Prevention Connection: The Marijuana Decision (Part 2)

A look at the medical research on marijuana.

The following is a guest column by Marilyn G. Belmonte of the Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force:

The American Medical Association (AMA) is the largest medical association in the country.  Its mission is to promote medicine for the betterment of public health, and to advance the interests of physicians and their patients.  The AMA released a formal position statement that more “adequate and well-controlled studies of marijuana and related cannabinoids are needed.  The AMA also called for reclassification of marijuana to make it more readily available to scientists and conduct much needed research before deciding how to use marijuana for medical purposes.

The AMA goes on to say that their statement “should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product”.  Since smoking is unhealthy and linked to disease, the AMA recommends the “development of a smoke free delivery system for marijuana or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to reduce the health hazards associated with the combustion and inhalation of marijuana”.

Smoked marijuana has not been passed as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA has determined that “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision”.

Until research has been completed and approved by the FDA that compounds in marijuana are safe and effective for medical use, marijuana can not be considered a medicine in this country.  There is no legal, scientific or medical basis for the term “medical marijuana”.  Some states are filing legal suits to prevent the term from being used until the medical community authorizes it.

Cannabinoid-Related Medications

Legalization of marijuana for use in “medical” situations may not be necessary.  Currently there are several legal, synthetic forms of THC used as prescription medicines.   Pharmaceutical drugs have been developed with similar chemicals as those found in the marijuana plant. Marinol and Dronabinol contain man-made THC and are widely prescribed by doctors to relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients and to assist with loss of appetite with AIDS patients.  Nabilone, Cesamet, Cannabinor and Dexanabinol contain a synthetic drug similar to THC for those same purposes. 

Sativex is the latest prescription cannabinoid medication and the only natural THC product developed from raw marijuana.  It is a mouth spray that delivers a precise dose of chemical compounds derived from natural extracts of the cannabis plant.  Sativex contains two cannabinoids: THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).  It has been approved for medical use in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and eight European countries.  Sativex is in advanced clinical trials in the U.S. and may see FDA approval by the end of 2013. 

It is important to note that this formula is effective at delivering the medication without the “high” of smoking marijuana.  In fact, the main difference between all the above prescription drugs and marijuana is that the legal prescriptions do not include the “high”.

Stay tuned for Part 3: The FDA Standards and Marijuana Dispensaries

Marilyn Belmonte is a substance abuse prevention expert who founded Healthy Outcomes, Inc., a non-profit organization, to provide prevention services to all communities through grants and charitable donations. Marilyn is Co-Chairperson of the Drug and Alcohol Task Force in Burlington, Massachusetts.   Her work has received national recognition from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for her innovative community programs in 2010 when she was awarded to the “National Service To Science Initiative”.  She also received the “All Star Award” by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), makers of over-the-counter medications for educating parents about cough medicine abuse in 2008.

FlyingTooLow August 29, 2012 at 04:19 PM
All card-carrying members of the DEA need to read: Shoulda Robbed a Bank Here is one of its reviews: 5.0 out of 5 stars... If David Sedaris had written 'Catcher in the Rye'..this would be it, June 30, 2012 Amazon Verified Purchase This review is from: Shoulda Robbed a Bank (Kindle Edition) I have never smoked pot in my life...nor do I ever care to. I read about this book in numerous Huffington Post comments. Thought I would read it because I know nothing about marijuana or the people involved with it. I am ecstatic that I did. Funny, Funny, Funny!!! The chapters are like short stories. Stories about unloading boats with helicopters, close encounters with law enforcement, traveling through the jungles of South America. The chapter about the author's first time smoking marijuana made me feel like I was with him...coughing. All of the characters were just a group of loveable, nice guys and girls. Not what I had been raised to believe...hysterical maniacs high on pot bent on death and mayhem. They were nothing like that. If you have ever read any of David Sedaris' books, and like them...you will love Shoulda Robbed a Bank. And the crazy things happening reminded me of Holden Caufield in 'Catcher in the Rye' and the way he staggered through life. The way the words are put together are like nothing I have ever heard. I am sure I will use many of the sayings found in this book just to dazzle my friends. A terrific read. I love this book.
Kevin_Hunt October 12, 2012 at 06:07 PM
The American Medical Association has reported that "Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass,and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis." Source: REPORT 3 OF THE COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND PUBLIC HEALTH (I-09) Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes (Resolutions 910, I-08;921, I-08;and 229, A-09) (Reference Committee K)
Kevin_Hunt October 12, 2012 at 06:08 PM
FDA warns that diabetes drug Actos may increase bladder cancer FDA warns of liraglutide risk COPD mist inhaler Spiriva may increase risk of death. Seizure medications linked to pregnancy risk FDA warns simvastatin may cause severe muscle damage Osteoporosis Drugs & New Evidence on Heightened Risk of Femur Fractures Meridia Recalled - Maker Pulls the Diet Drug Pill Due to FDA Concerns of Increased Risk of Heart Attack & Stroke Paxil, Celexa, Effexor, Lexapro, Prozac & Zoloft Linked to Birth Defects Yaz & Yasmin - linked to heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and death Source: http://www.drugrecalls.com/
FlyingTooLow October 12, 2012 at 06:16 PM
@Kevin_Hunt... The bitch of the whole issue, is that now, many of these 'medications' list 'suicide' as a potential 'side effect.' What the hell is wrong with this picture?
Kevin_Hunt October 13, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Quoting Marilyn Belmonte: "It is important to note that this formula is effective at delivering the medication without the “high” of smoking marijuana. " Marilyn, did you not bother to Google the subject? I found the following testimonials from those who have used Sativex and it DOES get people "high". What other statements have you made here that are poorly researched? From: http://www.clear-uk.org/the-sativex-scam-part-2-5/ “I am prescribed Sativex and can confirm that I get a body high from using it, not as much as a pure joint filled with just pure cannabis, but it does effect the way I think and the way my body feels.” Desmond Humphrey “I sprayed Sativex 4 times under my tongue, as first I could taste the mint flavour, however the overbearing taste of the cannabis soon came through and it certainly tasted like real cannabis. The effects came on quite quickly and within half an hour I felt like I had eaten a very strong space cake like the ones sold in the coffeeshops of Amsterdam. In other words, I got very stoned.” Chris Bovey. “Sativex affects me in the same way as Bediol, the high-CBD medicinal cannabis from Bedrocan, the Dutch government supplier. Of course it gets me high.” Clark French


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