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Medical Marijuana and Arthritis

Medical marijuana is currently being prescribed in 16 different states as well as The District of Columbia. It is intended to treat a variety of ailments and conditions as it works to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, stimulate appetite, and promote sleep. The first direct references to the use of medicinal marijuana date back to 2737 BC in China. Is it possible that a substance often used as comic relief in movies and to represent the hippy counterculture is actually effective in treating multiple conditions and could be distributed as a medication to the masses? The benefits must be weighed against the costs to understand this paradigm shift.

Benefits

Marijuana has been shown to help treat a multitude of conditions by alleviating the associated symptoms. It is often prescribed to patients suffering from chronic pain conditions such as rheumatoid and osteoarthritis because it helps to relieve pain and reduce inflammation which allows the patient to be more mobile. Although research on marijuana’s efficacy for arthritis patients is somewhat limited, the few studies that have been conducted have shown notable improvements in the patients’ ability to cope with pain and sleep deprivation.

Aside from the typical medicinal benefits, many argue that the legal availability of marijuana would introduce an economic stimulus to society. The proper regulation and taxation would generate additional income for government, both local and national, as well as reduce the presence of drug related crime. Cartels and drug traffickers would no longer have the ability to capitalize on the drug’s availability. It would also provide relief to the overcrowded penitentiary system which is a continuous drain on tax money. According to federal government figures, over 41,000 Americans are in state and federal prison for non-violent, marijuana related offences. US taxpayers spend approximately $1 billion a year to incarcerate and house the cannabis-related offenders.

Costs

It isn’t clear that smoking marijuana is completely beneficial for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients. Because RA is an autoimmune disorder, it is associated with a higher risk for lung problems and heart attacks. Smoking can introduce chemicals into the lungs as well as increase heart rate which could have negative consequences for the patient.

As with any drug, marijuana does cause some amount of temporary impairment and side effects. Most users typically report dizziness, dry mouth, sedation and disturbed concentration. Smoking may not be the healthiest method of ingesting but other methods have been developed and deemed far safer.

What Do You Think?

While legal in certain states, marijuana is still illegal under federal law and continues to be under governmental scrutiny. Supporters are fighting everyday for the legalization and availability of medical marijuana for its value in treating health conditions. Do you believe it should be available for patients diagnosed with diseases and ailments such as arthritis?

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