Marijuana – Dangerous, or a Miracle Drug?

By Michelle L. Dunbar, Executive Director of St. Jude Retreats

Is marijuana a dangerous drug that can lead to brain damage and addiction, or is it a miracle drug that can alleviate pain and fight disease? Earlier this year Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a physician and CNN FRANCE-CANNABIS-JUSTICEmedical analyst released a documentary that asked these questions. While he initially was a skeptic who thought the push to legalize marijuana was simply so people could get high legally, he admits that his extensive research has changed his mind. As I watched his documentary called “Weed” I was struck by the vast number of medicinal uses for marijuana. Most people know that marijuana use increases appetite and decreases nausea, but research, which is primarily being done outside this country, is showing benefits for a myriad of diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s, dementia, depression, PTSD and even cancer.

While I was encouraged that Dr. Gupta really did the research and looked at the results of medicinal marijuana use, I was troubled by the addiction and dependence warnings throughout the documentary. It shows his reluctance to jump on board fully with the idea that marijuana is actually as safe as caffeine and certainly safer than alcohol. He admitted that just 1 in 11 marijuana users become “addicted” or “dependent”, which in and of itself means it should not be classified as Schedule 1 substance by the US. But it’s important for people to understand what is meant by addiction and dependence. It simply means that use for 9% of the people became habituated, much like other habits people can develop such as smoking cigarettes, drinking caffeinated beverages, exercising or biting your nails. The term dependence implies that there is a lack of control, and that even if they wanted to people cannot stop their use without help, but there is no research that supports this. As a matter of fact all research as well as common sense supports that all people always maintain the ability to stop substance use at any point in time, just like any other behavior. Instead dependence means there is the existence of withdrawal symptoms if the individual stops use abruptly. For marijuana use those symptoms are mild and may include insomnia, irritability or mild nausea that last a few days. These are much the same symptoms as for quitting smoking.

What was even more troubling was how so many doctors easily and seemingly without a thought dismissed the use of medicinal marijuana in favor of using much stronger and more dangerous drugs, such as opiates and benzodiazepines. In the case of a 5-year old with a severe form of epilepsy, the family had to go to multiple doctors to find one that would prescribe marijdoctoruana when there was clear evidence it could help her. Her epilepsy had become so debilitating that her parents knew she would not survive much longer. They were willing to try anything to save her life and had found that marijuana had been helpful for others with similar conditions. As they saw more and more doctors; none would prescribe marijuana to such a young girl, but shockingly these same doctors were more than happy to prescribe much more heavy duty, dangerous drugs that are responsible for millions of accidental overdose deaths each year: benzos, tranquilizers and narcotics. In his research for the documentary Dr. Gupta stated he couldn’t find any deaths attributed to marijuana overdose; not one. Thankfully the family found a doctor who was willing to help; prescribed marijuana and that little girl went from having 300 seizures per week to just 2-3 per month. Furthermore her cognitive functioning has improved dramatically.

So what is really going on with marijuana? How is it that a drug with what appears to be so many potential benefits and so few side effects remains illegal in most states in the U.S.? Could it be the strong pharmaceutical lobbies? Or perhaps it is due to the myriad of government agencies and millions of taxpayer dollars devoted to the “war on drugs” and addiction treatment? Either way it is clear that marijuana is not the scary, dangerous substance it was touted to be 50 years ago.

Marijuana is now legal for medicinal use in a handful of states in the U.S., and is now legal for recreational use, although heavily regulated, in Colorado and Washington. While it is clear that marijuana is a cheaper, safer, more effective drug with the potential to help tens of millions of people suffering from chronic and even terminal conditions, change in attitude and policy is slow. And credible research is lacking in this country due to the anti-drug policies and agenda of our government.

Most people pay little attention to policies until they directly affect them.  It’s difficult to fathom the vast numbers of people that are taking dangerous and harmful drugs for chronic conditions who could receive incredible benefits from medicinal marijuana.

6 thoughts on “Marijuana – Dangerous, or a Miracle Drug?”

  1. this is what I have written to the Indiana legislators…….any one please copy paste and spread it around
    if you so choose to.

    I have been taking man made pills since I was a young child for seizures, and physc. problems……this has been on going since birth for seizures and from 8 years old up to present time and on going. this is my point I have given years and options aplenty and tried and exsausted all options with no improvement only getting worse with the siezures. why would the doctors say Tabitha we have to ad benzidiazipines on top of your maxed out dose of keppra…even though you have already been a victim of opiate abuse due to the neglect of the medical field and there greed for money and control????!!!!! and lack of teaching and making sure the paitents are aware of all risks! let me tell you this my son wakes me nightly because he cant handle seeing, and or hearing me relive rapes in my dreams that years of pills and intensive i.o.p has not stopped! im done trusting the medical field and so are a lot of others like it or not this law and bill will!!!! I repeat WILL!!!!! happen like it or not! now back to what I was talking about with reliving rapes in your dreams!! do you have kids??… this disturbs you to then? I hope so… night I said im going to try something different….that would be medical marijuana,(mind you I was busted for 28 grams of some very low grade thc so I have refrained from using this until recently) so I began to study my self and others feed backs….heres what ive found out so far…..NO SEIZURES…..NO night terrors no screaming out in my sleep no anxiety…..this is from the earth! your drugs are not from the earth as this is….no where even close!!! your pills have people going through more than neccisary. honestly you guys have had the stage for centuries and you have to ask yourselves hows that working out for you and everyones bennifit??? its not, and thc is still going to happen… do the right thing take the narcotics and benzoes and methadone clinics out now!!! (yes I was informed bye you people that uphold this crap that I had a problem…and in the end I did and the problem was trusting you guys! you see I was aloud to trade a vicodin with draw for two weeks for 130 mgs daily for two years of pure torturious withdraws that was worse! even better when I was ready to be weened off the wouldn’t let me and I had to cold turkey it!) how is that right its not!!!! WORD OF ADVICE WAKE UP OR WE WILL DO IT FOR YOU! THERE ARE THE BUNCH OF YOU THAT WE ALOW YOU TO SIT AND MAKE OUR DECISIONS FOR US AND WE ARE MANY MORE THAN THOSE OF THE GOVERNMENT MAKING POOR CHOICES LEFT AND RIGHT AT OUR EXPENSE! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH AND WE ARE FED UP! legelize the natural and get rid of the chemicals!!!! or we all will stand taller and stronger, you have witnessed this your selves all over the place on about a ten percent level only please don’t push us or ingnore our sanity and safety and well being…for that fight or flight is in all of us and we have flight for far to long only other instinct is fight….mearley a sincere eye opener for food for though.

    mother,and advocate for any needs,
    Tabitha lynn Johnson Stephen

  2. Which came first the chicken or the egg? I ask this rhetorical Question to remind people that just because u need a certain medicine does not mean u are addicted. If that was true then we can say that ANYONE on any mood alturing meds like anti depressants is addicted to them because they need them. Do u see how the word addiction is misleading? Yes, I have stopped. Smoking, but then I get other health problems like high blood pressure. With cannabis on hand I have not seen a physician for many years. I fell happy, healthy, weathly, and wise.

  3. On behalf of Saint Jude Retreats I would like to thank you for the supportive comments. This is a really important issue that we have to talk about and the more people speak up, the better. Thank you once again, we are glad that you like our Executive Director Michelle Dunbar’s article!

  4. As it stands the benefits clearly out weigh the potential hazards. Cannabis use has been around a long, long time and has not created anywhere near the kind of problems that alcohol and certain prescription drugs have.

  5. What I think folks need to shoot for her is regulation and testing procedures that are sound in structure and flexible.

    Marijuana is an herbal medication–and like all herbal medications will not get big bucks in the form of r and d because you cannot patent cannibis. Bernie Saunders proposed drug legislation-that as a side effect would help correct that my making all drugs generic and uncoupling research dollars from drug sales.

    I think one of the next goals of cannibis legalization needs to be parity for areas like drug testing with alcohol.
    Drug testing often has no connection to job performance–or public endangerment-and won’t until more research is done. Still we have a high rate of chronic alcholism in places like law enforcement and prison guards. 1/3 of all malpractice cases among attorneys relate to substance abuse–mostly cocaine or alcohol. 1/3 of all handgun deaths involve acute intoxication relating to alcohol(and more likely involve folks being hung over-or other drugs).

    The point is that it is in the interest to the cannibis community to push for objective criteria-and testing of alchohol abuse that is as widespread as cannibs abuse.


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