In this space, I plan to share my experiences caring for patients who use medical cannabis and other treatments to alleviate their symptoms and illnesses. I also hope to educate readers about the latest NY regulations, industry advancements, and medical cannabis research.
So, let’s start at the very beginning and ask, “What is medicine?”
Medicine is the science and practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. The word medicine is derived from the Latin ars medicina, meaning the art of healing. Medicine encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness.
Why is it important to define “medicine”?
Even though medical cannabis has been used for thousands of years to ease patient pain and treat a variety of illnesses, there is still a question as to whether we should call cannabis “medicine.” Many physicians choose to believe that until medical cannabis has gone through the rigors of FDA approval and is officially labeled as “medicine”, we must call it a “product”. I believe that these rigors are critical and must be answered…but that doesn’t mean in the most basic and even complex sense that cannabis is not a medicine.
Are cannabinoids useful as medicine?
NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) says:
Currently, the two main cannabinoids from the marijuana plant that are of medical interest are THC and CBD. THC increases appetite and reduces nausea. The FDA-approved THC-based medications are used for these purposes. THC may also decrease pain, inflammation (swelling and redness), and muscle control problems. CBD is a cannabinoid that does not affect the mind or behavior. It may be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions. NIH-funded and other researchers are continuing to explore the possible uses of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids for medical treatment.
For instance, recent animal studies have shown that marijuana extracts may help kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. Evidence from one cell culture study suggests that purified extracts from whole-plant marijuana can slow the growth of cancer cells from one of the most serious types of brain tumors. Research in mice showed that treatment with purified extracts of THC and CBD, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation (Scott, 2014). [http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine]
Does it matter what we call it?
So, while I agree that we need more research as to how cannabis and cannabinoids can be useful as medicine, it’s clear that right here, right now, medical cannabis is alleviating pain and helping patients regain quality of life. I’ve seen firsthand the palliative results of medical cannabis in patients who had lost hope they’d find relief from the pain, nausea, seizures, and a host of other ailments with which they struggled. In both private and publically funded scientific labs, the medical efficacy of cannabinoids has been documented, and this research is just beginning. So, you tell me, can we call medical cannabis “medicine”? If it’s safe and providing relief to patients who are suffering, does it matter what we call it?
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