Patients with illnesses that cause significant suffering, such as cancer, AIDs and others often find themselves in a dilemma. The dilemma is whether to give up and die, or accept treatment that will make one wish death would come. The treatments for some of the illnesses can make a patient feel more sick than the illness itself does. Chemo and other treatments are universally known for their ability to induce life threatening vomiting and loss of appetite. For many years the belief that smoking marijuana eases such symptoms have circulated. Whether it is the nausea from chemotherapy, the loss of appetite associated with AIDS or the problems with glaucoma, patients have had to decide whether to obey the law and suffer, or break the law and relieve their symptoms with smoking pot. Recently the pressure has increased to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Patients who choose to use it to treat their symptoms have to worry that they will be arrested, that they are setting a poor example of abiding laws for their children, and that their doctor will judge them negatively for their decision to go against the law. These concerns can add stress to the already stress filled life of a seriously ill patient. The question has become, Will or will not the legalization of marijuana ease patient suffering?
The history behind the fight to legalize marijuana is a long one. For many decades those who were seriously ill were forced to go to the streets to find relief. They had to try and find drug dealers, hope they didn't get caught and pray that no one they knew found out what they were doing (Levinson n. pag.). In recent years the medical community listened to the needs of the patients and developed a pill that contained THC, the agent in the plant that is the drug. Unfortunately studies have concluded that the pills do not work with the same effectiveness as smoking the plant does.
Patients who want the drug legalized have several arguments to back their desire including:
Drug laws have resulted in a black market that has led to an increase in violence and property crimes (Levinson n. pag.).
Keeping drugs illegal has encouraged corruption among politicians and law enforcement officials (Levinson n. pag.)."
Laws passed to curb drugs have not significantly reduced the demand for them.
Legalizing drugs would minimally impact current levels of drug use because users now buy the drugs they want for a price.
Legalization would mean that money spent on drug law enforcement could be reallocated to fight "real" crime (Levinson n. pag.)."
Taxing legalized drugs would provide additional money to the government.
If drugs were made legal, otherwise law-abiding citizens who use them would not be subject to draconian drug law enforcement.
Drug smuggling would not be a problem if drugs were legal.
Under legalization, users would not have to worry about receiving adulterated substances or passing on illnesses related to drug use (such as AIDS or hepatitis) (Levinson n. pag.)."
Foreign experiments with legalization have been successful (Levinson n. pag.)."
Several states have worked to legalize the drug for those who are ill. California and Arizona were the first two states to entertain the idea of medical marijuana prescriptions (Gillespie n. pag). "The medical-use initiatives carried the day due not to any nascent push for widescale legalization but to the huge reservoir of sympathy people have for desperately ill patients and chronic pain sufferers (Gillespie n. pag)."
California moved forward with legislation that was vetoed by then Gov. Pete Wilson. That bill allowed patients to possess, grow and consume pot if a doctor recommended that it would ease the patient's suffering and symptoms.
It allows patients to possess, grow, and consume pot on a doctor's "recommendation" that "the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana" in treating terminal illnesses such as cancer (Gillespie n. pag), "chronic pain," or - and this is what gave opponents fits - "any other illness for which marijuana provides relief. Prop. 215 also stipulates that a patient's "primary caregiver" - defined as "the individual designated by the person...who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person" - is not subject to criminal sanctions. Doctors recommending use would similarly be exempt from punishment or other sorts of retribution, such as the lifting of state medical licenses (Gillespie n. pag)."
The legislation was stopped by the governor of the state which put suffering patients right back to square one. They are faced with breaking the law and seeking out drug criminals, or suffering, sometimes to the point of stopping treatment and dying.
Why it Will Stop Suffering
While it has long been clear that chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant offer potential for medical use, smoking the raw plant is a method of delivery supported neither by law nor recent scientific evidence. The Food and Drug Administration's approval process, which seeks to ensure the purity of chemical compounds in legitimate drugs, sets the standard for medical validation of prescription drugs as safe and effective (McDonough n. pag). Diametrically opposed to this long-standing safeguard of medical science is the recent spate of state election ballots that have advocated the use of a smoked plant -- the marijuana leaf -- for "treating" an unspecified number of ailments (McDonough n. pag). It is a tribute to the power of political activism that popular vote has displaced objective science in advancing what would be the only smoked drug in America under the guise of good medicine.
Several studies about the delivery system of pot have been conducted. The reports indicate that pain, vomiting and nausea are specific symptoms that using marijuana can alleviate (McDonough n. pag). This is a positive evidence on at least this front that the legalization of marijuana will reduce the suffering of patients with serious health conditions (McDonough n. pag).
Another area of interest when it comes to the legalization of the drug is treatment of eye disorders such as glaucoma.
In the area of glaucoma, the effect of marijuana on intraocular pressure (the cause of optic nerve damage that typifies glaucoma) was explored, and smoked marijuana was found to reduce this pressure (McDonough n. pag). However, the NIH report failed to find evidence that marijuana can "safely and effectively lower intraocular pressure enough to prevent optic nerve damage (McDonough n. pag)." The report concluded that the "mechanism of action" of smoked marijuana or THC in pill form on intraocular pressure is not known and calls for more research (McDonough n. pag)."
Another way that patient suffering will be reduced with the legalization of marijuana will be appetite stimulation. Appetite stimulation is an important factor in the treatment of AIDS and cancer.
In addressing appetite stimulation and wasting related to AIDS, the NIH report recognized the potential benefit of marijuana. However, the report also noted the lack of pertinent data. The researchers pointed out that the evidence known to date, although plentiful, is anecdotal, and "no objective data relative to body composition alterations, HIV replication, or immunologic function in HIV patients are available (McDonough n. pag)."
The reports and studies indicate that the use of smoked marijuana works to alleviate the symptoms that cause patients to suffer. The legalization of the drug can and will ease that suffering.
These studies present a consistent theme: Cannabinoids in marijuana do show potential for symptom management of several conditions (McDonough n. pag)."
While concluding that marijuana's active ingredients are potentially effective in treating intractable pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and anorexia caused by AIDS wasting syndrome, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report released last week stopped short of fully endorsing the use of marijuana for medical purposes (Drug n. pag)."
Those who are against the legalization of marijuana argue that it won't control or reduce patient suffering any more than the pill form can do. They argue that the pill form will allow controlled delivery without the dangers of smoking and chemicals with smoking.
Advocates for the use of marijuana believe the stress of breaking the law is detrimental to the emotional health and stress level of the patient (Drug Czar Proven Wrong:
Marijuana's Medical Benefits Supported by Scientific Evidence (http://www.mpp.org/releases/nr031799.html).
The IOM report was hailed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the seriously ill people MPP represents. "The scientific evidence in the IOM report shows that marijuana is a relatively safe and effective medicine for many patients," said Chuck Thomas, co-director of MPP, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. "In light of this report, patients who are already using marijuana should not be arrested and sent to prison (Drug Czar Proven Wrong:
Marijuana's Medical Benefits Supported by Scientific Evidence (http://www.mpp.org/releases/nr031799.html)."
Further testing has concluded that the use of marijuana can be successful for patients in which other symptom control relief is not successful.
For patients who do not respond well to other medications, short-term marijuana…
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