Marijuana: Yes, There are Medicinal Uses

Although marijuana is often touted as a sort of solution for all, which it is not, there are proving to be medical uses for the drug. Recently, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in Britain that specializes in research related to cannabis, has shown that cannabinoids are effective in the treatment of intractable epilepsy. This has American “compassionate access” programs hopeful about the new medication, which is available as a syrup that is easily taken by children with intractable epilepsy.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “Intractable epilepsy is a seizure disorder in which a patient’s seizures fail to come under control with treatment. These seizures are sometimes also called “uncontrolled” or “refractory.” These seizures interfere with a patient’s quality of life, from minor inconveniences such as needing to be wary of possible falls, to needing to be cautious around water or being unable to drive. Children with rare epileptic disorders can become severely impaired, inhibited from leading normal lives.

For many years, claims have been made that marijuana can reduce the number and frequency of seizures. Reuters reports that a breakthrough has been made. “An experimental cannabis-based drug has successfully treated children with a rare form of severe epilepsy in a keenly anticipated clinical trial….”

The Wall Street Journal gives more details about the medication:

“The drug, called Epidiolex, reduced the frequency of seizures by 39% in children with a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, compared with a 13% reduction in a control group, over a treatment period of 14 weeks.

“GW ​Pharma [the drug’s maker] ​said it planned to use the data to file for approval of the drug with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has already granted the drug certain priority designations to accelerate its approval.

“The active ingredient in Epidiolex is a substance known as cannabidiol, which GW Pharma derives from​marijuana plants grown at a government-sanctioned farm in an undisclosed location in the south of England. If approved, it would be the first cannabidiol-containing medicine to receive the green light from the FDA. The regulator has previously approved two drugs containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, another marijuana derivative.”

This breakthrough comes at the same time that Virginia has passed a medical marijuana bill, which will apply only to epilepsy patients. Lawmakers seem to have been swayed that children suffering from intractable epilepsy should have access to medications known to help their condition, including medications that come from marijuana.

What does this mean for addiction treatment? Not much. Medications in and of themselves are neither good nor bad. When used as prescribed in appropriate doses, many potentially addictive medications have medicinal value. Cannabinoids in proven-effective doses used by epileptics for whom other treatments have failed can vastly improve quality of life. That’s different from a teen smoking bong after bong in a basement.

Any drug should be fully studied for its potential medical uses, so that it may be fully understood and applied as proper, in the service of better health and improved quality of life. There is often a fine line to walk between using potentially addictive drugs in appropriate ways and being careful not to create opportunities for abuse. If we have learned anything from the prescription drug abuse epidemic this nation faces, it is to be sparing and careful in how addictive substances are prescribed, but they must still be prescribed to those in medical need.


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