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Marijuanna- Medicine, Menace, or What?

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Submitted By brennacleveland
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SAPP 407- Pharmacology
Fall term junior yr.
Term Paper
Marijuana – Medicine, Menace, or What? There have been many arguments throughout history about whether marijuana is a source of medicine or whether it’s a gateway drug. This question may never truly be solved but there have been valid arguments for both sides. I would like to delve in on the topic by analyzing what the effects of marijuana are, what the positive and negative aspects of the drug are, and whether or not cannabis should be illegal. The first topic I would like to discuss is what the effects of marijuana are when it is used. The article Marijuana in Medicine: Past, Present and Future in the Western Journal of Medicine wrote about an experiment where marijuana was tested on animals. One reason why they found a lot of variability of reactions among the animals tested was because: “different batches of cannabis derivatives vary greatly in strength” (36). They go on to explain “there is a wide variation among humans in their individual responses to cannabis” (36). This brings light to a very important effect of marijuana, which is that it varies in strength from batch to batch. This is important to know when using the drug because it can affect people very differently based on the strength of the drug. Another effect of marijuana discussed by the Western Journal of Medicine is that cannabis “mildly stimulates, and then sedates the higher centers of the brain” (36). The article continues on to say that “this condition is probably associated with the other well-known symptom produced by the drug, namely, the prolongation of time”. This is essentially saying that when you use marijuana your perception of time is distorted. The distortion of time is one connection to the many psychological results of using marijuana. There have been many benefits found in the use of marijuana that leads me to believe that the drug can be positive for medical use. The first, and most obvious, benefit of marijuana is its ability to lessen pain. In the article Marijuana in Medicine: Past, Present and Future written in the Western Journal of Medicine they state that the drug causes pain to “fade away in the distance” (36). This affect of marijuana is connected to its sedative effect to the higher centers of the brain that I discussed above. This affect of the drug can be hugely influential to the field of medicine because there is a huge demand for pain relief in the medical field. In a medical paper written by Todd Mikuriya, M.D., he spoke about how “physicians told of success in treating stomach pain, childbirth psychosis, chronic cough, and gonorrhea with hemp products”. This just adds to the fact that marijuana has shown much success in relieving pain, which is why it could be a huge benefit to the medical field. In addition, in the article Marijuana in Medicine: Past, Present and Future there were several studies that supported the use of marijuana for insomnia, which could also be beneficial for people that are in a lot of pain that causes them to lose sleep. The two most important positive aspects of marijuana are that the drug is not addictive and cannot directly cause death. The Western Journal of Medicine has done several studies to support these claims. According to the article Marijuana in Medicine: Past, Present and Future in the Western Journal of Medicine, “because marijuana [does] not lead to physical dependence, it [is] found to be superior to the opiates for a number of therapeutic purposes” (36). They went on during the article to say that one of the positive aspects of marijuana is that “there is minimal development of tolerance to cannabis products” (36). This is extremely important to consider about this drug because the fact that it is not addictive could allow it to potentially be a better alternative to pain killers. Painkillers, such as oxycodone, are extremely addictive and can be dangerous to administer to people in serious pain because they are highly addictive. If people were to use marijuana rather than pain killers for their pain they would be a lot less likely to become addicted to the drug subsiding their pain and would be more likely to stop using the drug once their pain is gone.
The other extremely important positive aspect of marijuana is the fact that there has not been a lethal dose of marijuana found for humans. According to The Health and Psychological Effects of Cannabis Use written by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales:
“the acute toxicity of cannabis, and cannabinoids generally, is very low. There are no cases of fatal cannabis poisoning in the human medical literature. […]The lethal dose also increases as one moves up the phylogenetic tree, suggesting that the lethal dose in humans could not be achieved by smoking or swallowing cannabis,” (xix).
This is a very key fact about marijuana that should be considered because the lethal dose of some drugs is extremely low, whereas for marijuana it does not even exist. This is especially important to consider when thinking about first time marijuana users. Many first time users of other drugs or alcohol have a huge risk of hitting the lethal dosage simply because they have never tried it before and don’t know what the lethal dosage is. However with marijuana this is not a problem. Although there are several positive aspects of marijuana that I discussed above, there are also some negative aspects that should be brought to light. According to The Health and Psychological Effects of Cannabis Use written by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, the most common unpleasant acute effects of marijuana are: “anxiety, panic reactions and depressive feelings. These are most common among users who are unfamiliar with the drug’s effects, and by patients who have been given THC for therapeutic purposes,” (xix).
So although these symptoms sound unpleasant, they are most often only experienced by new users of the drug. This does not undermine these negative effects of the drug, but it does give a bit of an explanation for these symptoms.
Another acute unpleasant effect of marijuana is that it causes increased heart rate. According to The Health and Psychological Effects of Cannabis Use:
“A few minutes to a quarter of an hour after cannabis is smoked or swallowed, THC increases heart rate by 20% to 50%. This may last for up to three hours. Blood pressure is increased while the person is sitting and decreases on standing,” (xix).
Although this negative acute effect of marijuana sounds very dangerous, the researcher goes on to explain: “In healthy young users these cardiovascular effects are unlikely to be of any clinical significance because tolerance develops to the effects of THC, and young, healthy hearts will only be mildly stressed,” (xix). As you can see, although this is definitely a negative aspect of marijuana that should be discussed, it is not a huge danger to people using marijuana unless they have heart disease or other cardiovascular issues. One of the long-term effects of marijuana that has been researched is how a person responds after quitting the drug after heavy marijuana usage. According to a study discussed in Changes in Aggressive Behavior During Withdrawal From Long-Term Marijuana Use, after people in their study used marijuana regularly and then stopped completely, they became very aggressive: “the data from the present study demonstrated that, under laboratory conditions, abstinence from marijuana after chronic use is associated with increases in aggressive responding,” (306). This negative aspect of the drug is one that should definitely be considered because if marijuana is used for medical use it is most often going to be used regularly. If the patient then gets better they are most likely going to quit using the drug. This study shows that when this happens, they could expect to feel some aggressiveness and agitation. Although this negative aspect of marijuana may seem minuscule compared to the effects of other more serious drugs, it is still something to take into consideration. The last topic I would like to discuss is whether or not it is positive to legalize marijuana. When discussing the concept of public health in relation to the legalization of marijuana, The Health and Psychological Effects of Cannabis Use stated: “that on current patterns of use, alcohol and tobacco are much more damaging to public health in developed societies than cannabis, which makes no known contribution to deaths and a minor contribution to morbidity,” (xxviii). This essentially states that if the usage rates of drugs and alcohol were to stay the same, the legalization of alcohol and tobacco would have the same, if not worse, effect of the legalization of marijuana. The article Drug Policy: What Should We Do About Cannabis? in the book “Economic Policy” gives a similar opinion on the legalization of marijuana:
“We argue that existing theoretical insights and empirical evidence give little compelling reason to prefer prohibition to the alternative of legalization of cannabis with harms controlled by regulation and taxation.”
This quotation gives the same general idea as the previous source, that it would not be negative to legalize marijuana as long as the appropriate regulations and taxations were made. Based on the evidence I have discussed, and in my own personal opinion, it seems as though marijuana is highly effective for medical use and should also be legalized. Almost all of the research I found gave substantial evidence that marijuana can be very effective in medical use and that if it were legalized, we would not see a change for the worse. Overall, weed is not a dangerous drug, plain and simple. Our society needs to get over the negative stigma of marijuana being a “gateway drug” in order to appreciate its positive effects in the medical community.

Work Cited (all google scholar approved)

1. Mikuriya, Tod H. "Marijuana in Medicine." NCBI. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 1969. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.

2. Mikuriya, Todd. "Introduction to Marijuana: Medical Papers." Introduction to Marijuana: Medical Papers. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.

3. Hall, Wayne, Michael Thomas. Lynskey, and Louisa Degenhardt. The Health and Psychological Effects of Cannabis Use. Canberra: Commonwealth Dept. of Health and Ageing, 2001. Print.

4. Kouri, Elena M., Harrison G. Pope, Jr., and Scott E. Lukas. "Changes in Aggressive Behavior during Withdrawal from Long-term Marijuana Use." (1999): 302-08. Druglibrary.org. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <http://www.druglibrary.org/crl/behavior/kouri-01.pdf>.

5. University of Essex, Institute for Social and Economic Research. "Drugs Policy: What Should We Do about Cannabis?" Economic Policy 25.61 (2010): 165-211. Web.…...

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