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posted by mrpg on Sunday April 08 2018, @11:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the king-of-pain dept.

Medical Marijuana's 'Catch-22': Limits On Research Hinders Patient Relief

By the time Ann Marie Owen, 61, turned to marijuana to treat her pain, she was struggling to walk and talk. She was also hallucinating. For four years, her doctor prescribed a wide range of opioids for transverse myelitis, a debilitating disease that caused pain, muscle weakness and paralysis. The drugs not only failed to ease her symptoms, they hooked her.

When her home state of New York legalized marijuana for the treatment of select medical ailments, Owens decided it was time to swap pills for pot. But her doctors refused to help. "Even though medical marijuana is legal, none of my doctors were willing to talk to me about it," she says. "They just kept telling me to take opioids."

Although 29 states have legalized marijuana to treat pain and other ailments, the growing number of Americans like Owen who use marijuana and the doctors who treat them are caught in the middle of a conflict in federal and state laws — a predicament that is only worsened by thin scientific data.

Because the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, research on marijuana or its active ingredients is highly restricted and even discouraged in some cases. Underscoring the federal government's position, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar recently pronounced that there was "no such thing as medical marijuana."

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by rondon on Sunday April 08 2018, @02:27PM (2 children)

    by rondon (5167) on Sunday April 08 2018, @02:27PM (#663938)

    That is a good point. I don't think of medical cannabis as a "smoked" medication, but your comment made me realize that it is often consumed that way. Pills and other delivery methods are available though.

    I understand that my knowledge about this is anecdotal, but that is due to the "war on drugs" and no fault of my own. Anyways, I have seen the results of long term cannabis use and long term opiate use. One of those completely and irrevocably destroys lives, the other may cause lung cancer after a really, really long time. I work in a healthcare related field, so my sample size is a couple of orders of magnitude better than n=2, but I understand that it is still not science.

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  • (Score: 2) by Magic Oddball on Monday April 09 2018, @02:29AM (1 child)

    by Magic Oddball (3847) on Monday April 09 2018, @02:29AM (#664148) Journal

    Was the long-term opiate use you witnessed with prescription under medical supervision, or illegal? There's going to be a vast difference between a patient who takes a pill or two 2-3 times/day & sees their doctor every 6 months, and a junkie who is abusing opiates.

    There's also the problem of destroying lives by leaving the individual in too much physical pain to function. I can say that my mother's life was still pretty good when she was prescribed enough pills to control the pain from her severely-damaged spine, while scaling her back to a minimal dose has left her in too much agony to do much more than shuffle to the toilet.

    • (Score: 2) by rondon on Monday April 09 2018, @01:01PM

      by rondon (5167) on Monday April 09 2018, @01:01PM (#664386)

      Mostly doctor supervised, to be honest. Long-term opiate use wears away at an individual's ability to be a functional human being without opiates. Like you've mentioned, in some cases that is still the best case scenario (i.e., your mother). In many other cases, I would like to see other options tried first, second, and third if possible. Seeing a 50 year old, otherwise healthy male die of pneumonia because opiate use has severely depressed his breathing for years feels like a terrible waste. I wish we had better options for chronic pain, and I wish we'd explore the options we do have before we prescribe opiates.