Pubdate: Tue, 30 Sep 2003
Source: Massachusetts Daily Collegian (MA Edu)
Copyright: 2003 Daily Collegian
Contact: 413-545-1592
Author: Alyson Zillmann
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Studies have shown that patients with incurable pain have substantially
benefited from the use of cannabis while avoiding the side effects of many
FDA-approved drugs, Dr. Ethan Russo said in his lecture on medical marijuana
last night.

Russo, who practiced clinical neurology with a specialty in child neurology,
migraines and chronic pain in Minnesota for 20 years, gave a medical history
of cannabis to a crowd of about 60 at Stockbridge Hall.

Russo said there are records that show that cannabis was used to reduce
excessive menstrual bleeding as far back as ancient Egypt and 13th-century
Italy. Medical texts claiming that cannabis diminishes menstrual cramping
and bleeding have persisted until today. According to Russo, 51 percent of
Australian women now reportedly use medicated cannabis to relieve cramping.

Russo said that many of the women in Jamaica smoke cannabis throughout their
pregnancies; they have no evidence of miscarriage or negative effects on the
birth weight and growth of their children. However, he said Jamaican women
report increased appetite, sleep duration and energy, and diminished
symptoms of morning sickness during their pregnancies.

Russo also said that cannabis has been shown to reduce symptoms of asthma,
bone disorders, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. He performed a study on
four subjects who were legally receiving medical cannabis from the
government for years. Russo said that one subject suffered from a long-term
addiction to heroin because it was the only way he could control his pain.
This subject, who he said was formerly wheelchair-bound, now walks and uses
cannabis as his only painkiller.

Russo said he found no negative side effects caused by cannabis in any of
his subjects. He tested for all the rumored side effects, but found no
evidence to support any of them.

For example, he tested for brain shrinkage using magnetic resonance imaging,
and found that none of the subjects suffered from this problem. His studies
further showed that none of the subjects were depressed, and that the rate
of acquisition of complex new verbal material was normal.

Russo said cannabis was an improvement over the best available standard
medications in all cases.

Marcy Duda, a woman who attended the lecture, said she has been smoking
cannabis since the age of 12 and believes it saved her life. She said she
had two sisters, both who died of aneurysms (blood clots in the brain) at
young ages. Duda had five aneurysms, none of which ever popped. She said she
credits this to the fact that she smoked cannabis.

Since having brain surgery to remove the aneurysms, Duda said, she suffers
from headaches so painful they make her want to slam her head against a
wall. She said she didn't know what she would do without cannabis, which she
smokes and takes in the form of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

"I always say 'either give me a gun or give me a joint,'" said Duda, who is
an activist for the legalization of marijuana.

Duda has been testifying at the Statehouse for the last four years to try to
legalize marijuana. She said congress is one vote away from decriminalizing
marijuana, which is "the first step on the ladder."

There is no reason cannabis should be illegal, Russo said, since it is less
harmful than other legal, addictive substances like nicotine, alcohol

There is no evidence - such as tolerance or withdrawal - that cannabis is
addictive, Russo said.

He said none of his subjects ever had to increase their dosages, and that if
anything, some of them improved and were able to decrease their intake
amounts. The patients had "cannabis drought," meaning they suffered from
pain related to their illnesses if their cannabis shipment was late, but
there was no evidence of withdrawal, he said.

Russo ended his lecture by saying the audience should be open-minded.

"You don't need to believe anything I say tonight, but read what is out
there and see if there might be a different way of thinking about these
issues. Make up your own mind."
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