Medical consumption of cannabis has been traced back to more than two millennia ago where ancient societies would use it to alleviate diverse conditions. In recent times, research has shown that these ancient societies prescription of Marijuana as Cannabis is normally known were not farfetched and in fact have some basis in science and medicine. Researchers have gone ahead and recommended the prescription of Marijuana for various ailments and conditions and insist that medicinal marijuana is and should be treated just like any other prescription drug. Though those against the legalization of marijuana point to the fact that it is highly addictive, this can be countered with the fact that many other clinically recommended medications also exhibit high dependency within a short duration. It should also be noted that use of any drug for with the aim of pure enjoyment, recreation or just for the sake of using is what should be termed as abusing the product and not consumption aimed at alleviating a discomfort or some sort of suffering, in this regard it should be noted that the aim of this paper is to provide an argument for the legalization of controlled and doctor prescribed use of marijuana.
Composition and pharmacology
Cannabis is known to have four hundred and eighty three (483) compounds, of these at least 80 are known as cannabinoids which form medical basis and scientific use of marijuana, they can act as stimulators for appetite or as antispasmodics or antiemetic and have been shown to exhibit some analgesic effects, these cannabinoids can be broken down to individual compounds and their functions but that is beyond the scope of this paper. Of importance is to note that research has shown that Tetrahydrocannabiol; which primarily is the compound mostly associated with marijuana’s psychoactive effects and which is an analgesic (Mild one), exhibits antioxidant properties and it is known that it is normally associated with brain parts that control or play a part in memory regulation, sleep and pain receptors.
The Federal Drug Agency of the USA has licensed various extracts containing cannabinoids for use as therapies prominent among this is Cannasol indicated for usage by patients suffering from Glaucoma and mostly those in the late – stage, it is widely regarded as the pioneer of cannabis related drugs engineered for the mainstream market and among the few of the initial ones to gain legality in the American market. Others include Dronabiol(Marinol), Sativex and Nabilone (Joy, et al, 1999). The modes of application range from oral to sprays and the drugs are mostly recommended as adjunctive therapy. The indications are for a wide range of ailments from chemotherapy associated nausea, pressure in the intraocular cortex associated with glaucoma in the late stage, aids related anorexia and multiple sclerosis associated neuropathic pain.
When applied under the supervision of qualified medical personnel, cannabis has been shown to provide relief for various symptoms associated with serious medical conditions. An example that clearly stands out is when used by patients undergoing cancer treatment and have been put under the chemotherapy regime and those suffering from AIDS; it has been shown to relieve nausea and reduces instances of vomiting thus aiding in recuperation. In other instances, patients suffering from anorexia have reported increased levels of appetite with usage of marijuana. A study conducted on patients suffering from a very painful condition which makes patients feel like their extremities ( hands and legs) are on fire and/or are being repeatedly pierced with a razors or being probed with a needle and which doctors commonly refer to as peripheral neuropathy showed remarkable results. Published in Journal neurology, this study by doctors from UCLA San Francisco established the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in treating this condition and easing the suffering undergone by the patients (Merino, 2011). These patients who were mostly suffering from diseases like HIV/AIDS, diabetes and Multiple sclerosis and who had tried other conventional solutions for the pain reported more than 30% incidence of pain reduction with the use of marijuana and this level to many of them translates to a quality of life that is bearable. It is important to note that this was a test carried out by government licensed medics who used laid out designs for controlled trials. In other published studies, it has been evidenced that patients who smoke cannabis and use medication provided by doctors for certain ailments with the aim of having the marijuana help in alleviating the side effects that come with the application of the drugs in their prescriptions have a higher incidence of dosage completion and this in many cases has a direct bearing on their cure rate. This test carried out on patients on the treatment regime for Hepatitis C Virus which is known to induce nausea, vomiting and lots of other side effects which are noxious (Joy, et al, 1999).
It is worth noting that all presently available analgesics exhibit limited efficacy where some types of pains are concerned and these limitations are sometimes caused by limitations of dosage amounts due to side effects and others due to the tendency to build tolerance or dependency. In these circumstances and others such as, existence of a medical status for which it has been proved more viable than any other medication available presently or where its desirability is increased due to its character of being a broad spectrum clinically efficient medication, a cannabinoids based analgesic is broadly recommended. Cannabinoids can also be preferred owing to their matchless profile of side effects and the facts that it generates interactions with a synergistic bearing when used with complementary analgesics and in an interesting clinical situations, the ‘side – effects’ associated with marijuana have been found to be desirable and/or useful.
Another important point to note is that whereas mainstream analgesics based on opiates examples being codeine and opiates are quick to build tolerance, it has been proved that cannabinoids efficacy tends to be increased with increased tolerance to these opiates (Earleywine, 2007).
Cannabis can be indicated for the treatment of migraines which is an extreme headache that sometimes lasts for hours on end and will sometimes cause disturbance in visual capabilities as well as nausea accompanied by vomiting. It is usually a recurrent condition caused by stressful environs in all aspects of stress e.g. varying lighting, noise related pollution etc. Dr. J.B. Mattison all the way in 1891 observed that among the major most applications of cannabis was in the treatment of migraines, this was after a review of his personal experience as well as that of his earlier compatriots in the medical practice. He also came to the conclusion that not only did cannabis block the resultant pain but was also important in blocking an attack, a view later supported by physicians in the 20th century. Individuals who have used and experimented with both cannabis and migraines tend to insinuate that a little marijuana smoked just when the early warning symptoms of a migraine attack start manifesting themselves is enough to halt the progress of the attack (Gerber, 2004).
Another condition for which cannabinoids can be prescribed is multiple Sclerosis (MS). This is a condition in which normal operations of the brain and the Central Nervous System become disrupted mostly due to unnatural activity in the immune system, attacks which are very debilitating lasting up to three weeks occur and disappear in an inexplicable manner gradually deteriorating into disability eventually. Due to its attack on the Central Nervous System, the effects are not localized and will be evidenced on any body part during any single attack. Patients will mostly complain of a tingling sensation accompanied by numbness and impaired vision. Speech becomes difficult, muscles start to uncontrollably spasm and balance and movement control becomes inhibited, fatigue ensues and with lost control of the bladder comes Urinary tract infections and ulceration of the skin and constipation (Merino, 2011). Like most patients, depression is a natural prologue to attacks and this is compounded by the fact that there is no cure known to man to date. Studies on animals have shown that there is a high concentration of cannabinoids receptors in the motor sensors of the brain that are tasked with the control of movement pointing to the possibility of marijuana may possess anti spastic capabilities. Indeed, it looks like marijuana produces an awe inspiring effect on the symptoms that arise with MS; it has been reported to improve control of the bladder, movement of the bowels, diminished spasms and tremors of the muscles. Patients have also claimed to have gotten better balance control and restoration of speech capabilities. Due to reports that some patients who were earlier wheel chair bound could walk unaided after inhaling cannabis, it is now a widely held belief that cannabis can even hold down the advancement of Multiple Sclerosis. A committee formed in the House of lords in Britain to investigate these claims as made by the MS society came up with the conclusion that more than 4% of the society’s members had significant use of Marijuana to alleviate the disease’s symptoms and the committee’s chairman in the report pointed out that they encountered sufficient ground to warrant doctors to in a legitimate method advise a patient to use cannabis and went on to point that mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that the penal code does not act as a stumbling block. The British Medical Association concurs and holds a view that synthetic extracts of cannabis like Dronabibol and Nabilone be given official consent for prescription to Multiple Sclerosis patients (Earleywine, 2007).
Among the oldest uses of cannabis was in alleviating the symptoms associated with Menstruation commonly referred to as the Pre Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) and during the pain associated with labour. It was so much widespread knowledge that even Queen Victoria herself had a prescription from J.R. Reynolds, her physician. Modern day supporters point that even though a fear has gripped society against drug use by pregnant women due to inherent harm to the unborn, cannabis increases the appetite for the women suffering from nausea as a result of pregnancy.
Marijuana has also been proved to increase appetite and helping rebuild the bodies of AIDS sufferers who have progressed to the wasting stage that is evidenced by loss of body mass, it also helps alleviate the side effects of the mainstream anti retroviral drugs. Epileptics have also benefited from the anti – spasm properties linked to cannabinoids. Other diseases, conditions and ailments for which cannabinoids have been indicated include but are not limited to Glaucoma, Chronic or Acute pain and Side effects of chemo and radiotherapy for cancer victims (Joy, et al, 1999).
Those opposed to Marijuana as a medical prescription often point to factors which in most cases can be pointed out in other abuse of prescription drugs and also in correct usage of most drugs with cannabinoids like properties. They often point out that short term memory may be impaired seriously and that cognitive capabilities are diminished with continued usage but these are side effects associated with most other recreational and non recreational drug-like compounds. They also point out that smoking Marijuana may seriously jeopardize normal lung functioning and that cancer causing properties have been discovered in Marijuana Smoke but fail to point out that any smoke is bound to have similar results and that other means or avenues exist through which marijuana can be safely consumed. They also insist on the addictive risk inherent in Marijuana but as pointed out earlier other analgesics that are as addictive as if not more than cannabis exists and an example that easily stands out are opiates (Earleywine, 2007). Drug use in pregnant woman is an issue that elicits so much uproar in society but critics fail to point out that the benefits that a pregnant mother who has regular bouts of nausea may get from induced appetite from cannabinoids would probably by far outrank the associated risks.
Cannabis may face stiff competition in terms of how efficient it is but as observed by the Institute of Medicine, whether cannabinoids extracts and cannabis are of a superior nature as opposed to other drugs in the same sector is a non-issue, the pertinent question is if there exists a group of whose utility in terms of superior relief can be improved by use of marijuana and cannabis based treatments.
Chapkis, W, and Richard J. Webb. Dying to Get High: Marijuana As Medicine. New York: New York University Press, 2008. Print.
Earleywine, Mitchell. Pot Politics: Marijuana and the Costs of Prohibition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Gerber, Rudolph J. Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2004. Print.
Joy, Janet E, Stanley J. Watson, and John A. Benson. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press, 1999. Internet resource.
Merino, Noël. Medical Marijuana. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011. Print.