The main qualifying illness conditions for medical marijuana in the U.S. are:
- People who suffer from seizures due to epilepsy;
- Those with wasting syndrome due to HIV/AIDS or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Several states also allow medical marijuana to be used to treat chronic pain and those suffering from glaucoma. Medical marijuana can also help fight nausea and weight loss caused by chemotherapy and improve cancer patients’ appetite during chemotherapy treatment. Despite being legal in 36 states, medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
Why is medical marijuana so stigmatized?
Until recently, most lawmakers were unaware that painkillers such as Oxycodone and Vicodin are highly addictive and often very dangerous. The lack of oversight regarding these drugs was one of the main factors leading to the current epidemic of drug abuse and overdose deaths. Under federal law, these drugs are considered Schedule II controlled substances, along with heroin and cocaine.
Marijuana, on the other hand, is considered a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Other drugs in Schedule I include heroin, LSD, mescaline, and Ecstasy. The federal classification of marijuana as having “no currently accepted medical use” is at odds with growing scientific evidence that shows marijuana can be effective at managing pain.
For those who are not familiar with the United States’ classification system of drugs, here is an explanation:
- Schedule I drugs like heroin and cocaine have a high potential for abuse and have no currently accepted medical benefit.
- Schedule II drugs like Oxycodone and Vicodin are highly addictive and have medicinal use. A Schedule II drug is considered a drug that has a high potential for abuse, in other words, likely to be abused (Oxycodone) or that has dependence potential (Vicodin, etc.).
- Schedule III drugs are less addictive than Schedule II drugs and have medicinal use but still have the potential for abuse.
- Schedule IV drugs are defined as having a low potential for abuse relative to those in the other drug classifications, and they may be prescribed only by physicians with more advanced education.
- Schedule V drugs are defined as those with minimal potential for dependence relative to Schedule IV drugs, and they can be obtained from a pharmacist without a doctor’s prescription. These include dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant), some antacids, and over-the-counter medicines.
There are some government agencies that will test drugs designated as Schedule I or Schedule II substances to determine if they have any medicinal benefit, but the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. does not.
If medical marijuana is good for anything, what benefits patients?
- The cannabinoids in marijuana improve how the brain processes pain signals. This can help mitigate severe pain caused by severe trauma and surgery, as well as cancer and other chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and AIDS wasting syndrome. This study shows how effective marijuana’s analgesic properties are: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1905694/#!po=8.70&p=13&l=en&r=0
- Medical marijuana can effectively treat nausea and weight loss experienced by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Many people become nauseous during or after chemotherapy and lose their appetite when they suffer from anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder).
- Medical marijuana has been used to help treat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), chronic pain, and nausea associated with advanced-stage AIDS wasting syndrome. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12581185 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927740 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11106791
- Medical marijuana can also help people who suffer from chronic pain by serving as an alternative to addictive prescription painkillers, particularly opioids. Here is a study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15906230) that shows how the states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 20% reduction in the number of deaths caused by overdose on prescription painkillers and other drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
- People with Parkinson’s Disease can also benefit from medical marijuana as it can help improve motor skills, intestinal and swallowing difficulties, sleep problems, and depression or anxiety caused by this condition (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16250836).
- Medical marijuana is also beneficial to those who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). It can also reduce many of the symptoms of these diseases and help people who suffer from them lead a more normal life.
- In addition, medical marijuana is an excellent treatment for muscle spasms and chronic pain caused by other illnesses such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), fibromyalgia syndrome, severe leg and arm pain called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and some cases of Parkinson’s disease. Marijuana can also be used to help people who suffer from HIV-related painful peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain).
- Medical marijuana can also help people who suffer from severe nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and other types of cancer treatments.
- Medical marijuana can effectively treat depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological conditions caused by chronic illness or severe physical trauma that may be associated with severe pain. Medical marijuana has shown promising results when used to treat these psychological conditions. This study shows how effective marijuana’s analgesic properties are for psychological conditions: (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22594963)
- Finally, medical marijuana can help treat severe nausea and wasting syndrome experienced by people with AIDS and other conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16818650). This study shows how effective marijuana’s analgesic properties are for psychological conditions: (http://www.ncbi.nlm…).