Pubdate: Sat, 3 Oct 1998 
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Contact:  213-237-4712


Scott Gottlieb (Opinion, Sept. 27) suggests that making marijuana
available medically will result in U.S. physicians regularly abusing
marijuana, causing the "stoned age" of medicine.

That certainly has never happened with physicians prescribing morphine
and the other opiates, cocaine and even methamphetamine. Gottlieb
cites the British experience, where medical use of marijuana is
encouraged, and he alleges that "46% of medical students in England
have tried marijuana at least once, while 10% claimed to smoke one
joint or more per week." He connects this with Britain's early efforts
to legalize recreational marijuana use. Interestingly, we have data on
American medical students' use of marijuana in 1971, before anyone
thought about its medical uses. Fully 72% of medical students surveyed
in a Southern California medical school had tried marijuana at least
once, 18% smoked at least once weekly and over 40% used at least once
monthly, far more than our British colleagues (Ungerleider, et al.,
Journal of the American Medical Assn., 1971). Before 1975 in
California, being "under the influence of" marijuana was a felony;
conviction resulted in a minimum mandatory sentence of 90 days in
jail. Thus the high use was despite draconian laws. 

J. THOMAS UNGERLEIDER MD Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry UCLA Medical Center

Perhaps the American Medical Assn. is recommending a review of
the demonized weed because there are stacks of scientific research
that show it has numerous benefits and few side effects, not to
mention anecdotal evidence.

Has Gottlieb ever spoken to a cancer or AIDS patient who uses it? They
usually prefer inhaled pot over Marinol because they can't adjust the
dosage in pill form. The great irony is that the "legal pot pill" gets
you more stoned than its inhaled parent. As for this sending the wrong
message: Does prescribing opiates for those in chronic pain send a
message that heroin is a desirable party drug? 


Gottlieb should develop the first requirement of being a useful
physician: the ability to objectively evaluate facts.

Marijuana is a relatively safe drug with few minor side

The worst "side effect" is the possibility of criminalization by the
justice system. Marijuana has a 5,000-year recorded history of being
used for its therapeutic benefits: relaxation, euphoria and pain relief.

One might think that doctors and medical students might appreciate
those benefits. If someday I need marijuana to treat nausea, vomiting
or pain from any cause, I certainly would give it a try, rather than
those toxic, synthetic substances that can be had in any pharmacy or
grocery store. 


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Checked-by: Patrick Henry