Medical Marijuana/Cannabis – The Taboo
Everyone has heard the claims of medical marijuana (cannabis) helping their pain or the various symptoms associated with the disease they have. Many people with Multiple Sclerosis make the same claims. But if it helps people so much why then is it still such a taboo?
In the late 1930’s a film (Reefer Madness) was released to sway people away from this drug by depicting the many supposed horrors associated with this “deadly menace” “with it’s roots in hell”. The trailer is hilarious even if you have never tried marijuana, just search for it on Google! I have never seen the full film but the trailer seems to illustrate responsible alcohol users at the worst and not people using the “vicious weed” covered in deadly adjectives called marijuana. I think that this is where a lot of the taboo stemmed (pun intended) from. People believe what they see and don’t investigate various claims, especially when they are made on TV, I mean, TV just doesn’t lie right? Most the people who have made and upheld the laws about cannabis probably grew up seeing this propaganda.
In 1970 President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substance Act, which categorizes drugs into 5 different categories. Marijuana/cannabis was placed in category I (called schedule I) alongside heroin, LSD and Ecstasy. Schedule I is the “worst” of the 5 categories and is defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence”. Now let’s put this into perspective; cannabis is a schedule I drug yet cocaine is a schedule II drug which is defined as “drugs with a high potential for abuse, less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous”. Other schedule II drugs are often prescribed like candy for chronic illness, drugs such as Vicodin, Norco, Percocet, Ritalin and Adderall. Methamphetamine is also a schedule II drug. Now I am pretty sure a huge percentage of the people reading this right now with Multiple Sclerosis have been on or currently are on at least one of these drugs (hopefully not meth). So think about it. According to this law, cocaine and meth have more medical uses than cannabis! Oh and the Norco you just took for that nerve pain? Well by law it is just as bad as cocaine…
So is marijuana really the demonically addictive plant that it has been portrayed as? Personally I would say no even though there are many studies that directly contradict each other saying it is and isn’t but I want to share my interpretation. Anything can be addictive if you have an addictive personality. Technically junk food containing sugar is addictive but not the same way a heroine dependency is. So if cannabis helps me sleep then yeah, I might feel addicted but probably more so to the good sleep than the nasty tasting medication itself.
Before I go on I should first share my personal experience with medical marijuana. As I am currently at the end of my rope awaiting Lemtrada I decided to give it a try. I have seen so many amazing stories (whether they were cherry picked or not) about how cannabis has helped so many people overcome so many different illnesses such as chronic pain, epilepsy, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer (to name just a few). Now they are constructive members of society and no, they are not stoners lying around all day getting high. “OK, so what if it could do even a fraction of that for me?” I thought.
I live in California where it is currently legal for medicinal use but honestly? The process of getting a medical marijuana “prescription” is such a joke. In and out in like 10 minutes. Next I went to the dispensary (which is like the “pharmacy” for cannabis products) and tried a few things. Now first I need to explain; marijuana contains 2 main chemicals, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). THC is psychoactive meaning it gets you high. CBD is non-psychoactive meaning it doesn’t make you high. Marijuana is just like any other plant in that it has different species or “strains”. Different strains are said to help different things. When you go to a dispensary there are basically 3 categories of products (which all strains fit into) you can buy; indica (CBD products), sativa (THC products) and hybrids which are a combination of THC and CBD. These products can be smoked (though that doesn’t seem to be recommended), “vaped” (inhaled using a vaporizer device), eaten as a premade product such as a cookie, candy or as a few drops of oil added to food, a sublingual (under the tongue) drop, a transdermal (through the skin) oil that is rubbed on the skin and probably available through other delivery methods I am unaware of. You can even buy pills that just have CBD in it for a more controlled amount of CBD.
These products have shown to be anti-inflammatory and are claimed to help all sorts of ailments such as chronic pain, muscle spasms, insomnia, nausea, spasticity and so much more. I tried both a THC product and a hybrid consisting of mostly CBD. The THC did absolutely nothing for me. I didn’t even feel high! So much for the psychoactive drug that makes you all crazy! The hybrid product I tried did make me a bit “high” but not like I thought a “psychoactive drug” would. People describe edible products as a “body high” and at first I didn’t understand that but now I do. In my experience, it seemed to “relax” my body but do nothing to my “head”. I couldn’t walk well (OK maybe I took too much) but mentally I felt fine. Maybe a little slower in the head but I am not really certain. Now this didn’t last long because it knocked me out better than any sleeping medication I have ever used! I also didn’t have to get up 3 times throughout the night to use the restroom even after drinking a full glass of water right before bed and I usually try to cut off all liquids about 2 hours before I plan on going to bed.
But let me be clear about my experience. It did not make me all happy and giddy, it didn’t even make me feel as high as Norco would! Maybe it was just the particular strains I was using but that just goes to show that it is very unlikely that someone with MS will get high on cannabis, hop in the car and go speeding the wrong way down the highway killing a family of four. No, the legal alcohol users can keep that one because you often hear about drunk drivers killing people but have you ever heard of a stoned driver killing people? Marijuana seems to make you mellow out so most likely if you did decide to hop in the car? You would probably be busted for doing 20 in a 40 zone even though you feel like you are doing 95 on the wrong side of the road. The high you get from Marijuana is not like the high people seem to get from cocaine or ecstasy. Again, I don’t know if there has ever been a case saying otherwise or not but I can’t seem to find one.
Anyways, nothing I tried did anything for any of my symptoms except it gave me the best sleep I have had in years and helped my constant need to use the restroom all night. But here is the thing, anyone with Multiple Sclerosis knows the disease effects everyone differently and that when it comes to medications what works for one may not work for everyone. So I know that just because what I tried didn’t do much for me it may do wonders for someone else. All the claims cannot be ignored and it obviously did something to me which is much more than a lot of the “safe” pharmaceuticals I am used to popping or injecting. Plus, you could look at all the strains of cannabis as different medications because they all are made to treat something different so maybe I just have not tried one that works for me.
But as great as some of the claims are for medical purposes people are still very hesitant to give it a try. Even I was hesitant (purely because of the taboo) and only tried it because I am running out of options here. Luckily the taboo associated with marijuana is starting to die. 23 states have legalized (or decriminalized) marijuana whether for recreational use or medical use and many more states are expected to follow suite. Though the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and not the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) still regulates marijuana there are medications such as Sativex (which is a cannabis extract that is sprayed into the mouth) that have been approved for medical use in parts of the UK that will surely make their way to the states when the FDA starts to see that there is a medical use because people seem to respond well to the medication.
I personally think I will try a few more strains to see if they give me any sort of immediate symptom relief and then, further down the line, I will try a CBD oil; almost a pure CBD extract which looks like a nasty black oil in a syringe that you ingest. This is what seems to have the best anti-inflammatory properties and can even cross the blood brain barrier! When I look at it I think “eew, I have no desire to eat that” but if it helped? It would be worth it. And if it doesn’t help? Well that is just me. Copaxone didn’t do anything for me but for other people it works. So my own testimonial is not enough to judge a medication.
If anything I have said is actually true, why then is marijuana a schedule I drug alongside heroine, LSD and ecstasy? Not to be a conspiracy theorist here but the way I see it just makes sense from a monetary point of view. If people started using cannabis to treat various ailments think about how much money would be lost if people started growing their own medication instead of paying for pills? Now pharmaceutical companies would be “hurting” and the government can’t tax what it can’t 100% regulate right? So everyone is loosing money. Some states like Colorado have legalized it for recreational use and the amount of taxes they have made are insane but money grows greed and greed says “yeah I am making a lot of money but I am not making as much as I could and if I can’t make it all then I would rather wait till I can” except there is no way to completely manage whether people are growing this stuff on their own.
Hopefully more states will realize how much money they can bring in if they just let go of the fact that some people will end up growing their own “medication”. Colorado brought in around (I can’t seem to find an exact figure) 50 million dollars (maybe more, maybe less, again I am not 100% sure) in 2014. If more states jump on the band wagon then the taboo associated with marijuana use will eventually die and patients who respond to it well as a medication to treat symptoms and diseases will have easier access to it and not have to try to keep it a secret like they are doing heroine or something. It will be less taboo to use cannabis as a medication then it is to drink alcohol recreationally. One can hope.
Also, just for the record, I don’t really like to drink and I do not smoke. When it came to cannabis I was only interested in the edibles and maybe the vapor because I really do not like marijuana for my own personal reasons. So I am not defending marijuana because I am some pothead, in fact, I strive to get as much as my mind back as I can so I really don’t want anything that is going to impact my intelligence. No, I defend this because it really seems to help people and who am I to say “you shouldn’t be pain free and a functional member of society because the taboo associated with cannabis that is based on really old propaganda and misconceptions makes me uncomfortable”. If it helps improve your quality of life I am all for it so I simply think we should (medically) be looking into this more as a possible treatment option.