Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cure for Pain

Medical marijuana proponents tout the drug for its ability to treat pain; getting high just happens to be a nice by-product. But what if you could treat pain with a cannabinoid without the accompanying mind-altering high?

Now you can! Sativex, a cannabis-based nasal spray developed by GW Pharmaceuticals, has been proven to be effective at managing pain for people suffering from MS and cancer treatment without the accompanying marijuana high. It has been approved for use in the U.K. and Canada.

Isn't effective cannabis-based pain managment at the heart of the legalization fight? Not really. Pain managment is the front--getting high is what people really want. Take that away and it is like sex without orgasm: functional, but not much fun.

The development of Sativex is not good news for pot-smokers seeking refuge for their "chronic pain" under the umbrella of medical marijuana. According to a recent article in TIME, "The moment Sativex goes on the market, the need for medical dispensaries, caregivers and growers--and all the confusions and prevarications that attend them--disappears."

I visited a medicinal marijuana dispensary in Oakland once with a friend who was a cop. It was kind of a joke. According to my friend, there is a "doctor" upstairs who you pay $100 or something and he writes you a prescription. It could be for anything, but "chronic pain" or "depression" is kind-of the catch all. Then you go downstairs and get your "medicine." Then you go home, take out your bong, and treat your pain.

Personally, I think the medical arguments for legalizing marijuana are weak. I agree with Christian Thurstone, a psychiatrist in Denver, who said in the aforementioned TIME article, "If we want to legalize marijuana, then let's legalize marijuana and call it a day. Let's not sneak it in the back door, dragging the medical system into it."

Marijuana can be used to treat pain, but so can meditation. Meditation requires effort...smoking a joint is, well, relatively easy. Meditation is good for mental clarity; marijuana, not so much so (any good Buddhist will tell you that). Is it any wonder why most people will jump on the bandwagon towards the path of least resistence?

Most of us don't want to make friends with our pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or psychological. It is seen as something "bad," having little or no value, something to get rid of as fast as possible, whether than involves popping a pill or smoking a bowl. I think Jesus taught us to see pain, suffering, and discomfort as something different, something to be embraced rather than run from. Teachers come in the subtlest of guises; perhaps pain has something to teach us after all.


Anonymous said...

My understanding was that these forms of marijuana are not as effective at pain management as unprocessed marijuana smoked, eaten, or taken in a tea or tincture. When a sibling was dying and in horrible pain, marijuana (eaten) was the only thing that assuaged it without horrible side effects. It was also the only thing that allowed him to eat and manage his nausea. He has never smoked or taken marijuana recreationally in his life. I wonder if you feel the same way about all pain medication? Morphine? Aspirin? Are they all spiritual cop outs? My sibling was able to stop taking Vicodin when he started taking marijuana. Of course, there are people who only want marijuana legalized in order to get high. But I think there is more to the medical aspect of marijuana than you are giving it credit for. Meditation is wonderful, and a very important part of dealing with pain and dying, but it's not going to manage the pain of bone cancer, say.

Rob said...

Not against pain meds, problem is more with people who claim to have pain, or are exaggerating their claims, and are just looking to get high, ruining what might be a good, legitimate system for people who could benefit from legalized marijuana (cancer patients, for instance). However, in Colorado, for example, only 2% of registered patients at marijuana dispensaries were cancer patients. The rest used the 'chronic pain' label, with or without valid reason, to obtain marijuana. But pain is such a hard thing to say, 'you have it, you don't,' it doesn't work like that, and so i think the whole medical marijuana system is flawed in that sense because pain is subjective. None of this would be a problem if it was legal, I guess, which might not be such a bad thing. I guess it comes down to individual responsibility for not abusing pain meds, marijuana or otherwise, but if they can be used for legitimate purposes (like treating extreme pain/nausea for cancer patients) then why wouldn't you use it? When I have a headache I take aspirin, I don't try to pray it away.