Medical marijuana has long been a controversial subject to the using and non-using communities and a new study has presented information that those with Multiple Sclerosis that use the sometimes legalized drug, may trade some level of pain relief for diminished thinking skills and other cognitive side effects.
Proponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, epilepsy, and other conditions. They cite dozens of peer-reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations, major government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history.
Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it is too dangerous to use, lacks FDA-approval, and that various legal drugs make marijuana use unnecessary. They say marijuana is addictive, leads to harder drug use, interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs, immune system, and brain.
Some clinical trials have reported a mild benefit of marijuana on pain, bladder dysfunction and spasticity in MS, an auto-immune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
In the study, cannabis users performed significantly more poorly than nonusers on measures of information processing speed, working memory, executive functions, and visuospatial perception. They were also twice as likely as nonusers to be classified as globally cognitively impaired.
In 1972, the US Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because they considered it to have "no accepted medical use." Since then, 15 of 50 US states and DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana.
On average, the duration of marijuana use was 26 years in the research. A total of 72% of users reported smoking marijuana on a daily basis while 24% reported weekly use and one person reported bi-weekly use.
The research found that people who used marijuana performed significantly worse with respect to attention, speed of thinking, executive function and visual perception of spatial relationships between objects. For example, on a sensitive test of information processing speed, those using marijuana scored approximately one third lower than non-users. Those who used marijuana were also twice as likely as non-users to be classified as globally cognitively impaired, defined as impairment on two or more aspects of intellectual functioning.
Anthony Feinstein, MPhil, MD, PhD, with Sunnybrook Health Services Center and the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada stated:
"Given that about 40 to 60 percent of MS patients have problems with cognitive function to begin with, any drug that may add to this burden is cause for concern. This study provides empirical evidence that prolonged use of inhaled or ingested marijuana in MS patients is associated with poorer cognitive performance, and these effects have to be weighed against any possible benefit of using marijuana for medicinal purposes."
Medical marijuana is now a serious $1.7 billion dollar market, according to a new report released this month by an independent financial analysis firm that specializes in new and unique markets. Currently, 24.8 million people are eligible to receive a recommendation and purchase marijuana legally under state laws, and approximately 730,000 people actually do.
Ted Rose, editor of the new State of the Medical Marijuana Market 2011 report, adds:
"Medical marijuana markets are rapidly growing across the country and will reach $1.7 billion this year. We undertook this effort because we noticed a dearth of reliable market information about this politically charged business. Hundreds of businesses exist around the country that cultivate and sell marijuana to customers. Many of these businesses emerged in the wake of the Obama Administration's decision to deprioritize federal prosecutions of individuals and business complying with state medical marijuana laws. The State of the Medical Marijuana Markets 2011 shows which states represent the most active markets, who is making money, and how are they doing it."
Sources: The American Academy of Neurolgy and The Medical Marijuana Markets Report 2011
Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.