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76% of Doctors Would Prescribe Medical Marijuana if Necessary

76% of Doctors Would Prescribe Medical Marijuana if Necessary
Medical marijuana is hotly debated, but the majority of doctors would prescribe it if was the only solution to a patient's illness. Wikimedia Commons (Rotbuche)

When given the scenario of an older woman with an advanced stage of breast cancer, three-quarters of doctors said they would prescribe her medical marijuana to ease the symptoms, according to a survey published online in the New England Journal of Medicine. The results of the survey appeared on Thursday.

The survey asked 1,446 doctors around the world if they would prescribe medical marijuana to Marilyn, a hypothetical 68-year-old woman with breast cancer that has spread to her lungs, chest cavity, and spine. Her chemotherapy has left her with no energy, little appetite and a lot of pain, which she's tried to alleviate with medications such as oxycodone. She lives in a state where medical marijuana is legal, according to HealthDay News.

Considering all of this, 76 percent of the doctors said they would prescribe marijuana.

"The point of the vignette was to illustrate the kinds of patients that show up on our doorstep who need help. This issue is not one you can ignore, and some states have already taken matters into their own hands," said Dr. J Michael Bostwick, a professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, and author of the "pro" side of the survey.

However, he also said he could have written the "con" side because both sides offer valid arguments.

"There are no 100 percents in medicine. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that this is something we should study more. Forgive the pun, but there's probably some fire where there's smoke, and we should investigate the medicinal use of marijuana or its components," he said.

Dr. Jerry Manoukian, a physician of internal medicine in Mountain View, Calif. spoke about the culture of tobacco and firearms. They are legal, he argued, but there have been laws implemented to regulate where and when you can use them.

"What then is our cultural approach to cannabis? Patients have told me that nothing else will control their muscle spasm. No black light posters or tie-dye shirts. It's not the gateway drug is once was labeled," he said in the survey. "So what's the big deal?"

Dr. Bostwick, while he agreed with prescribing marijuana, said that there needs to be an established doctor-patient relationship already present.

"My concern is doctors who see someone once and give them a prescription for medical marijuana. That's mad medicine," he said.

On the other side of the debate, Dr. Gary Resifield, who co-wrote the "con" side of the survey, was worried about the effect smoking marijuana would have on peoples' airways. He is the chief of pain management services at the University of Florida's department of psychiatry.

"Marijuana smoke irritates the airways," he said. "The smoke can also cause airway inflammation and symptoms of bronchitis, and decreases the ability of the lungs to fight off fungal and bacterial infections."

Although medical marijuana can be consumed by smoking it, it can also be provided in food, drink, and many other ways.

Earlier today, marijuana in low doses was also shown to protect the brain from long-term cognitive damage following injuries. Based on a study published in Behavioral Brain Research and Experimental Brain Research, researchers found that doses as small as 1,000 to 10,000 times smaller than the size of a marijuana cigarette, if taken one to seven days before, or one to three days after an injury, could benefit the brain. Specifically, it could help those suffering from hypoxia — lack of oxygen — seizures, or toxic drug-related injuries to the brain.

 

Sources:

Amal H, Fridman-Rozevich L, Senn R, et al. Long-term consequences of a single treatment of mice with an ultra-low dose of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Behavioural Brain Research. 2010.

Fishbein M, Gov S, Assaf F, et al. Long-term behavioral and biochemical effects of an ultra-low dose of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): neuroprotection and ERK signaling. Experimental Brain Research. 2012.

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