Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical Marijuana Use Term Paper

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Medicinal Marijuana

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Medicinal Marijuana

The purpose of this paper is an evaluation of the advantages of medicinal consumption of marijuana compared with the disadvantages of consumption. There is a tremendous body of evidence in recent years supporting the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, particularly with regard to chronic pain treatment and treatment of certain central nervous system disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

Likewise however an equal number of researchers have continually pointed out the potential negative effects of marijuana use, whether for recreational, religious or medicinal purposes. It is unclear at this point in time whether the advantages of medicinal cannabis outweigh the disadvantages; one thing is clear: use of marijuana whether for medicinal purposes or otherwise is a highly controversial subject.

This study examines the most recent literature available on both sides of the issue, with the conclusion that marijuana will need to be studied more comprehensively in the long-term before health care agents and government officials are likely to approve widespread use of cannabis as a medication.

Introduction

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Since the dawn of time health care representatives have been using cannabis to treat a variety of ailments and chronic diseases. Much like any natural form of therapy or herb, medical literature has documented the use of cannabis to treat a variety of orders varying from mild to moderate in nature. There is even some evidence suggesting that marijuana may improve one's cognitive and mental ability, despite modern reports that it might do otherwise.

Term Paper on Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical Marijuana Use Assignment

The use of marijuana is however at best a controversial issue. As with any drug, prescription or otherwise, there are advantages and disadvantages to using it. Some of the more common disadvantages cited with use of medicinal marijuana include the potential for addiction and withdrawal symptoms with prolonged or even short-term use. There are those however that believe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and vice versa.

The purpose of this study is an examination of the exact advantages of cannabis use compared with the disadvantages, in an attempt to discern whether or not the benefits of cannabis use outweigh the risk.

Background to the Problem

Marijuana has been a subject of controversy for some time, but particularly since people have been taking an active interest in using marijuana for medicinal purposes. The federal government has long been opposed to the use of marijuana for any purposes, whether medicinal or otherwise. Some states however, are beginning to recognize the potential merits of medicinal marijuana.

In November of 1996 California voters passed what is known as the Compassionate Use Act, which "permits the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician (Christenson, 174). Federal law however prohibits physicians from prescribing cannabis to any patients, and suggested that is should only be obtained legally through "strictly controlled, federally approved research programs" (Christenson, 174).

For physicians to prescribe the drug in California, they must first acquire a registration from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) (Christenson, 174).

Shortly after this act was passed the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy responded indicating that recommending use of marijuana was "not consistent with public interest" and may result in revocation of a prescribing physician's registration (Christenson, 174). Herein lies the debate. Do the benefits of medicinal marijuana outweigh the potential risks, and if so should Congress pass a federal bill allowing marijuana to be legalized?

This is a debate that has continued for some time. One thing is certain, further research is necessary before consumers, health care representatives and government officials are able to make a clear decision one way or another.

The purpose of this paper is to identify what specifically the advantages of medicinal marijuana are compared with the disadvantages, so that individuals may make a clear decision for themselves regarding the efficacy or potential harm of medicinal cannabis use.

Advantages Medical Marijuana

There are a variety of benefits associated with the medicinal use of marijuana. Smoked cannabis can "clearly help alleviate some medical problems" according to a large body of research, and typically costs far less than other more intensive therapies (Earleywine, 167). This is part of the reason that healthcare providers are starting to view marijuana as a potential treatment for a variety of disorders. Some of the disorders that are currently under consideration for treatment with medicinal marijuana include chronic pain, cancer, HIV and central nervous system disorders (Earleywine, 167).

As mentioned cannabis is a consideration for many because of its low expense. In fact, cannabis may be one of the least expensive drugs to produce and manufacture as well as supply clients. This is perhaps the single biggest benefit of the drug. However this is also a concern for legislators that are aware that marijuana is so easy to manufacture that independent citizens can literally grow it in their back yard (Earleywine, 167). In fact, if marijuana is one of the few drugs that few people understand the need for regulation and prescription use of (Earleywine, 167).

Historically private citizens and healthcare representatives have used cannabis for centuries particularly for the treatment of chronic illnesses. Cannabis has in fact been used dating as early as 2737 B.C. when it was used by Shen Neng, a Chinese emperor and pharmacologist to treat al manner of disorders including gout, malaria, beriberi and even memory problems (Earleywine, 168).

Historically marijuana has been used the world over to help reduce pain and other illnesses. It is most well noted for its ability to modify pain receptors and reduce chronic pain in patients suffering from this debilitating condition (Earleywine, 168). Chronic pain has historically been one of the most difficult illnesses to treat, because very often the exact cause of pain in a patient cannot be determined; this is why modern prescription drug therapy has so often failed patients with chronic pain (Earleywine, 168). Opponents of medicinal cannabis use may argue that the substance is addictive and may result in withdrawal symptoms, however the majority of medications currently available to treat this condition and other debilitating conditions resulting in pain are also highly addictive and have numerous side effects.

In modern times a majority of the studies that have shown the advantages of medicinal cannabis have focused on the potential anti-nausea, pain relieving and muscle relaxing effects marijuana has on the body (Earleywine, 167). Most studies that examine these effects find that cannabis use has a positive effect on patients, with few if any adverse side effects aside from a slight high in some patients. May patients report that this is a welcome side effect compared with some of the more severe side effects of traditional therapies, which may include headaches, vomiting, slurring, physical disorders and other impairments (O'Brien, 11).

Perhaps the largest problem opponents have with medicinal cannabis use is the fact that many of these side effects are cognitively oriented, or rather relate to ones mental efficacy and well being (O'Brien, 11). However an equal number of advocates will argue that these 'adverse' effects are in fact no more severe than a person having a glass of beer (O'Brien, 11).

There are some cases where marijuana may help a patients realize a reduction in troubling symptoms when other medications fail. This was exemplified by a case reported in May of 2001, when a seven-year-old boy who had been hyperactive and aggressive his entire life was medicated with marijuana. Previous to this the body had been diagnosed with numerous disorders including post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and impulse control disorder.

The drugs the boy had been on included Ritalin, Dexedrine, adderall, depakote, thioridazine and tegretol to name a few. The young boy had slobbered, been unable to walk and slurred his speech due to overmedicated, and hospitalized more than 3 times. The mother began delivering a dose of marijuana to the boy in a muffin twice per day, under the guidance of the boy's pediatrician. Thus far the results have been positive, with the boys behavior completely turning around (O'Brien, 11).

Many have argued the risks associated with cannabis use are similar if not less than the risks associated with prescription drug use in many cases (O'Brien, 11). For that reason alone many argue that marijuana is advantageous. Why wouldn't a physician choose to use a medication that might offer extreme benefits without the potential serious adverse effects of some other well-known medications? This seems to be the biggest benefit marijuana has to offer, not to mention it is relatively easy to manufacture and considered relatively low cost to produce (O'Brien, 11).

Pryce & Baker (2005) point out that the use of marijuana for numerous conditions has been well documented for thousands of years. Their studies suggest that abundant experimental data "have reinforced the anecdotal claims of people who perceive medicinal benefit from use of cannabis" (273). Further they suggest that discovery of endogenous system of receptors and ligands for cannabis supports the use of cannabis as a treatment for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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