Supposed health experts often argue that not enough evidence is available to confirm that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for pain. During a recent presentation at the 2014 European League Against Rheumatism Congress, Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, associate professor of medicine at Quebec’s McGill University, said that despite the widespread legalization of medical marijuana in the United States, the therapeutic effects of cannabinoid molecules on musculoskeletal pain remains to be seen.
“When thinking of herbal cannabis specifically, there are currently no studies in patients with rheumatic conditions that can assist physicians to competently and safely advise patients,” said Fitzcharles, adding that physicians who prescribe medical marijuana for pain are essentially throwing crap at the wall to see if it sticks.
“Unfortunately, various jurisdictions have required physicians to accept responsibility for prescribing herbal cannabis, or for caring for patients who may be using medicinal herbal cannabis in the absence of sound advice,” she continued. “Therefore, in the absence of the usual [research] that is required for any other therapeutic agent worldwide, physicians must project a message of extreme caution that should focus on the need to protect both the patient and society.”
Dr. Fitzcharles expressed contempt for the medical marijuana research currently available on rheumatic conditions, like fibromyalgia, by saying that only a few small population studies have indicated that marijuana has the capacity to alleviate this type of pain. However, research conducted earlier this year by The National Pain Foundation found that 62 percent of patients who used cannabis to combat fibromyalgia reported it being “very effective” for calming their symptoms. Only five percent said medical marijuana did not help them at all.
It seems that in spite of Dr. Fitzcharles obvious prejudice against medicinal cannabis, marijuana can be an effective form of pain management for some rheumatic patients. After all, there is absolutely nothing insignificant about a small sample of patients reporting significant reductions in pain brought on by these debilitating conditions.
Just last year, the Health Canada and the Canadian Consortium learned that nearly 40 percent of the country’s medical marijuana patients used the herb to combat rheumatoid arthritis. If what Dr. Fitzcharles says is true, there are a considerable number of rheumatic patients in Canada currently searching for an alternative treatment to medical marijuana — which is not likely the case.
In the end, while there is no denying that more research needs to be conducted in regards to the potential benefits of medical marijuana, patients should not have to wait for science to tell them what works for pain.
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