Since 1996, 16 states have legalized medical marijuana with more states considering the same. Advocates claim the drug has benefits for treatment of glaucoma, nausea, chronic pain, HIV, seizures and other health issues.

Others, particularly those in medicine, say there are no sound scientific studies to support this claim. And they warn that marijuana addiction and the associated health risks are a serious problem.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. It’s listed as a Schedule I drug on the Controlled Substances Act. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have determined it has a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.”

But medical marijuana is becoming legal across the country. All you need is a doctor’s note. For some users, this can lead to abuse.

If you or someone you know is addicted to marijuana, contact one of the medical marijuana treatment centers on Recoverycorps.org.

We’re going to California, Alaska, Oregon, Washington…
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Los Angeles alone has over 600 places to buy pot, according to one CNN article. Alaska, Oregon, Washington passed similar laws in 1998. Soon other states followed in the 21st Century including Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

In 2010, 19 states and Washington D.C. considered legislation for legalized medical marijuana; two states (Arizona and New Jersey) and D.C. passed legislation. 

Now there are over 577,000 patients across the country and many more signing up in their states every month.

Recently, former talk show host Montel Williams made a public pitch in Maryland for the state to pass new legislation on allowing medical marijuana. Williams has been using marijuana for pain since he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a decade ago.

Medical Marijuana Users by State
Here are the numbers from several states and their medical marijuana programs as reported by the states:

Colorado
Registered patients: 95,477 (about 2% of Colorado’s population)
Caregivers: 1,100
Male: 71%
Female: 29%
Average age: 40

Top 3 reasons for use (some patients have more than one reason)
Chronic pain: 89,970
Muscle spasms: 23,338
Severe nausea: 12,525

Oregon
Registered patients: 38,269
Caregivers: 1,768

Top 3 reasons for use (some patients have more than one reason)
Severe pain: 34,303
Muscle spasms: 8,225
Nausea: 5,049

Montana
Registered patients: 27,189 (about 2% of Montana’s population)
Caregivers: 4,807

Top 3 reasons for use
Chronic Pain & Muscle Spasms: 20,084
Chronic Pain & Nausea: 3,452
Chronic Pain & Seizures: 1,218

The Catch-22
Marijuana advocates say the plant helps those with a variety of ailments with some doctors subscribing to this claim. Hundreds of thousands of patients with medical marijuana cards are now legally smoking the most popular illicit drug in the world. But there is a catch-22.

As one government research report noted “The data on the adverse effects of marijuana are more extensive than the data on its effectiveness.” In 2006, the FDA issued a report that summed up their position:

”While smoking marijuana may allow patients to temporarily feel better, the medical community makes an important distinction between inebriation and the controlled delivery of pure pharmaceutical medication. The raw (leaf ) form of marijuana contains a complex mixture of compounds in uncertain concentrations, the majority of which have unknown pharmacological effects.”

So will you get temporary relief smoking marijuana? Probably, but many say the long-term risks outweigh the short-term benefits.

“No Scientific Evidence”
For every doctor that hails the benefits of medical marijuana, dozens of medical professionals and organizations say that the scientific evidence isn’t there. Who are they?

The Institute of Medicine concludes that smoked marijuana is not recommended for long-term medical use and said that “marijuana is not modern medicine.”

These organizations don’t believe the “scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of the drug meets the current standard of prescribed medicine”:

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • American Medical Association
  • National Cancer Institute
  • American Cancer Society
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The Risks
Marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.

Seriously ill patients with delicate immune systems can have increased risk of respiratory disease and a compromising of lung function.

Regular use of marijuana (for less than six years) caused a “marked deterioration in lung function,” according to researchers at the University of Birmingham.  

Smoking marijuana by young people “may lead to severe impairment of higher brain function.”

Chronic use “may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in people with a past history of schizophrenia.”

Smoking leads to “tolerance to the psychoactive effects and smokers compensate by smoking more often or seeking higher potency marijuana.”

Male marijuana users “may increase their risk for developing testicular cancer,” according to a study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. “Men with testicular cancer showed an association between current marijuana use and the more aggressive of the two types of the disease. Moreover, the association was strongest among men with a long history of regular marijuana use.”

Kids (age 12 to 17) who smoke weekly are “three times more likely than nonusers to have thoughts about committing suicide.”

The easiest way to avoid these risks is to get help from a medical marijuana treatment program.

Marijuana Rehabilitation and Therapy
A combination of vouchers and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be the best medical marijuana therapy for long-term abstinence says a University of Vermont study.

Vouchers of varying dollar amounts were given to patients who while in marijuana rehab returned negative urine samples. The CBT sessions involved “50-minute weekly sessions involving motivational counseling, drug refusal, and coping skills.”

If you’re addicted, contact one of the medical marijuana treatment centers listed on Recoverycorps.org.

Sources:
http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/drugfact/pdf/MedicalMarijuanFactSheet.pdf
>http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=6376&page=138
>http://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/publications/pdf/marijuana_myths_facts.pdf
>http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugpages/marijuana.html
>http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/abuse/doa-p.pdf
>http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/
>http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/medicalmarijuana/statistics.html
>http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/medicalmarijuana/mmpcurrentpatientcount.pdf
>http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/ommp/data.shtml
>http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_notes/NNvol23N3/Marijuana.html