Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Medicinal marijuana helpful in treating symptoms of certain diseases - journal review

Marijuana use is a contentious subject and arguments still abound when it comes to whether it should be allowed for use as a medication to help relieve symptoms of certain diseases and conditions.

As a nurse who has given heavy-duty opiates (narcotics) to patients in need, I cannot understand the pushback against allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Anecdotal evidence (information provided by people who are using marijuana) shows that it is helpful for many people, particularly those with cancer or AIDS, who may experience nausea and lack of appetite. More and more, studies are backing this up. Other studies are backing up marijuana's benefit for neurological diseases as well. A review published in the April 29 issue of the medical journal, Neurology, is the latest to say that medicinal marijuana may be helpful in managing some neurologic disease symptoms. The review looked at findings of 34 studies that met certain criteria.

According to a release published by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), "certain forms of medical marijuana can help treat some symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), but do not appear to be helpful in treating drug-induced (levodopa) movements in Parkinson's disease. Not enough evidence was was found to show if medical marijuana is helpful in treating motor problems in Huntington's disease, tics in Tourette syndrome, cervical dystonia, and seizures in epilepsy."

The "certain forms of medical marijuana" means via oral spray or in pill form.

According to the journal article, people with MS who use marijuana may get relief from pain caused by muscle spasms, as well as relief from burning and numb sensations. Marijuana may also help relieve the discomfort of an overactive bladder - another problem associated with MS.

In 2012, a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, found that cannabis extract (tetrahydrocannabinol) helped relieve the stiffness associated with MS. The small study (144 patients with MS and 135 controls - healthy people who did not have MS) found that those who took the extract experienced relief from the muscle stiffness. A study published earlier in the year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported similar findings.

The newest AAN review also looked at Parkinson's disease, but did not find that marijuana helped ease the extra movements that can be caused by levadopa, the medication often given to treat Parkinson's.

As always, there are the standard warnings about the side effects of marijuana use, which include:

  • Nausea
  • Increased weakness
  • Behavioral or mood changes
  • Suicidal thoughts or hallucinations
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of intoxication

Why is marijuana still being kept from people who need it? Why are we still debating this issue? What do you think?

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