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Why Medical Marijuana Is Not a Good Substitute for Pain Medication

About Medical Marijuana

In recent years, the push to legalize the growth and consumption of marijuana has been backed by those who believe it holds the key to treatment of a variety of disorders, from seizures to PTSD to chronic pain. You may have read news articles or seen videos that tell stories of people whose lives have been improved drastically since beginning to use marijuana for treatment. These stories provide hope for people with these conditions, who often relocate themselves to states where medical marijuana is legal in hopes of finding a cure for their pain.

What We Know

The excitement around medical marijuana is not completely unfounded. Anecdotal evidence shows that it does have the potential to be a strong, versatile treatment for a number of debilitating conditions. Unfortunately, this alone does not make it a good choice. Anecdotal evidence does not mean that it will hold up under clinical trials, and the questionable legality of the drug means that there are no standardized regulations in place for the industry. Marijuana continues to be illegal on a federal level, so individual states are responsible for deciding whether to legalize it and how to regulate medical marijuana. Some states require it to be sold in the form of cannabis oil at varying levels of potency, while others allow it to be sold as a plant with low THC levels, allowing patients to smoke it.

Risks

The fact that marijuana remains illegal federally means that buying and using it will always carry some legal risk. Even if you live in a state where it is legal, the federal government could overrule that legal status at any time and cut off access to the treatments. Federally approved pain medication is not in such a precarious position. Since individual states have their own, differing regulations, it is highly difficult to make sure that the dosage of cannabis is standardized. This can cause it to have unpredictable effects on the body. In addition, taking medical marijuana by smoking the plant is dangerous, as it brings potentially toxic chemicals into the lungs along with cannabis smoke. The future of medical marijuana is uncertain. It may become a safe option if stricter regulations are implemented on a federal level, following controlled research about its effectiveness and interaction with other medications. Currently, prescribed pain medications are causing addiction and the need for treatment is higher.

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Drugs and Politics – Do They Mix?

drug policyFresh off the completion of the national conventions held for both of the major political parties in the United States, among all of the chaos and rhetoric of conflicting party politics, were groups trying to gain legislative support for their causes. Interestingly, these included both an addiction caucus as well as the pro-marijuana movement.

The non-profit organization called Facing Addiction sponsored wellness rooms at both the Republican and Democratic conventions, indicating that treating and preventing addiction is one of the few common goals of the parties. This past week in Philadelphia, Facing Addiction co-founder Jim Hood told a crowd of supporters, “My oldest boy started drinking at 14, marijuana at 15 and pills at 16. It went on many years. When he had a fatal overdose before he turned 21, it was soul-crushing. I said, ‘Why the hell was it so hard to get trusted help for somebody who’s sick?'”

Meanwhile, despite marijuana being part of the problem when it comes to developing substance abuse issues in teens and young adults, the pro-pot movement also made its presence known. Led by groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project, these cannabis activists are pushing on two issues, revenue through taxation and personal choice of a substance that is arguably less harmful than others. However, despite the fact that these activists can lobby legislators with the dollar signs of a growing multi-billion-dollar industry, the bigger picture of the damage caused to youth is often ignored.

Such is the landscape of the drug and alcohol industry and the addiction treatment and prevention field – opposing views that cannot function without the other. If nothing else, these signs are a clear indication that the subject of drugs and addiction must be part of today’s political landscape.

In the treatment and recovery field, we certainly hope that more legislators focus on how to help prevent substance abuse and provide help for those who get caught in the trap of addiction. The more funding for research and rehabilitation the more we can cut down the demand for such substances, and the less the legal and illicit drug trade will continue to profit off the downfall of others.

Study Shows Verbal Memory Loss in Marijuana Users

Smoking MarijuanaPrior to marijuana being legalized for recreational use in some states, there were not many studies on the long-term effects drug. Researchers didn’t have enough evidence to know exactly what kind of adverse effects there were, nor how severe they might be. However, in the past few years there have been more studies commissioned, and some others that were initiated a long time ago that are now starting to yield some results.

One such study on marijuana users was recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine that shows that 50% of participants had difficulty with verbal memory loss when compared with non-users. Researchers warn that while this may not seem insignificant at first, it is actually dangerous and very telling as to what sort of damage marijuana can produce over time.

The researchers came up with results after analyzing data taken from over 3,300 people who had agreed to be monitored for a period of 25 years, as part of a long term study called the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA). All participants in the study were between the ages of 18 and 30 years old when it started. As part of the study, participants were asked about their marijuana use, and approximately 84% had smoked marijuana at some point within the 25 years.

Now that the laws regarding marijuana use have lightened significantly in some areas, it is likely that more and more people are using the drug, or are at least more willing to discuss their marijuana use openly. Researchers are quickly implementing studies that use these marijuana users as subjects to help determine what other public health risks are involved with the drug. Of particular interest is not just the effects of chronic, daily marijuana use, but the damage caused to developing adolescent and young adult brains. The fact that moderate use over a period of time still yielded noticeable cognitive impairment long after participants stopped using the drug should serve as a clear warning sign for people.

Despite the growing acceptance of the drug in some areas, researchers and clinicians alike continue to caution people against using the drug – warning them of both the immediate and long-term damage that can be caused.