Written by: Brandi Monasco
29 US States have legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal use. And although cannabis has been legalized in these states for medical purposes, there are still many people who are skeptical about the benefits of using cannabis medicinally. In fact, many of these people include doctors from various areas of medicine as well as medical organizations and government officials.
Pros And Cons Of Cannabis Usage (Based On Scientific Perspectives)
1. Physician Perspectives
Pro: According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a Medical Correspondent for CNN, there is promising research that states that cannabis could help children and adults with different types of medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and epilepsy. He also states that cannabis could reduce pain and reduce the demand for narcotics.
“Marijuana is a medicine, that should be studied and treated like any other medicine.”
Con: Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the Former President of the ASAM Board of Directors, believes that there is no such thing as medical marijuana and that there are more dangers and risks of using marijuana than there are benefits.
He believes that the risks and negative outcomes of using medical marijuana include loss of productivity, addiction to marijuana, vehicle accidents and psychosis. He also believes that there are more safe medications compared to marijuana.
2. Medical Organizations
Pro: The American College of Physicians believes that since there is scientific evidence for the use and safety of medical marijuana in some clinical conditions, that marijuana’s status should be rescheduled from a schedule 1 controlled substance to a more appropriate schedule.
The ACP also urges that anyone who is using marijuana for medicinal purposes should be protected from criminal or civil penalties.
Con: The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not believe that using marijuana or cannabis products for glaucoma is beneficial, nor do they recommend it. They have found that based on reviews provided by the National Eye Institute and the Institute of Medicine, smoking marijuana produces serious side effects such as an increase in heart rate and a decrease in blood pressure.
The concern is that when blood pressure is decreased, there will be long-term effects on the optic nerve in glaucoma patients.
3. US Government Officials
Pro: Former President Barack Obama states that prescribing medical marijuana as treatment for cancer or glaucoma is no different than prescribing morphine. He also goes on to state that he believes that medical marijuana should be under the same control as other prescription drugs that are prescribed by doctors.
Con: The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has another outlook on medical marijuana. They do not support the legalization of medical marijuana and how it is listed as a schedule 1 Controlled Substance, because marijuana has a high potential for abuse and there are no sound scientific studies that support marijuana in treatment of diseases or illnesses.
4. Health Risks
Pro: Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, believes that there is little evidence that says that smoking marijuana causes any significant health risk. He also goes on to say that cannabis has been smoked for more than four decades and there have not been any reported cases of lung cancer or emphysema that have been caused by smoking cannabis.
Con: The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that marijuana smoke is an irritant to your lungs and throat just like tobacco smoke and that it can cause a heavy cough during use. The NIDA goes on to state that smoking marijuana can increase respiratory infections and that frequent marijuana users use more sick days from work because of increased respiratory illnesses.
5. More Physician Perspectives
Pro: Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California, states “Marijuana is the only anti-nausea medicine that increases appetite,” referring to cancer patients that deal with vomiting, nausea, pain, depression, insomnia and loss of appetite due to chemo and other cancer treatments.
Con: Dr. Bill Frist, who is a former US Senator, cautions against patients using marijuana for medical purposes simply due to “the lack of consistent, repeatable scientific data available to prove marijuana’s benefits.”
6. Marijuana And Pain
Pro: Cannabis contains roughly 5 to 15 percent of THC as well as other cannabinoids that can be therapeutic to the body. According to Dr. Gregory Carter, cannabis helps with pain and there is research that documents that cannabis is safe and efficient to use for pain.
Con: On the other hand, Dr. Gregory Bunt believes that there is no scientific evidence that using cannabis has any effect on relieving pain. However, he does go on to state that there have been analgesic medications that are available that have been found through research to help relieve pain and that are safer and more effective than cannabis.
7. Marijuana Vs. Marinol
Con: There is a synthetic version of cannabis called dronabinol which is one of the active ingredients found in cannabis. This version can be found in pill form. However, using only one ingredient from cannabis does not make dronabinol as effective as cannabis.
According to Mitch Earleywine, PhD, “Many ailments respond better to a combination of marijuana’s active ingredients rather than just one.” He also states that because dronabinol is only available in pill form, it can be hard for patients to swallow.
Con: The California Narcotics Officers Association has a different view on this matter. The association believes that Marinol differs from marijuana because it is FDA approved.
8. Addictiveness Of Marijuana
Pro: Dr. Colin Blakemore and Dr. Leslie Iversen believe that unlike hard drugs, alcohol and nicotine, an individual cannot have withdrawals from stopping the use of cannabis. They also state that many users stop taking cannabis in their twenties or thirties, unlike cigarette smokers.
Con: According to Dr. Nora Volkow, “Evidence clearly indicates that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction.” She also states that 9 percent of those who try marijuana become addicted to it. The addiction to marijuana can cause a withdrawal syndrome with irritability, sleeping difficulties, cravings and anxiety.
9. “Gateway” Effect
Pro: According to Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, the only connection between using marijuana and other drugs is the nature of the market, not necessarily the “high” of the drug. He also goes on to state that the majority of people who have never used or tried marijuana have gone to use other drugs.
Con: However, Dr. Robert DuPont points out that using marijuana is correlated to using other drugs as well as alcohol. “People who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin.”
Now, you decide. Do you think that using cannabis is safe and effective for medical reasons or do you oppose the use and legalization of it?
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Brandi Monasco is a freelance writer, graphic designer and social media manager from Texas. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts and has recently found a new love for health and nutrition.