Medical Minute 5-5: Addiction Wars: Marijuana: Medicine or Easy High?

By: Ramin Khalili Email
By: Ramin Khalili Email

Curt Knudson inhales medicinal marijuana every day. He takes it to help improve his appetite. Since he was diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis, keeping weight on has been a challenge.

"With the use of marijuana, I have interest in food. It helps just with a better quality of life," said Curt Knudson.

"If I wanted a strong dose, I would probably take a brownie about this size," said Knudson.

Curt is able to purchase everything from plain marijuana to "pot butter" with a prescription from his doctor. It's legal in his state and 15 others.

Shaun Gindi - who runs a marijuana dispensary - says many of his clients are in desperate need of pain relief.

"I've had people cry on my shoulders because they've been on morphine for 20 years," said Shaun Gindi, Compassionate Pain Management.

A recent study offered insights on how medicinal marijuana works in the body. Researchers found a special molecule in pot activates a protein called cannabinoid receptor type-two. When that biological "button" is pushed, it soothes the immune system, increases bone mass and blocks pain signals.

But drug expert Mike Gimbel says "medicinal marijuana" is a joke.

"The goal of medical marijuana programs, in my opinion, is to make marijuana available to the general public, so they can have it without getting into trouble," said Mike Gimbel Drug Expert St. Joseph Medical Center.

He says there are very limited studies on the benefits. In fact, a recent review by the American Medical Association found fewer than 20 randomized clinical trials of smoked marijuana for medical uses -- which only involved 300 people total. Unlike other drugs -- marijuana has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It has instead become a political issue in many states.

"Why is marijuana being approved by politicians?"

"If they were serious about using it to help sick people, they would let the Food and Drug Administration handle it, because they know how to do it best."

Then -- there are the side effects. A person's heart rate increases by 20 to 100 percent shortly after smoking. One study found pot users have almost a five-fold increased risk of heart attack during the first hour of smoking. Some research has shown marijuana is linked to mental health conditions - like schizophrenia. And -- there's the debate over whether it's addictive. Most estimates suggest about nine percent of users become addicted.

"Is it addictive? Yes, and everyone knows it is. You can't solve this by legalizing it."

"My take on the marijuana battle is it is the most useless waste of energy that I have ever seen in my life."

An excuse for addiction or a real medical therapy? Right now -- the answers aren't clear-cut.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,
MARIJUANA AS MEDICINE THROUGHOUT HISTORY: Cannabis has been used as medicine for over 4,000 years: the ancient Egyptians used cannabis to treat sore eyes, and cannabis was used to treat earaches in ancient Greece. During the latter half of the 19th century, however, cannabis lost its image as a medicine and gained its image as a drug. In 1915, Utah was the first US state to pass an anti-marijuana law, and in 1924 cannabis was declared a narcotic at the Second International Opiates conference. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively banned marijuana in the US, and in the 1970s, congress declared marijuana a schedule I controlled substance: it had no medicinal value and the highest potential for abuse. However, in 1996, California and Arizona became the first states to legalize marijuana for medical use under a doctor’s supervision. Now, medicinal marijuana is legal in 15 states and Washington D.C. The first cannabis-based prescription medicine, a mouth spray called Sativex used to treat multiple sclerosis, was released in the UK in 2010.
PROS: People who support the use of medicinal marijuana often base their arguments on the fact that:
• Marijuana can ease the pain of a terminal illness (or in some cases, it can help ease symptoms that come as a side-effect of drugs used to treat terminal illnesses)
• Marijuana is seen as a safer, more natural way to deal with suffering associated with serious illnesses.
• There is less risk of addiction associated with marijuana.
• Out of the ten states that had legalized marijuana by the year 2006, eight states saw a decrease in teen use of marijuana between 1999 and 2006.
CONS: Those against the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes cite many concerns such as the health risks associated with marijuana and the “gateway effect,” among others.
• There is a lack of legitimate, scientific studies showing marijuana’s benefits, and its lack of FDA approval.
• Smoking marijuana leads to heart and lung health risks, as well as the risk of impairment of perception, judgment, learning and memory. In 2002, the British Lung Foundation reported that 3-4 marijuana cigarettes a day were just as damaging to the lungs as 20 tobacco cigarettes a day.
• Marijuana has long been considered a “gateway drug,” meaning the use of marijuana can lead to harder drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.

 For More Information, Contact:

Shaun Gindi
Compassionate Pain Management

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  • by Norm Location: Thomasville, Ga. on May 17, 2011 at 03:46 AM
    I have a long list of health problems that most all include pain, for instance:back pain and several surgeries, hip replacement surgery, neck pain and several surgeries, degenerative bone disease, over 5 herniated disc in my back and neck combined, osteoporosis, and lots of other problems and as a result i have severe cronic pain all the time. I take expensive pain killers that help some but still not totally. I don't sleep good due to pain, and have restructions on what i can and can't do. In the past i have smoked marijuana and it helps tremendously with all of my pain. I am scared to buy it now due to taking the chance of being arrested for posession. I am 63 years old and certainly can't afford the cost of being arrested. Marijuana should be legalized for medical use and i think legalized for everyone then it want be a major problem at all and the government can make money on the legal sale of pot and actually increase revenue and help pay off the national debt. Marijuana is not like alcohol, you can function after you smoke, where alcohol makes you do dangerous things due to it's affect on the brain where you have no control or less control over what you are doing. I feel marijuana should be legalized and it's been proven in European countries that have legalized it's use that it becomes less a problem and doesn't lead to hard drug use, this has been proven already, look it up on the internet. Please give me the right to use marijuana so my pain level will be helped without the use of strong narcodics like i'm taking now and are proven to be addicted. Marijuana isn't any more dangerous than smoking cigarettes and a LOT less dangerous than drinking alcohol which is addictive. Thanks for giving me a chance to voice my opinion.
  • by Liz Location: on May 8, 2011 at 08:49 PM
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  • by Dude on May 7, 2011 at 06:50 PM
    there are people who say that marijuana is a gateway drug. do you know what my 'gateway drug' was? cold pills & alcohol. those were the first 'drugs' i used for recreation before i could drive, and they're legal to buy at any corner store. not the smartest decision, i'll admit, but true. nowadays i basically only use cannabis. i just went to the doctor recently & they said i'm very healthy for my age, found nothing wrong at all, and i've smoked cannabis for 17 years. which is different from when i used to drink, smoke tobacco and use pills. those caused noticeable health issues... and also they say it can lead to cocaine and heroin? well what is oxycontin, if not "hillbilly heroin" as i've heard it called? and that is fine and legal. why do people have such a prejudiced hatred toward this useful plant? i'll admit it's not perfectly harmless, some people have adverse reactions, but neither are any of the other legal 'drugs' out there.. i've seen people decry 'medical marijuana' because some people just want to get high for fun. well, what about alcohol? as far as i know there aren't really any medical uses for that, it's basically a recreation only substance, with many well-documented side-effects and health problems. so why all the hate toward a less damaging substance? people get high on prescription pain-killers (i've had my wisdom teeth removed and was given vicodin, it worked for the pain and made me feel good. is that bad? is it bad to feel good?), but if one gets high on marijuana, they're labeled a criminal. doesn't make sense to me. i know many successful, upstanding citizens who use it, some lawyers, doctors, politicians. intelligent people who understand proper use & moderation with any substance. i'm less concerned about people gardening some plants at home than i am about people cooking up amphetamines and possibly blowing themselves up with contaminating chemicals.
  • by Duncan20903 Location: 20903 on May 7, 2011 at 11:33 AM
    Perhaps for some reason you don't like Iowans, think that they're just a bunch of lazy hippies that "just want to get high." Fair enough, in that case how about asking the Oregon Board of Pharmacy why they voted 4-1 to reschedule cannabis to schedule II, which requires accepted medicinal utility. The Oregon BoP outdid their counterparts in Iowa by actually moving cannabis to schedule II. That means as far as the State of Oregon is concerned that pharmacies can fill prescriptions written by licensed physicians. No, it doesn't mean that its going to happen, not while it's still against Federal law and Federal authorities remain intransigent with respect to this issue.
  • by Duncan20903 Location: 20903 on May 7, 2011 at 11:21 AM
    It's interesting that the Know Nothing prohibitionists continue spreading the bald faced canard that there just "isn't any research". This is flat out untrue on its face. Perhaps these liars should call the Iowa Board of Pharmacy and ask why they voted 6-0 to recommend that cannabis be rescheduled to schedule II just over a year ago, which requires that there be accepted medical use. But first ask them why, when the rescheduling petition was filed in 2008 did the BoP say it wasn't going to bother wasting their time hearing the petition which resulted in the Board being sued, court ordered to hear the rescheduling petition, and required dragging them kicking and screaming to the table to hear the evidence. The evidence that once they took a look resulted in that 6-0, unanimous vote to recommend rescheduling.
  • by Anonymous on May 6, 2011 at 07:22 AM
    Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want to see our parent or other loved one thrown in jail for using marijuana to ease the pain, depression, or nausea of a life-threatening illness. It's time to stop putting our own families in jail. Put the drug gangs out of business for good. Legalize a dozen plants for anyone who wants to grow it in their own back yard.
  • by TheDeacon Location: USA on May 5, 2011 at 02:31 PM
    Your info is way off the mark. There is no addiction with cannabis because cannabinoid receptors are naturally found throughout the body including the brain but NOT the brain stem, so Cannabis does not affect your breathing as opiates do this is why opiates can kill you and Cannabis can only KILL Cancer, if you or your loved one has cancer click on this link, Lynnice is a 7 time cancer survivor via the use of Cannabis. Plus the fact that cannabis takes so long to leave the body makes addiction impossible. If someone tells you they are 'addicted' to cannabis they are lieing to cover up for the real problem.
  • by John O'Brien Location: USA on May 5, 2011 at 02:16 PM
    FDA approval?!The FDA is useless. They approve “medicines” that kill thousands every year. “Medicines” that are recalled because it turns out the “medicine” kills more people than is acceptable. Weed on the other hand has never caused a single death. Nowhere in the world can you find a cause of death as “marijuana OD”. You can however find OD’s for things like Tylenol, aspirin & caffeine just to name a few!
  • by Damian Location: Florer on May 5, 2011 at 02:14 PM
    There is a lack of scientific studies on marijuana's benefits because the FDA won't allow studies that aim to show it's benefits. If marijuana is a gateway drug, then that means caffeine is a gateway drug. Nearly 100% of the population that smokes crack and does heroin have tried caffeine in the past. That means we must ban caffeine, right? Nearly 96% of the populous has tried alcohol, does that mean it is also a gateway drug? In the study that concluded that marijuana causes brain damage, what they don't tell you is that the study was conducted on monkeys wearing gas masks. Marijuana smoke was pumped into their lungs, depriving them of oxygen which led to brain damage and death. Marinol IS a legal drug in the United States. It's active ingredient is THC which is found in marijuana. How is marijuana a schedule 1 drug (meaning it has no active ingredients) yet it's active ingredients are used to help people with nausea and cancer? I find it fascinating that it is an illegal drug
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