Pubdate: Tue, 28 Jun 2005
Source: North County Times (Escondido, CA)
Copyright: 2005 North County Times
Note: Gives LTE priority to North San Diego County and Southwest Riverside 
County residents
Author: John H. Terrell


I'd like to act as devil's advocate in response to Dr. Strang's article, 
"Medical pot smokers seeking high" (June 20). First, there are several 
reasons users choose to smoke marijuana rather than take Marinol:

1. Marinol contains only tetrahydocannabinol (THC), but there are other 
active ingredients in marijuana as well, so for most users the whole plant 
is more effective.

2. Marinol is taken orally, so it must pass through the digestive system 
before taking effect. Smoking is an effective delivery system, providing 
relief almost immediately. And, in the particular case of someone suffering 
nausea following chemotherapy, asking them to try to hold down a pill while 
vomiting seems a bit much.

3. Marinols cost several times as much as marijuana, if the marijuana is 
purchased, or infinitely more than if it's homegrown. Chronic pain 
sufferers often need pain medication for the rest of their lives, so cost 
is definitely a concern.

It's true that smoking is a dirty dosage system, and yes, carbon monoxide 
is produced. But millions of tobacco smokers have had no problem accepting 
these same conditions for use. Have you seen and compared the 
cause-of-death rates for tobacco and marijuana? Check out this reference: 
Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 19, 2005, Vol. 293, No. 
3, p. 298. For Year 2000, 435,000 deaths are attributed to tobacco; none 
are specifically attributed to marijuana, but some may have been lumped 
into the 17,000 attributed to all illicit drug use. So, tobacco use is 
legal, but medical marijuana isn't? The stench of hypocrisy is strong 
across our land.

Increased incidence of mental illness and psychological disorders from 
marijuana use is a risk factor to be considered. Here are the users' 
choices: live in severe pain for the rest of their lives, or get enough 
relief so they can cope with life now and worry about the possible 
consequences later.

I directly dispute that smoking is an inexact dosage system. Because the 
effect is immediate, the user can quickly tell when the pain has been 
assuaged, and that is the correct dose. I do agree that marijuana doesn't 
cure anything, but not many pain relievers do, since they weren't developed 
for that purpose.

Are users just looking for a high? I don't think so. They are looking for 
pain relief.

Millions of people self-medicate with alcohol for social anxiety and other 
reasons. Is alcohol effective? Apparently so. Is it safe? It's dubious at 
best. Is it ever abused? You better believe it.

Given marijuana's superior safety record, why shouldn't medical marijuana 
users be allowed to self-medicate, too?

For the record, I'm 72 years old. I've never used marijuana or any other 
illegal drug and don't ever intend to. I am firmly opposed to recreational 
use of illegal drugs and to the abuse of prescribed drugs.

John H. Terrell lives in Fallbrook.
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