A patient suffering from fibromyalgia knows all too well that the disease causes a life of constant inflammation and muscular pain. These symptoms can contribute to a wide array of other problems, including mood and sleep issues, resulting in a further degradation of the quality of life. Medicines like Lyrica and Cymbalta, which are supposed to treat fibromyalgia, host a variety of side-effects that range from slight to serious and there aren’t many options available that have been FDA-approved to treat the disease.
Meanwhile, the marijuana war rages on as politicians and social activists argue whether marijuana should be legalized in the states and to what extent. The dangers of recreational weed use are well-documented, long-term, and extensive, but various reports about the positive uses of medical marijuana have made politicians think twice about whether it should be allowed. And yet, not all uses of medical marijuana are the same or necessarily safe.
An October 2017 article published online in The High Times, a publication dedicated to all-things-weed, notes that the Cannabis Science company has developed a special cannabinoid patch to help treat fibromyalgia without the highs or side effects that result from typical marijuana usage. The patch infuses its contents through the skin as the patient’s body heats it, and the slow release causes an 8 hour ease from pain without the elevated high from taking the drug for pleasure. Instead, it simply provides relief throughout the day.
Fibromyalgia News Today reports, “The first CBIS Transdermal Patch contains high-potency cannabinoid (CBD) extract, the second major cannabinoid in marijuana after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD has all the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties without any psychoactive effects, and research has demonstrated that it can be an effective treatment for inflammatory pain. Some studies have even demonstrated that CBD might outperform traditional pain medication in some cases” (Henriques).
Given the variety of side-effects from prescription medicine, cannabinoid patches seem like an easy alternative. While patches using cannabinoid do not have any side effects common to the drug, other patches using regular THC will have the same psychedelic and damaging results as a low dose of marijuana. This difference gives rise to the argument that though marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes, the ways it is used varies from innocently easing pain with something like a CBD to smoking it like someone who uses it for pleasure, with the same consequences.
Historical Uses of Cannabis
Marijuana has been used in natural medicine for thousands of years, especially in the east. China began using it as a medicine over 2,000 years B.C. and India has longed brewed tea and made recipes with it. Ancient nations used the plant and all of its variations for food, clothing, rope, tea, paste, drinks, and rituals. Even so, historical uses were not equal. For example, Muslims smoked the weed, which they called “hashish”, but in medieval times Europeans used it as a treatment for tumors, cough, and jaundice. Throughout history, physicians have still warned against excessive use, recognizing its mind-altering (and damaging) capacities and even believing overconsumption may result in sterility.
Cannabis was also used in witchcraft and deceived many into believing a false reality. It is also blamed for the reason so many people believed in fortune tellers because it induced a false state of mind.
And when it isn’t used topically for pain, negative consequences still abound today.
The Harsh Negative Effects of Smoked Marijuana
The consequences of recreational marijuana speak strongly against its use. As people use the drug on a regular basis, they space out or become unpredictable and often violent, destroying relationships and developing an unstable character. Other long-term consequences like destroyed brain cells are also terrible dangers, especially for people who start using the drug in their teens. Psychosis can result from bountiful consumption, leading to a completely confused and unrealistic perception of reality, complete with hallucinations and maybe even a heightened risk of schizophrenia.
And certainly not all “medical marijuana” should be used either.
One study by Dr. Mark Ware of McGill University Health Center in Montreal seemed to prove medical marijuana was safe by comparing it to prescription drugs, but it failed to reveal the minor side effects that did result. Additionally, some of the findings may have been skewed by the method, the patients were allowed to consume the drug however they pleased, including but not limiting to smoking, vaping, eating, and topical application. This combination of methods probably led to an unstable analysis of the facts and skewed statistics. In their report on the study, Web MD notes that the marijuana users had a 73 percent increased risk of proclaimed “minor” side effects. As stated, the article did not mention what side effects were felt.
The article includes comments by Mitch Earleywine, chair of marijuana legalization advocacy group NORML, who realizes some of the weaknesses of the study. He says the ways the medical marijuana was being used makes a considerable difference in side effects, and remarks, “Essentially, people who used vaporized cannabis would have no more adverse events than controls” (Thompson).
One of the strongest reasons for severe adverse events in medical marijuana may lay more in the method of smoking. Smoking damages the lungs among a myriad of other harms; it is a significant contributing factor to 8 out of 10 of the most common fatalities for individuals in the United States.
Smoking, whether intended for medicinal or recreational purposes, has life-threatening consequences either way and should be strictly avoided. Cannabinoid patches seem to be the best option for patients because of their effectiveness in pain relief. Patients should be cautious of the variations in medical marijuana so as not to fall into unknowing addiction. The sorrow inflicted on addicted users confirm that while the drugs may take them into a false wisp of an altered state, their true reality could be tragically altered permanently at their return.
“Marijuana.” NIDA, Aug. 2017, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana.
“Medical Marijuana FAQ.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/medical-marijuana-faq#3.
Bacca, Angela. “The Surprising New Way to Get High.” Alternet, www.alternet.org/drugs/surprising-new-way-get-high.
Bushak, Lecia. “A Brief History Of Medical Cannabis: From Ancient Anesthesia To The Modern Dispensary.” Medical Daily, 21 Jan. 2016, www.medicaldaily.com/brief-history-medical-cannabis-ancient-anesthesia-modern-dispensary-370344.
Henriques, Carolina. “Cannabinoid-Based Patch for Fibromyalgia, Other Chronic Pain Is Ready for Release.” Fibromyalgia News Today, 23 June 2017, www.fibromyalgianewstoday.com/2017/06/23/first-cannabinoid-based-patch-for-fibromyalgia-other-chronic-pain-is-ready-for-release/.
Keeler, Jenn. “What You Need to Know About The Cannabis Patch.” Wikileaf, 11 Nov. 2016, www.wikileaf.com/blog/the-cannabis-patch/.
Kohut, Tim. “Scientists Develop Cannabis Pain Patches for Fibromyalgia.” High Times, 6 Nov. 2017, www.hightimes.com/health/science/scientists-develop-cannabis-pain-patches-fibromyalgia/.
Nichols, Hannah. “The Top 10 Leading Causes of Death in the United States.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 23 Feb. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php.
Thompson, Dennis. “Medical Marijuana Seems Safe for Chronic Pain.” WebMD, WebMD, 7 Oct. 2015, www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20151007/medical-marijuana-seems-safe-for-chronic-pain-patients-study-finds#1.
Wilcox, Anna. “Cannabis Company Designs Pain Patch For Fibromyalgia And Nerve Pain.” HERB, 28 May 2017, www.herb.co/2017/02/23/cannabis-pain-patch/.