February 7, 2013

Medical Marijuana: Promising Results

Increasing evidence supports the use of marijuana – medical cannabis – as a therapy for people with cancer, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), insomnia, dysphagia (problems with swallowing), pain, tremors, and lack of appetite. 

Zack Klein, a graduate student at Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Economics, recently conducted experiments with 19 patients between ages 69 and 101 at the Hadarim nursing home in Isreal. For about a year, those patients – a small sample, to be sure – received marijuana therapy (via powder, oil, vapor, or smoke) three times a day.

Seventeen of the 19 elderly participants achieved a more “healthy” weight, perhaps related to the drug’s apparent easing of problems associated with swallowing food and liquids. Many found relief from muscle spasms, stiffness, tremors, and pain. Nearly all slept better and experienced fewer nightmares or PTSD-related flashbacks.

According to an article that appeared in the January 24, 2013 edition of e-journal Science Daily, "Hadarim staff saw an immediate improvement in the participants' moods and communication skills." That particular conclusion will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who remembers the 60s.
More Pot, Fewer Pills
But I found another outcome more interesting: use of prescribed medications declined, especially among those seniors taking antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, pain relievers, and (THIS got my attention!) meds for Parkinson’s. By the time the study concluded, 72% of participants had reduced their drug consumption by an average of 1.7 meds each day. I’m a fan of reduced pill consumption. If I can’t eliminate a med or supplement, I’ll try cutting it in half or taking it every other day.

Before his recent study at the nursing home, Klein directed a 2009 documentary, Prescribed Grass, about medical cannabis. His interest continues an Israeli connection to the subject; it was in Israel that scientists decades ago first discovered THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Of course, the issue of medical marijuana is a hot topic in America now, too. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize medical cannabis. If you want to check the status of any state, here’s a resource assembled by ProCon.org, an independent, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity: Medical Marijuana.

Something New for a Neophiliac?
I’m an admitted neophiliac, which means I like trying new things. In fact, I’ve tried many things already – and just in the past few years -- to treat my own variety of pains and ailments: reiki, acupuncture, hypnosis, brain wave music therapy, chiropractic, patches, massage, injections. Hmmmmm. Is medical cannabis next on my list? 

Watch this space.

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