Pubdate: Fri, 29 Aug 2014
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2014 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Claude Roberto
Page: A23


Re: "It will take time for smoke to clear on pot debate," Editorial, Aug. 22

Keeping a balance on the marijuana debate is essential; on that we
agree. However, it is also essential to differentiate between
recreational marijuana and medical marijuana prescribed because other
medications do not bring expected results.

Unfortunately, society has often confused chronic pain patients taking
marijuana for medical reasons with "pot users" using it

To take a position for or against use of medicinal marijuana, we must
know the health risks as well as the benefits. Most people agree that
smoke is toxic. We must not focus only on damage caused by smoking it
because there are ways of accessing marijuana without smoking.

Fortunately, the active ingredient of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), can be available by prescription and obtained as a regular
medication in a pharmacy. However, marijuana has been illegal for a
long time in North America and for this reason, is still controversial
in Canada.

Medicinal marijuana has been used for several thousand years because
it offers almost immediate pain relief and has anti-inflammatory and
anti-spasmodic benefits.

Unfortunately, research is still very limited; the unwanted effects of
marijuana are consequently better known than its benefits. It is true
that marijuana can produce euphoria, increase heartbeat and distort
time and space. It metabolizes in the lungs and liver, and it has
important effects on the reproductive system, including suppression of
ovulation for women.

However, major benefits offered by marijuana include increased
appetite and sleep as well as decreased pain. Consequently, marijuana
is a medication of very high interest to several people with chronic
pain who can't get relief from other medications.

Marijuana can treat HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord
injuries, seizures and muscle spasms. Its anti-inflammatory and
anti-spasmodic benefits reduce the need to take several medications
usually necessary in complex medical conditions. In addition,
marijuana treats depression and improves effectiveness of other
medications. This is great.

Many of us are suffering or will suffer from chronic pain for many
years. This is not ordinary pain; it is pain often impossible to
reduce with traditional medications. Marijuana taken as a tablet might
help to reduce it.

We hope that physicians, politicians and judges will work together in
our country to find a way to add THC to medications currently used by
people suffering from chronic pain and other multiple conditions, if
these patients don't get relief by using more common medications. We
hope that decision-makers will also follow guidelines from the World
Health Organization and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We
also hope patients and human rights groups will be consulted because
treating pain is a human right increasingly recognized as such
throughout the world.

Unreasonable failure to treat pain is viewed worldwide as poor
medicine, unethical practice and an abrogation of a fundamental human

Claude Roberto, PhD, president of the Edmonton Nerve Pain Association
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