“Should You Use Marijuana for Pain Management?”
In this show, Dr. Oz explains how marijuana may relieve chronic pain that’s plaguing America today. Needless to say, this is both revolutionary and controversial. However, let’s look at the facts versus the possibilities of a better alternative.
Opiates are the most powerful weapon to treat chronic pain, but now some doctors are prescribing another drug, POT. Chronic pain in the US is a big problem, and the abuse of the prescription of opiate drug to manage that pain has become an epidemic.
Effects of Medical Marijuana Versus Opiates
Before we decide anything about marijuana as a medication, here are the hard facts:
- More than 100M Americans suffer from chronic pain.
- Each year over 250 million prescriptions are written for opiate drugs to treat that pain.
- 12 million abuse those prescription medication or painkillers, with nearly 50 dying everyday with overdose.
With this grim reality, marijuana could be a safer alternative to pain killers. Research shows that States where medical marijuana is legal have nearly 25% fewer prescription overdose. This translates to seven thousand fewer deaths.
The question now is, why trading opiates for pots could be the future of chronic pain management? And, what makes marijuana a potent tool to treating pain?
At this point, Dr. Oz gives a quick illustration of the difference between opiates and marijuana. In a nutshell, with opiates, it takes longer for the stomach to break down the pill before it gets to the brain, and relieves the spot of pain. In addition, the body develops resistance to opiate over time that is why the patient needs to take it in double dosages eventually and hence become easily addictive. On the other hand, marijuana, when smoked, gives you a euphoric feeling that goes to your lungs, which very goes to the brain and relieves the spot of pain.
Moreover, Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil explains the effects of medical marijuana versus opiates. Dr. Nampiaparampil is an interventional pain specialist at NYU School of Medicine. To answer if marijuana is more effective than opiates, she points out that, “It really depends on what type of pain we are talking about. If someone had just a major surgery or someone had just labor to give birth, then opiates are really the standard.” But there’s a lot of evidence that medical marijuana might actually be more effective for cancer related pain, pain from HIV or AIDS , and pain related to multiple sclerosis; although there are certain indications that must be taken into consideration before using marijuana. She says that, “a lot of people with chronic pain sometimes have nausea, which are maybe related to the medications of their disease, and there might be some loss of appetite. So in those cases medical marijuana may be more effective”.
Dr. Oz: Marijuana Side Effects
Dr. Oz adds that he has talked to a lot if patients with chronic pain, and they experience nausea as side effect of opiates, and medical marijuana does not have that effect. He inquires further by saying that, if there is nausea for opiates, then what is the possible side effect of marijuana as a medication?
Nampiaparampil replies, “It’s difficult to say because it has been illegal. There is not much research. Many people talk about marijuana being a gateway drug. In this sense, they are just talking about across the board pot being a gateway drug to other drugs. So that’s something we have to be concerned about”. In addition, when you talk about smoking marijuana, as medical purpose or not, we worry about things like asthma, just like you would with smoking a cigarette. And there is also evidence that it might cause heart disease. She continues to say that, “In the short term, you think about whether it would make people confused, tired or less motivated. And in the long term, you might what to look at things like heart disease”.
Knowing that opiates can cause problems, do we then have reason to believe that marijuana may make a bigger problem?
In answer to that, Seth Jaffe, an addiction specialist explains that, “Anytime you use a mind or mood altering substance there’s always a great chance for abuse and addiction. And for people that have addictive type of personality, there is no doubt about it. Addiction is addiction whether its marijuana or opiates. If you look at today’s medical marijuana, the easiest thing to do is get a medical marijuana card. In fact doctors talk about this in newspapers…”. So, for example someone walks into a clinic and say he feels a lot of anxiety, or her neck hurts and she is feeling weak, then the doctor can ask for medical marijuana card.
Dr. Oz: Medical Marijuana Pain-relieving Effects!
In this portion of the show, Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil explains how research on the medicinal and pain-relieving effects of medical marijuana can’t be done until it becomes legal. In fact, medical marijuana is illegal in half the States of America. In view of this, Dr. Oz remarks, “You work in a state where medical marijuana is illegal. Would you fight for your state to use medical marijuan for pain management, or is it too early?”. She answers, “I have actually advocated for more research to be done… to be available. We have then more ability to treat people in the case where the pain is so unbearable. But then what we can do is have more studies to have more standardized guidelines, and have more information to be able to tell whether a person should get a medical marijuana card, and what actually we should dose them at. But until it’s legal, you can’t do those things. So, I do think we need to make it available for that to make medical marijuana legal”.
Dr. Oz reveals that they have reached out to FDA and asked them about the use of medical marijuana as treatment for pain. Their response is, “Although the FDA has not approved any drug product containing or derived from botanical marijuana, the FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions”.
In conclusion to the show, Dr. Oz made a personal statement. He points out that, “I respect the law, but I also respect the need for chronic medication that really works. Medical marijuana is actually less addictive and ultimately much safer than Opiates–that are currently the standard of treatment. And as a Physician, I’d opt for a safer choice if given that option”.