Pubdate: Fri, 30 Sep 2011
Source: Register, The (MA)
Copyright: 2011, Community Newspaper Co.
Author: Joseph Michelson, M.D., Pasadena resident 


Karen R., a victim of ovarian cancer, age 35, is aware of her
prognosis. Dying, like birth, and every other stage of living, is
difficult, she often ponders. Her chemotherapy, which offers a partial
or perhaps full redemption, is arduous at best: she suffers violent
nausea and vomiting during her very necessary phases of chemo:
connected ("chained") to an IV, her repose on the gurney is
interrupted, quite quickly, by her urgent anxiety, pulling her IV
alongside, to the rest room to vomit her guts out.

Lately, however, Karen avails herself of a candy bar, in between the
"bag" changes on her IV pole. Her nausea interruptions are much less
frequent and urgent, and she is calmer, and happier with herself...
.the necessary torments of scheduled chemotherapy are so much easier
to take now. "What has made the difference?" asks her anxious, but
very curious fellow chemo. victim on the next gurney.

"My candy bar... ...would you like to try one?"

"Why? What is it?"

"Medical marijuana, " Karen smiles. "It makes the whole ordeal

She hands her chemo-bed-fellow her bar. "Here, take a bite. It's
chocolate ..."

We live in the enlightened times of approval of medical marijuana.
California, and 16 other states have approved the use of Cannabis
(marijuana) for chronic disease, authorized by a physician, and it is
especially of help to cancer patients and chemotherapy recipients. It
cannot be "smoked" in the atmosphere of the chemotherapy clinics,
since the ambient smoke might prove offensive to those with asthma and
C.O.P.D. (emphysema). But it can be ingested in a variety of forms:
pills, soda-pop, brownies, cookies, candy, etc.

Marijuana has a long history of use as a drug or agent of euphoria. It
is documented in Chinese medical compendia from as early as 2730
B.C.E., from where it spread to India, then North Africa, which
stimulated its travel by traders to Europe by 500 A.D. It was listed
in various pamphlets and books of the U.S. pharmacopeia from 1840-1972
for use in "labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism." It was then
considered unlawful by the government. In the 1930s the U.S.Federal
Bureau of Narcotics considered marijuana dangerous and addictive. By
the 1970s, the U.S. Government classified marijuana, along with heroin
and LSD as class 1 drugs: having the relatively highest abuse
potential and no accepted medical use.

This judgment follows on the hundreds of years acceptance and use of
marijuana, peyote, and other plants of medicinal and ritual
(religious) use by Native Americans.

In spite of this confused and confusing history, marijuana is
currently made into a drug: marinol (dronabinol). It is legal in the
Netherlands, Canada, Spain and Austria as a medicine for the
amelioration of nausea and vomiting in various medical conditions, the
stimulation of hunger in patients on chemotherapy regimens and with
A.I.D.s who suffer "wasting" syndromes, it lowers eye pressure in
patients who suffer glaucoma, and it works wonders as an analgesic --
pain reliever -- in many situations. It has also been shown to be of
benefit in neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and
Tourette's Syndrome. Unfortunately, marinol does not demonstrate as
much effectiveness as other medications (with more major side effects)
as "unrefined" marijuana. So the unorthodox means of administration of
marijuana--smoking, eating, drinking: appear to be more effective than
the accepted medicinal form of a simple pill. Perhaps there are
elements in marijuana, over and above the simple tetra hydro
cannabinol (THC) that contribute to its medicinal effects.

Whatever, there should be no resistance to the use of marijuana as a
medication -- especially for cancer patients. An argument arises that
physicians would be making these patients marijuana addicts. But they
are already addicted to narcotics, and use of marijuana is also used
to reduce patients' dependence on narcotics. We needn't discuss and
weigh the alternatives of cocaine addiction, narcotic addiction, even
alcohol addiction in terms of society costs (altercations, deaths,
DUI's, etc.) vs. whatever minimal "costs" are attributed to marijuana.

What is needed now is for the government to recognize what our medical
care-givers already recognize: the powerful, medical use of marijuana.

What is needed more is for the government to sanction and oversee the
medical distribution of marijuana so that its dosage and
administration is uniform. What do I mean? If I tell a patient to take
an aspirin, say 300 mg. of salisylic acid, they are able to obtain 300
mg. How do we administer marijuana? Please smoke a reefer after chemo,
or enjoy a candy bar during chemo?

It is time for the federal government to step up to the plate.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.