Medical Marijuana

by | Nov 1, 2012 | Features

Story by Dr. David Bachman

Marijuana, derived from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, is the most frequently used illegal drug in the United Sates – about 4% of adults smoke pot at least once a year.
Although most people smoke the plant’s dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds, it can also be mixed into food or brewed as a tea.
According to a recent government survey as many as 30% of today’s teenagers are smoking marijuana.
Occasional smoking of marijuana rarely is seriously harmful, but regular smoking has important medical problems.
THC is the active ingredient in marijuana – it is rapidly absorbed from smoking pot – within minutes short term memory medical effects are evident:
Rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased rate of breathing, red eyes, dry mouth, increased appetite and slowed reaction lime.
The above effects are reduced after three to four hours; however, marijuana hangs around in your system for as long as a month after smoking. The lingering effects mean you are impaired for several days to weeks after the high wears off.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the main effects of marijuana on mood vary and may include euphoria, calmness, anxiety or paranoia. Getting high or “stoned” is the reason most pot smokers use marijuana.

Distorted sense of time, anxiety and depression or random thinking is other short-term effects of the drug.
The risks of smoking marijuana go up with heavy use – many experts, though it has never been proven, believe heavy pot smokers are at increased risk for lung cancer. The effects of smoking marijuana and its relation with testicular cancer have been studied by Victor Cortessis, M.D., assistant professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California Medical School.
He found the incidence of testicular cancer doubled with the use of smoked marijuana and the resultant cancers grew more rapidly and were harder to treat.
Heavy marijuana use lowers men’s testosterone levels, sperm count and quality as well as decreasing libido and fertility. Many experts feel marijuana is physically addictive.
Symptoms of withdrawal include aggression, depressed mood, anxiety and decreased appetite.
The jury still is out whether marijuana is a “gateway” drug to hard (cocaine, heroin) drug use.
Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana, according to many experts, has many medical uses – increases appetite while decreasing nausea and vomiting (as is often seen in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.) It is believed to work against pain and may be synergistic with pain medications, helps people sleep, and improve mood.
The use of medical marijuana does not cure disease.
Patients worldwide have used it to relieve a variety of symptoms including increased ocular pressure from glaucoma, relieve pain and muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis, reverses weight loss and decreased appetite in HIV (AIDS and cancer patients, and relieves pain from peripheral neuropathy.
Using marijuana to lower ocular pressure in glaucoma is a poor substitute for current medicines – one must smoke a “joint” every three hours to have any effect, and that effect is less than current medicines provide.
Migraine Headaches
Few recent medical studies have been done attesting to the use of migraine headaches with marijuana; however, studies done in the past report success in using marijuana in treating this painful malady – as well as using it to prevent a migraine headache.

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