We have reached a progressive period in American history, one in which we are slowly entering a time where marijuana will become legal. Many areas of the country have decriminalized marijuana and even more have created legal access for Americans to get medical marijuana. When we look at the failure of the War on Drugs, this is not necessarily a bad direction to go in, especially when comparing marijuana to the health risks associated with other, more powerful drugs. There are also studies demonstrating some of the benefits that marijuana can have for individuals with numerous ailments. A large argument for marijuana is that it can effectively treat pain without the dangers, side effects, or physical dependency of opioids. This is a compelling argument, based on the terrible consequences America has seen from the ongoing opioid epidemic, including skyrocketing rates of addiction and both fatal and non-fatal overdoses.
The Legalization of Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is now legal in more than two thirds of U.S. states and Washington, D.C, even though nationally marijuana is still considered by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I drug. This puts marijuana in the same class or category as powerful drugs like heroin and ecstasy. Medical marijuana, accessed through a prescription and medical marijuana card given by a doctor, means that in certain states, individual patients can purchase marijuana to help with a number of physical or mental ailments. There are many studies that say marijuana may have possible benefits for individuals suffering from a number of medical conditions, such as chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, severe nausea or other stomach ailments, Alzheimer’s disease, amongst others. That being said, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana as a treatment for any medical condition. Proponents of medical marijuana say it is extremely effective in treating many medical conditions and is less harmful and carries less risk than many prescription medications, especially dangerous narcotics.
Is Medical Marijuana Effective?
Without further studies, it is truly unknown how beneficial or risky medical marijuana truly is for patients, and a new study just released by Massachusetts General Hospital may just demonstrate how dangerous medical marijuana can be for those that use it. According to the study, medical marijuana does not actually help patients dealing with mental health issues like anxiety or depression, and actually doubles the risk of addiction. The study suggests that up to one in five users of marijuana may develop cannabis use disorder. Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study split individuals seeking to obtain a medical marijuana card into two groups- one group that received the medical marijuana card immediately and one group that had to wait 12 weeks before receiving a medical card to obtain marijuana. Following the participants, the study concluded that those who used medical marijuana to treat pain, anxiety, and depression did not have improved symptoms with using medical marijuana. Additionally, the study concluded that the risk of an individual developing an addiction, specifically cannabis use disorder, which is defined as a person’s inability to stop using marijuana even through it is causing health and social problems in their life, were almost three times higher in the group that immediately received a medical marijuana card than those in the group that needed to wait 12 weeks.
This is not to say that medical marijuana does not have benefits to individuals suffering from certain medical ailments or health conditions. Certainly, more follow up scientific studies are needed. However, it does create an understanding that medical marijuana is not necessarily safe or effective for everyone, and that there are risks and dangers for certain individuals related to using medical marijuana. It is similar to alcohol or other prescription drugs- while not everyone will be at risk, many will, and the substance will negatively impact a number of individuals in a variety of ways.
There are also numerous side effects to medical marijuana that people need to be cautious about and look out for if they use marijuana to treat medical or health issues.
Side Effects of Medical Marijuana Use
- Potential dependency
- Increased heart rate
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Difficult operating a motor vehicle
- Slower reaction times
- Increased heart rate
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Negative medication-to-medication interactions
- Increased anxiety, depression, or apathy
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of interest in activities
Just like many medications are not magic pills, neither is medical marijuana a catch-all solution for medical and health issues. Individuals should be aware and educated on medical marijuana, its risks, and side-effects. If someone finds that medical marijuana is not beneficial and that they are beginning to see signs and symptoms of substance use disorder or addiction, they should seek help like they would with any other substance.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on our company or services, please visit our website at www.innovodetox.com.