Potential Uses for Medical Marijuana

Potential Uses for Medical Marijuana

Apr 03

The jury is still out regarding the efficacy of medical marijuana, but studies indicate that it may be a better alternative to currently accepted pharmaceutical products for certain conditions. Like with so many chemical treatment protocols, however, cannabis is associated with undesirable and sometimes serious side effects.

One of the most common uses of medical marijuana is the alleviation of the nausea associated with chemotherapy, called appropriately enough as chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). Cannabis is believed to be more efficacious in controlling CINV than standard antiemetics including metoclopramide and promethazine. Short-term side effects may include increased appetite, dry mouth, hallucinations, muscle twitching, ocular problems, mild depression, and dizziness. Ironically, it appears that with prolonged used of cannabis, the patient may develop a condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. The main symptoms? Nausea and vomiting.

Cannabis is also often used as an analgesic to ease chronic pain associated with neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. There is no definitive risk-benefit analysis for cannabis use for chronic pain, but it is considered a safer alternative to opioids in some severe cases.

Spasticity (involuntary muscle movements) is also thought to be something that can be controlled with cannabis and cannabinoids, so it may be a possible treatment for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Tourette’s syndrome. Because of the potential for unwanted side effects, the cannabis option is usually only considered when other treatments have proven to be ineffective.

However, because of the bipolar legal status of cannabis in the US, patients use this alternative treatment at considerable risk. A quadriplegic man in Colorado (where medical marijuana is legal) with uncontrollable muscle movements was terminated from his job because he smoked marijuana at home to control his symptoms. The man sued his company for wrongful termination. Historically, state courts have upheld the right of employers to terminate employees for use of medical marijuana even outside the workplace. The Colorado case is no different, but the Colorado Supreme Court has surprisingly granted a hearing to consider the ruling of the lower courts. If the Supreme Court decides to overturn the verdict in favor of the plaintiff, it would set a precedent that would potentially benefit registered medical marijuana users in Colorado.