Source: Bulletin, The (OR)
Pubdate: Sun, 04 Oct 1998
Author: Scott Gottlieb For the Los Angeles Times
Note: Apparently reprinted from the LAT. See


New York- Imagine walking into your doctors office and finding a lit bong.
Would that scare you? As a fouth year medical student, I have been taught
how to prescribe medications. Appreciating a drugs pharmacological benefits,
however, is often a tempting inducement for some of my fellow medical
students to give it a try. Students cleverly argue that their motives for
self prescribing medications are puurely educational. After all, they say,
how can they prescribe a drug they have not taken themselves?

As the medical establishment advocates a therapeutic role for marijuana,
don't be surprized if more U.S. medical students begin smoking pot. Once a
drug makes it onto the list of therapeutic medications it becomes fair game
for the surprizing number of students willing to self-prescribe medication.

This was seen most recently in Britain, where efforts to legalize marijuana
became fashionable decades before Americans seized on the same idea. British
citizens were surprized to learn the number of British medical students who
smoke dope reqularly has doubled in the last decade.

The findings, first reported in the British Medical Journal, found that 46
percent of medical students in England have tried marijuana at least ounce,
while 10 percent claimed to smoke one joint or more per week.

The study found that despite greater knowledge of pharmacology, there was no
evidence that medical students were any more selective about the legal or
illegal drugs they consumed than students in general.

The study pointed out that students overwhemingly disapproved of cigarette
smoking, indicating that health concerns were on their minds. The
implication of this finding was that smoking pot was not seen as similarly

These dismal findings stand out against a backdrop of increasing
liberalization in Britain when it comes to drug use.

The British Medical Association recently urged the government to allow
marijuana to be prescribed in a range of medical conditions and asked health
officials to set up clinical trials to assess marijuana's therapeutic
benefits. These efforts have the full support of many doctors, including the
president of the Royal Pharaceutical Society and the previous president of
the Royal College of Physicians.

Doctors in the United States are erroneously following the British lead.
Last year the American Medical Association recommended a review of its
policies on marijuana as a " medical remedy." A report issued in December by
the association's Council on Scientific Affairs recommended renewed research
efforts to see if the " potential benefits from smoking marijuana " outweigh
the known risks.

The image of smoking marijuana, even for supposed medical purposes, is
exticably linked to images in our culture of ilicit drug abuse. Whether
intended or not, permitting the " medicinal " use of marijuana sends a
powerful message that pot is OK. Those who cannot see a conection between
the efforts of British doctors to legalize marijuana and the surge in drug
use among their medical students do not take their cues from doctors.
Morever, once a drug is deemed therapeutic it becomes fashionable in some
medical circles to give it a try. Indeed, a 1986 study published in the New
England Medical Journal of Medicine found that a quarter of American doctors
and medical students surveyed had self-prescribed mood-altering drugs, most
often tranquilizers and opiates.

Think for a moment about how many medicines doctors prescribe. None involve
smoking leaves or chewing plants. What doctors do instead is look for a
specific chemical and prescribe it in a known quantity.

The idea of medical marijuana merely substitutes the concept of medicinal
use for recreational drug use. Thats the reason people don't like Marinol,
the widely available but rarely prescribed synthetic analoque to marijuana.
In short, people want to smoke dope.

If doctors are worried that HMO's have diminished the quality of medicine in
the United States, perhaps they're missing their own role in the decline.
With 10 percent of their medical students reqularly abusing marijuana,
British doctors are realizing the trouble they are in. In the British press,
doctors are openly fretting that students on dope " might not be able to
remember the volumes of information being thrown at them," as one doctor
recently told a London newspaper: That's where things are headed. That's
what happens when doctors arque for legalizing pot.

In Britain, the results are now in, and doctors find themselves hoisted by
their own petards. Stay tuned for the U.S. version. A new age of medicine is
dawning - the stoned age.

Editors note: Gottlieb, a medical student at the Mount Sinai School of
Medicine, has recently completed a fellowship at the British Medical

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Checked-by: Don Beck