Pain Goes Up in Smoke

What if marijuana wasn’t marijuana? I mean what if it didn’t have associations with dime bags, wet towels under the door, people going to jail, and lest we forget, Woodstock Nation? What if it was a drug that originally was meant to help blood clot, but some pharmaceutical company accidentally discovered that it was a great way to treat pain, cancer and a host of other illnesses?

That would take a mighty big rewind button. Despite all the studies that show it to be medically valuable, the politics of marijuana are such that no elected official will touch this other high voltage third rail. Not only that, the FDA issued an official pronouncement that smoked marijuana has no accepted medical use in treatment.

marijuanapkgWeird – because cannabis has been around for a few centuries and there are plenty of studies that show it to be useful, even when smoked. Is the smoke harmful the way tobacco is? Yes, but maybe the benefits outweigh that risk for someone suffering from cancer or multiple sclerosis. Enhancing appetite and suppressing nausea are just two practical benefits, particularly to patients undergoing chemotherapy. Weird also since the FDA has approved an orally ingested synthetic version of the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that’s in marijuana. The only problem is that patients who use it say it’s not as effective as smoking the real thing – nor is it as cheap!

Medical researchers in the know say that cannabis could potentially have dozens of legitimate uses, and the only way to find that out is to grow it and test it. But here again the politicians have put up a roadblock. The Drug Enforcement Agency won’t give research facilities the license they would need to grow cannabis. Politics trumps medical science every time, whether it’s stem cell research or medical marijuana.

But once you leave our borders, there is a lot of valuable research taking place, in Canada and Europe. One drug, Sativex, is an climberextract of cannabis that has been approved for the treatment of neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis patients. The drug will also undergo clinical trials in Britain and Spain, possibly for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The British firm that developed the drug is even trying to get our FDA to approve clinical trials in this country – but don’t hold your breath.

It looks like it will take some time before the pendulum swings back toward trusting the scientific community to make qualified judgments about what is good for our health and how best to get there. Who knows, maybe it will be just in time for us to finally have affordable and universal health care coverage for every U.S. resident.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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