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For many years the use of marijuana for medical purposes has been an issue of controversial discussion. Many claim that marijuana is a drug that has proven itself to be of no medical value in the treatment of terminal illnesses. Those who feel this way, usually ignore the long history of marijuana s medical uses; a history that goes back thousands of years ago. The drug has aided many people with the coping of terminal diseases. The use of marijuana as a medicinal herb has allowed many with no hope, to enjoy life more fully and lead rather decent life-styles. Marijuana has been erroneously classified as an addictive drug that causes unrepairable psychological side effects. This may be true if marijuana is taken in heavy doses and for recreational purposes. The real fact however, is that this condition could occur with the abuse of any drug, wether it is legalized by the Medical Board or not. If marijuana is abused, it is being used in an abnormal manner, therefore possibly leading to severe emotional reactions and personality changes. Marijuana should be classified as a non-addictive drug thereby being legalized for medical purposes. The use of marijuana, under medical observation and through proper doses, in fact will not create a drug-addict, but rather it will enhance and increase the chances of a better life style.

All throughout the different epochs of this world s history, cannibis sativa and cannibis indica, more commonly known as marijuana, has verified to its users its medicinal powers. Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most active ingredient out of the already known 460 compounds found in cannibis. It is present in large amounts and is extremely psychoactive (Grinspoon and Bakalar). The first known record of marijuana use for medical purposes was in 2737 B.C. by a Chinese emperor by the name of Chen-nung. He recommended it for the treatment of malaria, constipation, rheumatic pains, absent-mindedness, and female disorders. After Chen-nung discoveries, many cultures acquired the emperor s knowledge and accepted the the therapeutic benefits of the medicinal plant. For example, in India, “Cannabis has been recommended to quicken the mind, lower fevers, induce sleep, cure dysentery, stimulate appetite, improve digestion, relive headaches, and cure veneral disesases” (Grinspoon and Bakalar). Other places where marijuana began to make a big impact was Persia, Assayria, Greece, Africa, South America, Turkey, and Egypt. Within the realms of Western medicine, cannibis began to demonstrate its abilities from 1840 to 1900. During this time, doctors like William B. O Shaughessy and R. R. M Meems published hundreds of articles strongly enforcing the medical abilities of marijuana for certain discomforts (Grinspoon and Bakalar).

In 1860, physcicians from the Ohio Medical Society began an extensive research in treating cannibis as a medicine. They found great uses of the drug for painful maladies: stomach pain and gastric distress, chronic cough, neuralgia, and psychosis (Grinspoon and Bakalar). In 1937, diligently persuing the prohibition of marijuana s recreational social use, led to the repudiation of marijuana as a medicinal alternate. In 1978 however, the states began responding the pleas coming from seriously ill patients for the legalization of cannibis to aid their aching bodies. Many diseased people died waiting. Ever since, many have died and will continue dying, while the debating physicians are still dwelling in the courts of the United States trying to bring an end to the suffering of the patients.

Marijuana has an infinite number of uses. A recent discovery by a South Florida doctor says that after some experimentation, the placing of marijuana in a test tube with the herpes virus, killed the virus (Yates). Over the years and through historical references, a list of medical uses for marijuana submerged. Found on the list are treatments for anorexia, asthma, pain, peptic ulcers, alcoholism, epilepsy, depression, migranes, anxiety, inflammation, rheumatoidal pain, hypertension, and insomia (Zeese 2). “Interestingly, relief of many of the symptoms marijuana was used for in these illnesses are many of the same symptoms that have been proven in modern research. . .This should not be suprising unless we want to assume that all of the experience of thousands of years did not have some factual basis” (2).

Marijuana s wonderous therapeutic abilities have proven to be exceedingly useful for the medical patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy. People with cancer undergo a number of therapeutic sessions called chemotherapy. This treatment can last from six months to two years (Ekert et al. 657). Cancer chemotherapy can extend the patiens life for quite a number of years, if not completely “cure” the deadly disease. The major drawback of this rehabilitative agent is that it has drastic and severe side-effects. The two most noticeable ones are vomiting and nausea. There are medicines in the market with the purpose of somewhat controlling the effects, but have shown to be rather useless. These side-effects are sometimes so harsh, that patients prefer to abandon the therapy (Randall and O Leary 3) rather then “seriously diminishing the quality of life during treatment” (Ekert et al. 657).

Different studies and investigations with cannibis have documented that THC has the ability to reduce, or even eliminate, the terrible symptoms that proceed chemotherapy sessions. From these studies, researchers have concluded that the patient is capable of tolerating life-long chemotherapeutic treatments and do not have to deal with the nauseating and vomiting side-effects. In one of the many studies held to affirm the medicinal abilities of marijuana with cancer patients, nineteen children requiring chemotherapy were placed under extensive study and constant watch. They ranged from the ages of five to nineteen. Researchers wanted to compare the effects of THC with metoclopramide, a drug used for nausea and vomiting side effects (657).

The study was designed to be double blind. As THC was presented in the form of brown capsules and metoclopramide could not be obtained in the same form it was decided to dispense metoclopramide in the form of a syrup. . .Placebo capsules made of soft gelatin containing peanut oil and placebo syrup were dispensed together with the antemetic preparations. Thus, the patients were taking either THC and Placebo syrup or metoclopramide syrup and placebo capsules. . . To compare the antiemetic properties of the two agents in the same patients receiving the same chemotherapy, a crossover study was designed. For 50 patients, five consecutive courses of the same chemotherapy were randomized so that the patients received antiemetic agents in all possible combinations, except those which allowed the use of the same antiemetic on five consecutive occasions (658).

The results were significantly impressive. THC was without a doubt a great help to the reducing of nausea and vomiting. It allowed for the patients to retain normal eating habits, being released of the anorexic life styles they were caught up in. The results showed that THC was very helpful in controlling side effects to the patients undergoing chemotherapy. It clearly surpassed any high dosage of any other conventional drug (659).

The issue has gone a step further. In another study with cancer chemotherapy patients, new discoveries were found. After having used convetional medication for nausea and vomiting, 250 patients in New Mexico received marijuana or THC from 1978 to 1986. Both the marijuana and the THC were effective, but 90 percent preferred the marijuana over the THC. With the marijuana, the improvement was almost instantaneous. Incidently, none of the patients reported problems with abuse or addiction of either marijuana or THC cigarettes after the chemotherapy sessions had concluded (Grinspoon and Bakalar). The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that “`THC is an effective anti-emetic for patients receiving cancer chemotherapy`” (Zeese 7). Subsequent studies show that marijuana helps over 90 percent of its users overcome and/or control nausea and vomiting, also stimulating appetite (Randall and O Leary 5).

People who suffer from the deadly disease Acquired Immune System (AIDS), also experience these problems. Over one million Americans are infected by the deadly virus (4). Powerful and highly toxic anti-viral drugs such as AZT and the new protease inhibitors can induce severe nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal difficulties. Due to these terrible side effects, an AIDS patient can easily become bulemic and starve to death. These conditions can easily debilitate the patient, forcing them to lead very shameful lives. Smoking marijuana has shown to help in coping with the side effects from AZT. Many attempts have been made to obtain legal marijuana for these distressing patients, but have all failed. Despite the law, these tormented people have had to take other measures to obtain their relief. They are now on the streets, getting a hold of marijuana through illegal maneuvers (Wesner).

A group of AIDS patients living in Honolulu, Hawaii, were sent a questionnaire with the purpose to research on how they felt about the healing power of cannibis. The questionnaire sought information in three different areas: awareness and communicaiton about the medical use of marijuana, patterns of therapeutic use and attitudes towerd the legal reform. The questionnaire also included an optional comment section in which the respondents could express their emotions.

The first question dealt with the respondent s knowledge about the medical use of marijuana. Of all the people who answered, 98.4 percent had heard marijuana could be used for medical purposes. Approximately 87.0 percent knew it could be used directly with AIDS patients. One patient commented:

Marijuana is the only drug that takes the place of an aid for appetite, mood elevation, relaxation, or motivation. Used as a medication it s doctor-recommended, and in moderation a very unique, fast-acting, and useful helper. When depressed from knowing you re dying, it really moves your mind to a better location (Wesner).

Another AIDS patient shared these same feelings plus more and expressed them as follows:

I believe that marijuana has psychological benefits in addition to any physiological benefits. You just feel better; so many AIDS patients find it hard to cope with the general feeling of not being healthy on a constant basis. Relief like pot is temporary godsend. They can feel normal for a few hours of their stress-filled life (Wesner).

Through the patterns of remedial use, respondents preferred to use marijuana over marinol, a drug use to reduce the nausea caused by the AZT. An actual small number of respondents had used marijuana to enhance their living conditions, a total of 23.6 percent. Out of these few, a total of 92 percent reported that marijuana provided them with a more desireable effect. One of the comments directly from the questionnaire stated, “. . .whenever I am suffering from nausea or cannot eat, marijuana is the only thing thus far that has an immediate result and does not contribute to unpleasant side effects. Marinol has made me sick several times” (Wesner). Another respondent was quite frank about his feelings toward the Marinol that is offered to AIDS patients for nausea and vomiting. “Marinol is not and adequate substitue for marijuana. I had to stop taking it in the hospital. All it did was make me very groggy without enhancing my appetite” (Wesner).

Attitudes toward the legal reform of cannibis was shown by strong support for the legalization of marijuana. Many felt that under a medical prescription, they would consider using it. One lady expressed her emotions by saying, “I feel in my heart that if this could help people like myself and my husband who have HIV, then it should by all means be legal for treatment only. We really must open our minds to what can be done for this disease” (Wesner). A total of 93.5 percent supported the admittance of marijuana as a medicine.

Glaucoma is an eye disease that with time leads to blindness. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States; it afflicts over 4 million Americans (Randall and O Leary 3). According to the National Society For Prevention of Blindness, there are 178,000 new cases of glaucoma diagnosed each year. Ten-thousand of these cases go fully blind yearly. Surgeries and glaucomic medications are either impotent or cause terrible side-effects: headaches, kidney stones, burning of the eyes, blurred vision, cardiac problems, insomnia, and nervous anxiety. These side effects may become so intense that the dicontinue of the products soon becomes a very tempting option for the blinding patient. Marijuana has brought a great relief to patients who have made use of it. It has been ascerted that cannibis reduces the amount of pressure upon the eye, “. . .it is clear that. . . marijuana can make a critically important difference in prolonging sight” (4).

In controlled studies at UCLA, it was discovered that patients smoking marijuana experienced an approximate 30 percent drop in eye pressure. The reduciton was dose releated and lasted four to five hours. Dr. Robert Hepler, principal investigator in the UCLA study, concluded that cannabis is more useful than conventional medication and reduces eye pressure in a way that regular medications do not (Merrit et al. 31). A common problem among glaucoma patients is that they become very tolerant of the medications. The use of marijuana to reduce glaucomic medication reduction could eliminate the need for surgical intervention. Glaucoma surgery costs Americans an estimated $8.8 million every year (34).

Muscular spasticity is a condition very common within the American society. Over 1 million persons in the United States are affected from the neurologic conditon. It is very similar to diseases like multiple sclerosis, strokes, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries that cause compact and harsh muscle spasms and chronic pain. Current medical recuperative treatement and conventional medications are poor treatment for the pain. Often patients develop a high tolerance over the medications and can easily become addicted to the drug. Cannbis has been succesful in certifying non-addictive treatments for muscle spasticity (Randall and O Leary 4). As it is mentioned by Tod Mikuriya in the Journalof Psychoactive Drugs, “Medical practioners of more than a century ago would turn over in their graves to read that a major drug for certain nervous disorders has retrogressed. . .” (240).

Dunn and Davis reported in a 1974 issue of Paraplegia magazine that ten patients admitted using marijuana for spinal cord injury, “with perceived decrease in pain and spasticity” (175). These anecdotal and historical accounts of marijuana s effectiveness in treating spasticity have led to more controlled studies. Denis Petro and Carl Ellenberger, muscle spasticity doctors, conducted a study on the effects of THC in multiple sclerosis patients in 1979. Seven out of nine patients responded favorably to the treatment with THC. Dr. Petro reports hearing from more than one hundred individuals with spasticity problems relief from the use of marijuana (83).

In another study found in the Journal of Neurology, a case report of a thirty year old male with multiple sclerosis was reported. This analysis showed the beneficial uses of marijuana cigarettes. This male was in a wheelchair because of “severe limb and gait ataxia and spastic tetraparesis” (Meinck, Schonle, and Conrad 120). He continously complained of lack of strength and sever pain. Another issue that made him upset was the fact that his erections would last less than five minutes and would not ejaculate.

After a controlled study of the patients body system, the research began. He abstained from all therapeutic drugs and fell into an inexplicable deterioration. Soon after that, he began smoking an experimental marijuana cigarette. Within a matter of five minutes, his unhealthful condition improved. After clinical findings, marijuana corraborated in the aid of multiple sclerosis patients. The patient continued smoking a marijuana cigarette daily and noted “instantaneous improvement of his motor and sexual funcitons lasting for several days. . .[the daily marijuana cigarette] enabled him to climb stairs, walk on even ground, and to have erections for more than thirty minutes, allowing him a quite satisfactory sexual life” (120).

Marijuana is in high demand among people with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and neurologic disorders. The therapeutic effects that marijuana imposes upon these severely affected individuals has forced them to go into the streets to attain the relief they so much yearn for, illegally. Federal law allows physicians to perscribe far more dangerous and chemically unstable drugs to patients, yet boldly refuses to allow marijuana into the medical field. Physicians are “forbidden to provide people who are dying, going blind, or being crippled with liat, therapeutic acces to marijuana” (Randall and O Leary 1). Many feel that they perceive hypocrasy within the law, “I find it crazy that thousands die each year from legalized alcohol marijuana is a nauture drug, which is a blessing for those of us who benefit from it” (Wesner).

Federal regulations continue to make accurate, advanced and precise reserach for marijuana use more difficult. Thiry-four states have enacted laws which recongnize marijuana s medical value. Haplessly though, Federal law exceeds state law. Federal authorities retain strict control over the reproduction of marijuana for medical supplies. Due to the constant demand from physicians, state laws have tried to create agencies that provide patients in need with legal and adequate amounts of marijuana. Complex federal regulations make it very difficult for these programs to continue.

Finally, in November, voters in Arizona and California approved that a change in the direction in our drug policy is needed (Zeese 7). The fact that these two states voted toward the lagalization of marijuana has began to prove that Americans are beginning to realize that there are alternate routes to take within the drug war. This was a great step toward the realization that Americans think realistically and are not afraid to deal with their problems. “An open society that recognizes fallibility is a superior form of social organization to a closed society that claims to have all the answers” (Soros 1).

Legalizing cannibis would not only help in medically active agencies, but among the prisons and jails, and among the social recreational use of it. As it is well put by George Soros, “. . . a drug-free America is a utopian dream” (2). The number of drug violators behind bars has increased eightfold since 1980. By criminilizing drug abusers, socitey is harming them. Rather then to put them in jail and contribute to the overcrowding of our jails, small drug abusers should be placed under more effective drug treatement programs. This would not only reduce the number of inmates, but it would be less costly to loyal taxpayers. Government should save the jail space for violent criminals and “predatory drug dealers” (3). “Demonizing drugs can increase their appeal to adolescents, for whom rebellion is often an important passage into adulthood” (4). If society would continue exaggerating the warnings toward drugs, it would be a harmful and fallable step to be taking. This could lead to the undermining of the credibility about the warnings on harder drugs and other issues that young people must deal with daily. By accepting marijuana as a medicinal herb, its appeal to adolescents would surely decrease. Consequently, reduction of marijuana s recreational use would be inevitable.

Marijuana as a medicine has no political complexion. The fact of wether it should be legalized or not is not a liberal issue being opposed by conservative views. Without any doubt, conservatives believe that the doctors should be in charge of determining the credibility of a drug for medical care, not bureaucrats (Yates).

At no point have marijuana supporters claimed that marijuana cures any of the conditions discussed above. However, under controlled and medical supervision, marijuana has succesfully classified itlsef as “one of the safest therapeutically active substance know to man” (Grinspoon and Bakalar). The American people are well aware of the corrective value of marijuana, but “. . . are being victimized by those on the political margins” (Randall and O Leary 16).

Not only does the best scientific research overwhelmingly confirm that cannabis is both an effective medicine and a safe drug, but that it is beneficial for therapeutic life styles. While the drug reformers and the anti-drug forces rant and rave on the public stage, the real story continues behind the scenes. AIDS and cancer patients continue loosing weight and experiencing bouts of nausea while conventional medicine fails. Glaucoma patients continue to suffer while at the same time loosing their eyesight. Victims of multiple sclerosis, paralysis, and other conditions experience intense and debilitating muscle spasms. As the days go by people continue arguing. Meanwhile, patients suffer, loose hope, and die waiting for the miracle drug. Think about it, these patients could be one your loved ones, your mother or your child, or it could even be you. Lost in a swirl of rhetoric, are the suffering patients.

Works Cited

Dunn, M., and D. Ross. “The Perceived Effects of Marijuana on Spinal Cord Injured Males.” Paraplegia 12 (1974): 175.

Ekert, H., et al. “Amelioration of Cancer Chemotherapy Induced Nausea and Vomiting by Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol.” Medical Journal of Australia Vol. 2. (1979): 657-659.

Grinspoon, Lester, and James B. Bakalar. Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine. New Haven Yale University Press, 1993.

Meinck, H. M., P. W. Schonle, and B. Conrad. “Effects of Cannabinoids on Spasticity and Ataxia in Multiple Sclerosis.” Journal of Neurology 236 (1989): 120-122.

Merrit, J. C., et al. “Topical Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Aqueous Dynamics in Galucoma.” Journal of Clinical Pharmecology 21 (1981): 467S-471S.

Mikuriya, Tod. “Therapeutic Potential and Medical Uses of Marijuana.” Jounral of Pshycoactive Drugs 14 (1982) 239-241.

Petro, D., and C. Ellenberg, Jr. “Treatment of Human Spasticity with Delta-9- Tetrahydrocannabinol.” Journal of Clinical Pharmecology. 21 (1980): 413S- 416S.

Randall, Robert C., and Alice M. O Leary. Marijuana as Medicine: A Recent History (1979-1997) With Recommendations. America On Line. Downloaded on 11/4/97. http://marijuana-as-medicine.org/rev2.html

Soros, George. “It s Time to Just Say No To Self-Destructive Prohibition.” Washington Post. 2 Feb. 1997: np.

Wesner, Ben. “The Medical Use Among PWA s: Reports of Therapeutic Use and Attitudes Toward Legal Reform.” Working Paper Series No. 3. June 1996: np.

Yates, Dennis M. The Legalization of Marijuana: Part I. America On Line. Donwloaded on 11/4/97. http://www.magic.mb.ca/ lampi/drugs/Cannibis/mj_legalization1.txt

Zeese, Kevin B, Research Findings on Medical Properties of Marijuana. America On Line. Downloaded on 11/4/97.http://www.lindesmith.org/mmjcsdp.html


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