Medical marijuana can be listed among controversial drugs that are viewed through the prism of negative stereotypes. Even though this treatment option can be regarded promising for certain conditions, some states still refuse to legalize it due to a variety of reasons. Considering the problem’s importance, the paper focuses on the use of medical cannabis for the alleviation of chronic pain, its effectiveness, and legal aspects.
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The Description of the Treatment Option
The use of medical cannabis belongs to the number of the most widely discussed treatment options. Nowadays, medical marijuana is effectively used to help patients with a variety of health conditions ranging from physical problems such as glaucoma to mental disorders (PTSD or depression) (Piper et al., 2017). Despite a great number of ways to use marijuana for medical purposes, the most common problem that it helps to treat is chronic pain caused by different reasons (Piper et al., 2017).
Medical marijuana is used all over the world, and possession limits for patients with chronic pain or other problems vary depending on the existing laws. Apart from that, the practices associated with the treatment option can be different since some ways of using it are prohibited by local laws.
Medical cannabis is available in two various forms, natural and synthetic. The former presents the dried leaves of the Cannabis plant that are consumed in a variety of ways. In addition to that, there are two synthetic drugs that mimic the structure of tetrahydrocannabinol – nabilone and dronabinol (Piper et al., 2017). In the United States, nabilone is primarily used to treat the side effects of chemotherapy, whereas the proposed clinical uses of dronabinol include chronic pain (Piper et al., 2017).
As for the definition of chronic pain, it includes a number of conditions that last for more than three months and are characterized by the presence of strong and persistent pains (Piper at al., 2017). In the majority of cases, chronic pain is localized, and it often affects such regions of the body as the head or the peritoneal cavity. The signs of chronic pain syndrome are often observed in patients with dysmenorrhea, migraines, cancer, diabetes, joint problems, and neuropathological diseases (Piper et al., 2017). Therefore, patients who get cannabis treatment for chronic pain are different in terms of general health state.
There are numerous ways of administration of medical cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain. Smoking is still the most popular one; for instance, in the study conducted by Piper et al. (2017), it is preferred by every second participant with chronic pain. Other well-known ways of consuming cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids include vaporization, adding marijuana in food, drinking tinctures, and the use of THC capsules (Piper et al., 2017). Apart from that, medical cannabis for pain relief is also used in the form of concentrates or topical medications, but these ways of administering it are rather unpopular (Piper et al., 2017).
Social and Legal Controversy
The need to prescribe medical cannabis is among the topics of heated discussions in the field of healthcare. In the United States, a range of positions concerning prescribed marijuana for pain management is formalized in legislation. Thus, out of fifty states, four do not have marijuana access laws at all, fifteen approve only the use of low-THC products, and more than twenty have comprehensive laws (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2018).
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Continuing on the topic of laws and legal controversy, medical marijuana used to be regarded as a Schedule I substance, the drug that can cause addiction and be harmful to people’s health (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2018). Despite the recent changes in cannabis enforcement policies, the substance is not legal at the federal level, which causes disputes between the representatives of different states.
Florida belongs to the number of states where medical marijuana is used to manage a variety of health conditions. In the state, the use of medical cannabis was legalized two years ago, when Amendment 2 was supported by more than two-thirds of voters (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2018). The initiative uses the term “debilitating condition” to define the range of healthcare consumers who are allowed to use medical cannabis for treatment.
Patients with pain that is localized and persistent belong to the list of people who can use medical cannabis as a part of their treatment strategies. However, when it comes to the laws in Florida, possession limits for medical cannabis have not been determined yet, which can lead to further conflicts (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2018; Florida Health, 2018). Significant differences between the approaches to medical cannabis control implemented in various states are indicative of the heterogeneity of opinion concerning the issue.
Apart from state laws that place restrictions on the use of medical cannabis, social controversy related to the issue is inextricably connected with religious affiliation. Nowadays, medical marijuana is used by ethnically and religiously diverse populations (Piper et al., 2017). However, in some states, the decision to legalize the use of medical cannabis for pain alleviation comes under resistance due to some people’s religious beliefs. One of the most recent cases took place in Utah when one lawyer, a devoted Christian, tried to challenge the introduction of medical cannabis legalization initiative (Blake, 2018). Therefore, diversity may present a problem for the accurate analysis of controversial treatments.
The Effectiveness of Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain
The positive impact of the specified treatment option on the general health of patients with chronic pain is discussed in a variety of scholarly articles. The study by Jensen et al. published in 2015 proves the presence of links between endocannabinoid systems and nociception (the mechanism producing pain) (Piper et al., 2017). Importantly, given that pain is a subjective experience, the effectiveness of medical cannabis is often analyzed with reference to the perceived amelioration of pain reported by patients.
In their study conducted in Australia in 2005, Swift, Gates, and Dillon demonstrate that more than a half of chronic pain patients report positive changes in general health after using medical cannabis (Piper et al., 2017). The nationwide survey conducted in the United Kingdom thirteen years ago also shows that more than seventy percent of medical cannabis users believe it to be extremely effective for many conditions (Piper et al., 2017).
Finally, the survey by Piper et al. (2017) demonstrates that the majority of chronic pain patients report the positive impact of medical cannabis. On average, the reported effectiveness of the drug exceeded 70%, and the most significant pain-relief effects were noticed by patients with traumas and chronic dysmenorrhea (Piper et al., 2017). Thus, the ability of medical cannabis to alleviate pain is supported by solid evidence.
To sum up, medical cannabis is a drug that is available in different forms and possesses numerous properties that produce positive health effects. Despite social and legal controversies concerning its legalization, cannabis can be used for medical treatment in many parts of the United States. Although the treatment is still regarded controversial due to religious differences and its potential side-effects, medical marijuana helps numerous patients with chronic pain to improve the quality of their life.
Blake, A. (2018). Medical marijuana measure spurs religious freedom lawsuit in Utah. The Washington Times. Web.
Florida Health. (2018). Rules and regulations. Web.
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2018). State medical marijuana laws. Web.
Piper, B. J., Beals, M. L., Abess, A. T., Nichols, S. D., Martin, M. W., Cobb, C. M., & DeKeuster, R. M. (2017). Chronic pain patients’ perspectives of medical cannabis. Pain, 158(7), 1373-1379.