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Medical Marijuana: A Public Health Perspective
In the United States, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug. Though the use of this drug is illegal in most states, some states such as Colorado and Washington have voted and even passed the law for the legalization of marijuana for recreation uses. In the District of Columbia and other 18 states, the use of marijuana has been legalized for medical purposes only. Nevertheless, these marijuana legalizations have resulted in an increased rate of marijuana consumption in these states. However, in relation to medical marijuana, there exist numerous issues of public health significance such as its harmful effects, medical use, laws and the role of physicians (Desai & Patel 136).
According to the research that was conducted in 1997 by the white house Institute of Medicine (IOM), marijuana use has numerous therapeutic benefits as well as some harmful effects on some individuals. In their report, IOM depicted that marijuana contains cannabinoids chemicals, primarily Tetrahydrocannabinol-a, which is contributes in relieving pain, treatment of neurological disorders (such as Alzheimer`s disease, muscle spasticity, epilepsy and movement disorders), glaucoma, appetite stimulation, nausea and vomiting control among others (Desai & Patel 137). However, in a public health perspective, smoking of marijuana (which is the most form of delivering these cannabinoids into the human system) results in the introduction or involvement of other chemicals in the body, resulting in more harm than good. For example, though marijuana has analgesic (pain relieving) properties, the circuitry on the delivery of this effect needs be evaluated. IOM research established that the control of pain by cannabinoids have numerous synergistic effects, such as the involvement of α2 adroreceptor (Desai & Patel 137). In addition, IOM report stipulated that other rapid delivery systems for cannabinoids should be developed other than smoking, in order for the therapeutic effects to be more effective, and to avoid the occurrence of other harmful effects that are associated with smoking. For example, most patients who are undergoing chemotherapy are unlikely to use marijuana as an anti-emetic, while those suffering from wasting syndrome would turn to other alternative treatments since they are more effective and rapid than smoking marijuana.
However, the medical use, and the increasing legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug pose other public health concerns. According to the study that was conducted by the University of Michigan, the increasing use of this drug is stipulated to decrease the perception of both social disapprovals and the associated risks, especially to the youths. Consecutively, approximately 9 percent of marijuana users are likely to become dependent and addicted. Moreover, any attempt of quitting from marijuana use would lead to physical withdrawal syndrome, and 71% of these individuals are likely to relapse. Other severe adverse effects of marijuana use include short memory loss, more traffic accidents, decreased concentration, insomnia, development of respiratory diseases among others (Desai & Patel 138-139).
Nevertheless, physicians have the role of controlling the use of medical marijuana. For example, physicians should only complete the certificates of patients who are diagnosed with the conditions that can be treated through the use of marijuana (Desai & Patel 139-141).
It is, therefore, evident that marijuana has numerous therapeutic effects that are necessary for the treatment of several medical conditions. However, rather than smoking, more rapid delivery system for cannabinoids should be established in order to make its use to be more effective. However, the use of this drug should be controlled, in order to avoid adverse health effects that are associated with continuous and uncontrolled use.
Desai U & Patel P: Medical marijuana: a public health perspective. Int J Basic Clin Pharmacol 2013;2:136 43. University of florida, USA. 2013 print. Retrieved from, http://www.ejmanager.com/mnstemps/49/49-1358369613.pdf?t=1424168811