Medical Marijuana – a Dopey Idea?
As long as humans have suffered from ailments, medicine has sought treatments. To attempt to alleviate suffering is a mark of the better face of humanity, or at least recognition that we all, at one time or another, are subject to illnesses that need relief. Hence, maladies are markers of our shared condition and an opportunity for our better qualities to find expression.
The search for healing has taken many turns down the centuries, and along the way there have been good and bad treatments, effective ones, futile ones, burdensome ones, ‘miraculous’ ones, deceptive ones and downright dangerous ones. Just as humans can act wisely or foolishly, so treatments have been wisely or foolishly developed and employed. And noble motives are no guarantee that genuinely good treatments will be used.
As the scientific enterprise has grown and understanding of human biology advanced, so has our understanding of the biological basis of medicine. While our knowledge is far from complete, modern medicine now has an impressive array of treatments, and in many cases cures. There will always be mistakes, more inquiry, refinement, and new discoveries, but the general trend is moving forwards with hope for improvements and new ways of alleviating human suffering.
….. It is also important to note that the intrinsic harm of addiction makes all the difference. Substances with addictive potential are categorically unique and add a problematic dimension that must be taken into proper account when considering any possible therapeutic effect.
…. Is Marijuana Medicine?
If marijuana has medicinal value, the first question to be asked is, “In what form might it have medicinal value?”
The modern scientific approach to medicines typically follows a path of inquiry directed towards obtaining the most beneficial form of a medicine to treat a specified condition. For example, while opium has been recognised for its medicinal value for many centuries, the active ingredients codeine and morphine have now been extracted and subjected to extensive research and analysis over many years. We now have both in various formulations with known dosage and purity, a body of information on side-effects, known indications and contraindications, knowledge of therapeutic targets, patient populations for whom treatment is appropriate, and knowledge of abuse potential. No medical authority would ever prescribe or even recommend smoking opium, not only because of the availability of formulations of active ingredients which are superior, but also because of the harm of smoking as a delivery system.
… Dronabinol was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1985 for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS-related wasting, and although proven effective, both dronabinol and nabilone have not become the mainstays of treatment mainly because of their side effects, which include sedation, anxiety, dizziness, euphoria/dysphoria and hypotension, as well as the presence of superior alternatives. Dronabinol and nabilone have also been shown to produce symptomatic relief of neuropathic pain and the spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. However, whilst patients report alleviation of spasticity, measures of objective changes are mixed. In a recent study by Kraft and co-workers, an orally administered extract of cannabis containing mainly THC was found to have no beneficial impact on acute pain and may possibly have enhanced pain sensation. This study highlights not only the complex nature of pain itself, but also the importance of identifying specific therapeutic contexts in which THC may or may not be useful.
… Similarly, the FDA has stated, No sound scientific studies supported the medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use. There are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana.
… It is not surprising that other peak organisations like the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Glaucoma Foundation, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Society of Addiction Medicine all support the FDA approval process and have expressed either opposition to or concern over the use of smoked marijuana as a therapeutic product.
… Groups like the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have been agitating for medical marijuana for a long time, as has the Drug Policy Alliance. However, particular individuals have also put in considerable funds. These include billionaire financier George Soros and insurance magnate Peter Lewis. It is estimated that Lewis alone has spent between $40 and $60 million on medical marijuana initiatives since the early 80s. Soros-watcher Rachel Ehrenfeld has described the Soros strategy as set forth to pro-legalisation group Drug Policy Foundation in the early nineties: .. in 1993 Soros gave DPF a “set of suggestions to follow if they wanted his assistance: Come up with an approach that emphasizes `treatment and humanitarian endeavors,’ he said … target a few winnable issues, like medical marijuana and the repeal of mandatory minimums.” Apparently, they took his advice.