For years research groups, certain state governments, pharmaceutical companies and even some physicians have battled with the federal government over the legalization of the marijuana plant for medicinal purposes. Large amounts of research have been devoted to both sides of the argument; however, many of the studies contradict each other when naming the benefits and risks of marijuana. How can we decide whether the therapeutic values of marijuana outweigh the hazards of the drug when there have been no definitive findings? First we must review what is known about marijuana, such as how the chemicals in it affect the body, and then pick which study results seem more scientifically sound.
For over 4000 years and in many different cultures, marijuana has been used medicinally for pain relief and treatment of many ailments. These ailments include digestive disorders, hemorrhaging, congestion, asthma and insomnia. The drug has been administered orally, topically and through inhalation. It was not until 1937 that using marijuana became a federal offense with the introduction of the Marijuana Tax Act ((6)). Today, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which defines it as "highly addictive with no medical usefulness"-the same definition given to heroin ((4)).
The opioids in heroin and the cannabinoids in marijuana are used similarly by the brain. They either bridge synapses in the brain so that messages can be transmitted, in which case they are acting as agonists, or they block the agonist's binding site so that messages cannot be transmitted across synapses. In the latter case, the cannabinoids or opioids are acting as antagonists ((3)).
Cannabinoids and opioids do not cause identica...
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...dicine but with severe restrictions. Why deny ill people almost definite relief?
1) Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base
2) Medical Marijuana: full analysis of the Institute of Medicine's commissioned report
3) Scientific American: Healing Haze?
4) Drug Enforcement Administration: The Medical Myths of Marijuana
5) ARDPArk, Inc.: Synthetic THC/ Marinol
6) Why all the controversy? What does the research actually show?
7) New, Emerging Evidence of Marijuana's Medical Efficacy
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