Medical Cannabis; Can it Cause Lung Disease?

A current study was done to establish the collective and independent effects of tobacco and cannabis smoking on respiratory symptoms and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) within the general population.  COPD is a progressive (which means it gets worse with time) lung disease that makes it hard to breathe.  COPD symptoms include chronic coughing, mucus production, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.  The leading cause of COPD is tobacco smoke.  The above mentioned study evaluated 878 people aged 40 and older and assessed their respiratory history, use of tobacco and use of marijuana. They performed lung function tests before and after using medication that opens up the lungs.

The findings: “Smoking both tobacco and marijuana synergistically increased the risk of respiratory symptoms and COPD. Smoking only marijuana was not associated with an increased risk of respiratory symptoms or COPD.”  (Tan, et al, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 4/14/09; 180)

Despite these findings, most physicians still recommend that medical marijuana patients do not smoke their medication and instead use vaporizers, edibles, and/or tinctures.  It is clear from this study that the damage that smoking tobacco can cause is significant (which we all knew before anyway!) and it can be worsened if you also smoke marijuana.

The Colbert Report and Prop 19

Well it seems that my Facebook Fan page for Marijuana Medicine Evaluation Centers paid off in a big way. As a fan of both The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report I make it a point to go to their FB fan page on a daily basis and post comments, stories, videos and such. Well it would appear that one of their writers got a hold of our website 

Marijuana Medicine Evaluation Centers

Marijuana Medicine Evaluation Centers

and saw the opening for a few jabs at the medical marijuana doctor / patient relationship.

While it seems they found humor in some of the items one could receive a medical marijuana recommendation for they seemed to focus most of their comical attention on the fact that the necessity for Prop 19 has been undermined by Governor Schwarzenegger opting to signed Senate Bill 1449which reduces adult marijuana possession charges from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction.

Senate Bill 1449 amends the California Health and Safety Code so that the adult possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana is classified as an infraction, punishable by no more than a $100 fine — no court appearance, no court costs, and no criminal record.

The new law, which takes effect on Jan 1, 2011, will have an effect even if Californians vote to legalize marijuana by passing Prop 19. Proposition 19 leaves misdemeanor possession penalties in place for public use and smoking in the presence of children; under SB 1449, these offenses would be simple infractions.

Medical Marijuana Can Help In 14 States …

Marijuana Medicine can help with many ailments. With the recent death of Heath Ledger due to prescription drugs| more and more patients looking at the prescription drugs and cannot help but be curious as to what their future holds. Doctors are so swift to write prescriptions for anti-depressants, painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquilizers. Most medical cannabis patients feel that they cannot function on the medications that they have been prescribed for pain, insomnia, depression, etc. and find that they function very well on medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana use, under a doctors supervision, is legal in fourteen states with actual laws varying by state. These states are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, N.J. and Washington. Each state does have its own set of rules and it would be advisable to check them frequently as laws are subject to change at any time. It is important to note that in May 2001 the Supreme Court ruled that federal laws make no exception for distributing or growing marijuana by a third party. Simplified, it means users need to grow their own marijuana for medical use as it is illegal for it to be grown by someone else.

The effects of marijuana on the brain are due to the active ingredient, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC acts on cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells and influences the activity of those cells. Cannabinoid receptors are found in many parts of the brain that can influence memory, pleasure, thought, concentration and coordination.

Both anecdotal and scientific research evidence suggests that marijuana provides relief to chronic pain sufferers with a variety of ailments ranging from back pain, migraines, glaucoma, cancer and many more. Research by Vinciqeurra et al. found that 78% of patients tested who were resistant to regular drugs for nausea became symptom free with inhaled cannabis use. There are more than 17,000 papers published that deal with scientific clinical research of the therapeutic value of cannabinoids.

One of the most widely known medical uses for marijuana is in treatment for the side effects of chemotherapy. It is used for the reduction of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Another well known use is in the treatment of glaucoma. Many standard treatments have very adverse effects and little positive effect on end stage glaucoma. The use of cannabis lowers the intraocular pressure allowing patients to retain their sight and avoid the painful deterioration that leads to blindness.

Medical marijuana is being tested in its use for Multiple Sclerosis patients. At this time there is no known effective regular medical cure available. Cannabis has been found to have a significant effect on MS symptoms. Cannabis use has been found to reduce tremors, restore balance, stop muscle spasms and restore sight, speech and bladder control. Cannabis may even retard the progression of MS, according to the publication, Marijuana – The Forbidden Medicine.

Medical marijuana is also used for the treatment of other forms of pain. One subject suffered a major back injury and consequent surgery. The subject was offered opiate types of pain medication but found the simple use of marijuana was equally effective on the pain without the side effects of an opiate drug. Unfortunately this subject does not reside in a state that allows for the use of medical marijuana and will therefore not be quoted.

The short-term undesirable effects of marijuana include distorted perception, loss of coordination, difficulties with learning, problem solving and memory, and an increase in heart rate with a decrease in blood pressure. Some users may also experience fear, distrust or a feeling of panic. Most of the negative effects of tobacco smoking are also found in the smoking of marijuana. There is a possibility that frequent or prolonged use of marijuana may lead to significant impairment of the immune system and further studies should be part of any research, especially if marijuana is to be used by patients with compromised immune systems. Use of medical marijuana for reducing intraocular pressure in glaucoma can also cause an unwanted drop in blood pressure. The heart rate of the user can increase by 20 or more beats per minute and can cause an increased risk of heart attack.

Many studies and clinical trials are now ongoing, mostly in countries more in favor of the use and further research is needed to fully weigh the pros and cons of medical marijuana use.

References:

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

U.S. National Institutes of Health

Meidcal Cannabis and HIV-AIDS

THC, the main chemical component in marijuana, is a natural antiemetic and can help battle chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). CINV can cause patients to stop much needed treatment due to the intolerable side effects. Although recent advances have resulted in new medications to fight CINV, some patients prefer using a more natural way to treat these symptoms. Many MMEC patients report improvement in their quality of life with less CINV when they use medical marijuana before, during, and after their chemotherapy treatments.

On the heels of the recent legalization of medicinal marijuana use for sick patients, Washington state is reevaluating how much pot a person can have in their possession, according to the Associated Press.

This fall, Washington state officials will be meeting to discuss exactly how much marijuana makes up a two-month supply for people whom doctors have given their permission to smoke the otherwise illegal drug.

Legalized medicinal marijuana has been around in Washington since 1998 when 60 percent of votes went in support of the drug, however, up until now; there has never been a set amount on how much patients can have on hand at any given time.

The issue has been brought up by police officers and prosecutors who say it will make it easier to determine who to arrest for possessing the controlled substance.

What makes Washington different from the other 11 states that have legalized marijuana is that the northwestern state has never set a limit for how much of the substance a patient can have.

New Mexico allows patients to have up to six ounces of pot along with four mature plants and three immature seedlings. Oregon is the most lenient state by allowing patients to possess up to 24 ounces and two dozen plants at various stages of growth.

This issue isn't without its controversy. Some patients believe that with this reformation will come too many restrictions, severely limiting those who truly need it.

Another aspect that officials must consider is that marijuana affects different people in different ways, which can determine the amount a patient should have at any given time. Some people may need more than the future determined amount while other may need less.

“We can't have an outside health authority dictate to our doctors how much a patient should use,” Dale Rogers, head of Seattle's Compassion in Action Patient Network, which distributes medical marijuana told the Associated Press.

Some patients believe it should be up to the doctor to dictate the amount of pot a person medically needs.

The Washington marijuana law requires doctors to recommend the drug for people suffering from very painful diseases like multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDs and cancer.

What makes legalized marijuana especially interesting is that even though a patient may be prescribed it by a doctor, legally, that patient can be prosecuted for having the controlled substance. Though most likely the patient will not be sent to jail if it can be proven that is was medically prescribed, no state law can shield someone from a federal law.

Medicinal marijuana is not part of approved federal legislation.

Source: Curt Woodward, “Wash. to set medical marijuana limits.” Yahoo.com/Associated Press. URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070705/ap_on_he_me/medical_marijuana

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