). Frequent or prolonged use of marijuana was also found to amplify substantially, a person’s risk of developing serious cancer of the testis, seminoma. Seminoma is a rapidly growing malignancy in the testis that often strikes between the ages of 20 and 35 (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). Besides this, marijuana smoking has been discovered to have a close correlation to bladder cancer. While studying younger patients with common bladder cancer, Dr. Terriss discovered that 88 percent of them had a history of smoking marijuana (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). Smoke from marijuana cigarettes has similar substance containing tar and gets more into the blood than tobacco (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). This fact arises from the knowledge that marijuana cigarettes do not have filters, and users hold the smoke in their lungs for long. While acknowledging the fact that more research on this subject is necessary, Dr. Terriss recommended that doctors investigate marijuana in young patients with traces of blood in their urine (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.).
In conclusion, medical marijuana has been assessed for many varied purposes. Registrants of medical cannabis use it mostly for everyday pains and muscle spasms (“Science of Marijuana” n.pag.). Records have it that marijuana can be very effective for such conditions, especially where regular therapy has failed. The use of marijuana is, however, not always advisable due to the numerous effects on the human systems discussed in this paper. Great caution, should, therefore, be observed while administering treatment using medicinal marijuana, just as is observed with many other medications. Patients using the medical marijuana should ensure it is kept safely away from children’s reach. To sum it all up, while using marijuana for medicinal purposes, one needs to observe caution with the dosage, storage, and disposal.
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Balakrishnan, N. (2010). “Methods of statistics in the life and health sciences.” Hoboken: Wiley.
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Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The Basics (8th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson/Benjamin Cummings
The Science of Marijuana. (2007). Oxford Scholarship Online.