In today’s pharmaceutical world, there are treatments that are used to cure diseases, prescriptions able to alleviate pain, and over-the-counter drugs that claim to be able to control and treat an issue someone may be having. Yet with everything they have, the cost to afford these “benefits” have caused many families to become in debt or discussing other options, especially those with a severe health issue such as cancer or epilepsy. Even if they can afford the treatments, there is no guarantee that they will work in battling the illness. It’s also possible that the medications given to an individual could end up damaging or killing them depending on how much they are supposed to be taking. Because of these reasons, people have been on the lookout for a new cure to both common and severe illnesses, researching different forms of drugs and pharmaceutical medications in hope that the next breakthrough will help many of those in need. Many now are advocating and leaning towards the use of medicinal marijuana within the medical field, providing both research and practical application showing the beneficial properties cannabis has.
One of the most common illnesses that pharmacies and medical professionals have been trying to find a cure for is cancer. Cancer has many different types and stages, each with separate and devastating effects. Along with different forms of cancer, there are various forms of treatments with a few being surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplant. Each of these medical options have side effects that could cause nausea and vomiting, pain, or even infections. Along with these, there is the price of the treatments, and even if the insurance helps cover part of the process, the remaining balance can still be staggering. The average cost of care is $20,000 per episode, about three to four months of treatment. This is because of the new drugs used for cancer treatment; 11 out of the 12 approved by the FDA were priced over $100,000 per year. On the other hand, medical marijuana from a rough estimate costs about $6,256 a year using it 365 days per year. It is clear here that if patients chose to use medical marijuana as therapy, they would save thousands of dollars a year and have less financial stress.
In addition, not only will those choosing to take the cannabis path save money, but there is also a great reduction to complete absence of harmful side effects. Lester Grinspoon, MD, is a proponent of the medical legalization and re- classification of marijuana. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Grinspoon wrote an article entitled “A Plea for Reconsideration”. In this article, Grinspoon suggests that marijuana should be reclassified to a Schedule II class drug, so that it might be legally prescribed to those in need of care.
“In a 1990 survey, 44% of oncologists said they had suggested that a patient should smoke marijuana for relief of the nausea caused by chemotherapy. If marijuana was actually unsafe for use under medical supervision, this option would be unthinkable. It is time for physicians to acknowledge more openly that this present classification is scientifically, legally, and morally wrong.” (Grinspoon).
Though this is a popular and widely backed argument, it has proven to be very challenging for patients that suffer from these illnesses to find the right option that suits their needs. As talked about, today’s medications may be able to help treat many symptoms of illnesses, but with every new symptom comes one or more prescriptions. The problem with taking these medications is that many of them can have multiple side effects. Having a patient taking various medications at one time can cause them to suffer from several reactions, making them uncomfortable or even sick. What if a patient wants a natural medication?
Marijuana is a natural plant from central Asia that can treat multiple symptoms such as migraines, sleep, nausea, and pain with little or acute side effects. There are two main cannabinoid receptors in marijuana, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors occur in parts of the brain involved in pain perception. There are low levels of CB1 in the brain stem, where cardiac and respiratory functions are regulated. Their scarcity may explain why, unlike opioids, even heavy doses of CB1 and CB2 do not cause acute threats to the heart or your ability to breathe (Edward Maa). CB2, the other main cannabinoid receptor, is found mainly within the immune system which triggers inflammation. Many studies show marijuana can have an anti-inflammatory effect allowing the reduction of swelling or inflammation in a patient. CB1 also stimulates appetite, suppressing both nausea as well as pain helping the patient maintain a healthy body and immune system. The receptors in marijuana also prevent the growth of blood vessels that form tumors and blocks harmful cell growth. This can allow a huge impact on combating illnesses, which is shown in recent studies; THC, the hallucinogenic compound within cannabis, can also potentially protect neurons from trauma. Both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabinoids) may increase blood flow in the brain, bringing oxygen as well as nutrients to endangered neurons. Because they inhibit glutamate, they may also prevent toxic effects that occur after brain trauma (Edward Maa). This not only helps cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, but multiple patients affected by pain due to trauma or illness.
However, there are still many followers who believe that medical marijuana will not, and should not, replace pharmaceutical medications as those were made specially to treat certain illnesses. A major factor they play on is that those who smoke pot, especially consistently, will have reduced brain activity, causing them to become, in general terms, an airhead. The fact of the matter is that many recreational smokers seek marijuana that has a higher THC percentage and low is in CBD. There is also the argument that they will become addicted to smoking marijuana, needing and craving it every day. Though, according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, only 9% of marijuana users will become dependent, that’s lower than heroin (23%), cocaine (17%), and alcohol (15%). “While there are fatal, accidental prescription medicine overdoses every 19 minutes in this country, there are virtually no reports of fatal marijuana overdoses.” (Gupta). Again, those that do become dependent on cannabis are those seeking the strains with higher THC than CBD. Medicinal marijuana users will be given strains with high CBD and low THC, so that they are given the beneficial properties of the plant while avoiding the hallucinogenic portion.
There are some studies already that are showing the positive effects of marijuana on patients that have some form of cancer or other daunting illness. Dr. Wai Liu discovered that certain non-psychoactive cannabinoids “resulted in dramatic reductions in cell viability” and “caused a simultaneous arrest at all phrases of the cell cycle” (Dockterman). Not only though can cannabis help those with cancer reduce the cells responsible, but it is also able to help those with epilepsy. Charlotte Figi was only three months old when she had her first of many seizures lasting up to a couple hours at times. The parents were trying all sorts of prescriptions and medicines prescribed by specialists with no promising results. Some even suggested to give Charlotte an experimental anti-seizure drug being tested on dogs. Her parents decided to instead take their chances on cannabis oil with a high CBD resulting in almost complete halt and absence of Charlotte’s seizures at only the age of five. There are now 41 other patients who are using the same strain of cannabis to help with painful symptoms of diseases such as epilepsy and cancer. Abbott government backbencher MP Warren Entsch is in the process of drafting a bill to all allow cancer patients to be treated with medical marijuana, pushing for more studies and trails making it available as any other life-saving/enhancing drug.
As studies continue to arise and researchers delve deeper into the medical world of marijuana, there is still, at this point, no absolute yes or no to whether it will take over pharmaceutical prescriptions. There are many doctors, as well as average citizens, who still see cannabis as an illegal drug, relying on the medications and treatments that are offered by almost every universal treatment facility. However, that does not mean that it will be the same forever. Scientists and researchers are learning more about the different compounds within cannabis such as CBD and THC along with how each one effects the person’s body and mentality. Raising the CBD and lowering the THC may be the difference between someone’s health and lively. There are hurdles that must be conducted to be able to give medicinal marijuana a place amongst the shelves of the other pharmaceutical drugs already across the country. Only the studies and practical applications are proving the benefits of this underdog drug, not only medically but financially as well. Thus giving all of those in need a fighting chance to combat their illnesses!