Logic is a fickle thing when applied to substances, legal or otherwise, in our current medical and political climate. Take, for instance, alcohol and its long list of adverse effects. The highlights include liver disease, hypertension, sexual problems, permanent brain damage, coma, nausea and vomiting, breathing difficulties, blackouts, distorted vision and hearing, and impaired judgement to list a few. According to the CDC, these side effects led to over 88,000 fatalities from 2006-2010 and caused economic damage estimated at $223.5 billion.
Prescription drugs, such as opiates and benzodiazepines result in thousands of deaths per year. This trend is only increasing as more people enter the endless spiral known as American health care. Side effects of these include death from breathing inhibition, constipation, dehydration, tremors, seizures, nausea and vomiting, confusion, kidney and liver failure, and many more. To reiterate the point… thousands of human lives are lost each year to legal medical treatments while marijuana has been shown to improve quality of life with very minor and manageable side effects.
A JAMA group has released a scholarly
article that details the current medical research for marijuana. The findings are in line with what we know marijuana can do yet the actualy article is disconcerting. Out of 79 articles, only four only "low bias?" This research is what our doctors will reference for knowledge pertaining to cannabis. If their information is skewed, what does that mean for the patients they treat?
A doctor is a symbol of knowledge and health care. A doctor prescribes these same pills. A doctor sees these patients as they return to ask for a greater dose due to their tolerance increasing. A doctor then increases the prescription, a pharmacist fills it, and a police officer arrests the patient when their tolerance becomes so high legal means no longer address it. This pattern repeats without end because our current medical system promotes addiction and has yet to present any alternatives that are safe, affordable, and address the problem without creating more. Until now...
An Oath to Serve through Compassion
All medical students are taught a guiding principle, primum non nocere, or do no harm, that promotes actions in the best interest of a patient. At times, doing nothing is the best course. Other times, it's best to advise resistant patients on a course of action that will yield the best results.
Medical principles are beliefs that stay true regardless of medical or political climate shifts. Focusing only on the prescription of controlled substances to patients, the question begs to be asked: Why is there such resistance to a new method of treatment with a slew of anecdotal evidence, peer-reviewed research supporting many of the claims its proponents tout, and zero attributable deaths? What is a patient supposed to do when their doctor knows less about medical marijuana's truth than the patient? They become an advocate for their health care.
Our nation is on the cusp of an entire paradigm shift both culturally and medically. The federal government declared same sex marriage legal in all 50 states, the confederate flag is being dismissed as a symbol of racism, and an increasing number of people are able to use cannabis. Yet, science and the medical field are lagging very far behind the curve in finding facts to define cannabis.
This article is the summary from a group of researchers who conducted a systematic review of current marijuana research available. Bias is a rampant problem throughout the research community and marijuana is no exception and marijuana proves no different. Of the 79 published papers the group studied, they found only four to have a low level of bias. The rest, we could assume, must be taken with a very large grain of salt and a healthy dose of skepticism and trusting our own bodies.
Who Watches the Watcher?
How prevalent is bias inside "objective" research? So much so that there is a pattern of three major types of bias journal editors see often:
- Bias through ignorance: Marijuana studies conducting research utilizing incorrect strain and terpene profiles for a desired effect. Marijuana research is in its infancy, however there is a lot of general knowledge that your average college student could provide that would assist these researchers in creating a viable experiment.
- Bias by design: Researchers claimed marijuana killed brain cells. They assumed it was the marijuana instead of the induced oxygen deprivation/strangulation of their test subjects. These kinds of studies kicked off the Reefer Madness campaign of the Reagan era and thus began the War on Drugs.
- Bias through optimism: You believe in your thesis and position. Hundreds of results flood in from your experiments and as you're sorting through the data, a pattern presents itself that aligns with the original hypothesis. In the excitement, other data and patterns are ignored that invalidate the entire conclusion. These studies lead to corrections, if not full retractions, very often.
Bias, coupled with inane barriers to marijuana research, has left the general public with anecdotal evidence, heart-wrenching success stories ( Charlotte's Web), and a vocal minority inside the professional industries. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is perhaps one of the most famous medical professionals to not only switch stances on marijuana but also to become one of its biggest and most vocal supporters. His Weed documentary series has hit the mainstream in the gut and forced them to listen and feel what marijuana can do; not simply regurgitate the headlines off Fox.
A Soldier's Struggle
I'm a man of science myself. Pharmaceuticals, healthy living, and a lot of physical therapy barely kept me walking after my time deployed. The side effects were horrendous and most days I preferred not to medicate, instead dealing with the pain so as to at least function inside society. When I finished my contract and returned home, my spine was a mess and most of my major joints were impaired or had a "use-with-care" thought attached to them. Marijuana was the first and only substance that allowed any semblance of tangible relief without side effects.
My story is only one of thousands in support of marijuana. As a veteran, I thought I would be an exception and one of the few vets using marijuana. Going on my third year as a MMJ patient, I've learned how many veterans rely on marijuana to help themselves when the government and Veteran's Affairs cannot or will not.
The science community and our federal government need to stop wasting time and money on pigeonholing marijuana. Whether a state attaches a medical moniker or not, at this point in the game, I believe the issue is one of personal choice, not just scientific data.
If science were the true factor in marijuana's legalization, the War on Drugs would never have occurred. Decades of propaganda from the tobacco, liquor, and prison industries wouldn't have shaped public opinion into one of ignorance. Lobbyists filling their pockets from the industries who aim to lose money with marijuana's legalization wouldn't have such a strong voice. If prohibition of liquor is any indication, there will be a tipping point when public opinion and the belief in freedom of personal, individualized, healthcare overcomes the voices of the few...
It takes a single boulder to create a landslide
It begins with each and every person making a choice. Choose to advocate for your health care through personal research to make guided decisions. Experiment and find what works! No one will ever know your body better than you... Increasingly, pharmaceuticals are simply a band-aid for a symptom when the root problem can be improved through lifestyle changes, personal fitness, nutrition, and mental health awareness through meditation and yoga.
Don't depend on any drug or plant to give you enjoyment in life. That happiness comes from within; it always has. As with all substances, make choices from a position that prioritizes your happiness. Whether it's a Xanax, percocet, Tylenol, or Cannabis, use wisely and ensure that it adds, not subtracts, from your quality of life. Look at everything that occurs in your body, mind, and lifestyle, objectively and make decisions based off those observations.
A single voice is a lesson in solitude; a crowd, an avalanche.
Demand unbiased research. Demand freedom to choose your healthcare. Demand the right to choose natural or pharmaceutical.
Stand up. Choose your way to heal.