Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Dr. Dombeck received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1995 ...Read More
And now, today’s Pot News: The FDA released a statement yesterday that makes clear their position that marijuana should not be prescribed for use as a medication. Numerous doctors disagree, and suggest instead that marijuana is a reasonable drug to prescribe for serious conditions such as cancer pain, chemotherapy side effects and wasting diseases including AIDS. The whole issue is very political. The federal government’s war-on-drugs people want to do away with states’ passing laws that legalize medicinal marijuana use. It seems reasonable to assume that today’s press release is in part prompted by those same federal government attitudes as a means to further legitimize the federal goverment’s position.
At issue here is whether dangerous drugs (and marijuana is surely a dangerous drug – although maybe not as dangerous as alcohol) can also have legitimate medical uses. There are in fact many precidents. Benzodaizapines (like valium; used for anxiety) and opioids (like codine or perkoset; used for pain relief) are all addictive and easily abused, and yet they can be prescribed by licensed physicians when it serves the needs of their patients to do so. It does serve the needs of many patients to prescribe marijuana, according to many doctors, so it isn’t consistant that marijuana should be singled out as inappropriate for medical purposes.
One rational the FDA uses for singling out marijuana as inappropriate for use as a medication is that it is not a manufactured drug, but rather a home-grown herb. Because it is grown and not maufactured, its potency cannot be understood very well, and its purity may be suspect. They do have a very valid point there. However, their other point that "there are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana" misses the boat; Some doctors don’t want to prescribe those other drugs, but instead want to prescribe marijuana, probably becuase they believe it offers their patients some better form of symptom relief. Maybe the answer is to some how prepare or test herbal marijuana so that it can offer patients a consistant and reliable dose of active ingredients. Make it into a pill or standardized preparation or something. That should make the drug companies happy (they get to sell something), as well as the doctors, but I doubt it will happen. There seems to be too much prejudice against this particular substance to allow for reasonable compromises.