What about medical cannabis? – Butler County Gazette

By Andrew Ellsworth, MD

Since ancient times, marijuana has been used for medicinal and recreational purposes in many cultures. In the United States, it became illegal during Prohibition, like alcohol. Later, under the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s, the federal government classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. This classification includes heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, all of which are considered n ‘having no safe and effective medical use and high potential for abuse.

This Schedule 1 status imposes bureaucratic and legal barriers, making it difficult to conduct scientific research into the medical benefits of marijuana. The studies that have been conducted are small and limited. Thus, doctors are less confident in recommending marijuana to patients. Not to mention that use or possession remains illegal federally and in many states.

The word cannabis refers to all products derived from the cannabis sativa plant. There are hundreds of compounds in this plant, called cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) is one, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another. The word marijuana often refers to products from the plant that contain large amounts of THC, which is psychoactive and can alter a person’s mental state.

Cannabinoids can trigger receptors in the brain to release neurotransmitters to affect mood, sleep, pain, and memory. Medicines containing cannabinoids may be useful for treating nausea and vomiting due to cancer treatments, loss of appetite and weight loss due to AIDS, chronic pain syndrome, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and children with seizures. There may be other medical benefits that we are not yet aware of. We need more research to determine safe treatments and build trust.

Marijuana use can cause harm. It can do more than numb the brain and make someone cringe. This can increase the risk of traffic accidents. In some people, this can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. Frequent use by adults and use in adolescence can diminish attention and memory, or cause cannabis use disorder, which presents with symptoms of craving, withdrawal, lack of control and negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities. Sometimes people develop recurrent severe vomiting. Vaping products containing THC has resulted in severe lung damage.

Marijuana has been used as medicine for a very long time in various cultures. Yes, it can be addictive and cause problems. Although, considering the harms of alcohol, tobacco, narcotic painkillers, and other medications, perhaps cannabis deserves a chance for further study and use when medically appropriate.

Andrew Ellsworth, MD is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. Follow The Prairie Doc® at www. prairiedoc.org and on Facebook with On Call with the Prairie Doc®, a medical Q&A show celebrating its twentieth season of truthful, tested and timely medical information, airing on SDPB and streaming live on Facebook most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central time.

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