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In the recent past, there has been growing tolerance and change of attitude towards medical use of marijuana. Legalization of marijuana for medical use in sixteen states in the United States highlights this phenomenon. However, controversies and mistrust among doctors, regulatory bodies and medical researchers on medical use of marijuana persist (Gerber, 2004). The fact that medical researchers have been able to segregate and synthetically produce the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana fuels these controversies (Gerber, 2004).
The author of this paper is a colon cancer patient at its terminal stage. The author hopes to use this paper to highlight the uses of marijuana in management of colon cancer at its terminal stage. In particular, the paper will highlight contexts in which marijuana use is more effective than conventional drugs in management of colon cancer. Ultimately, the paper seeks to highlight these issues and contexts of medical marijuana as a platform for advocating for legalization of medical marijuana use in the state of the author.
Marijuana use in antiemetic therapy
Colon cancer at its terminal stage often causes severe nausea and vomiting. Personalized series of antiemetic therapies help manage this severe nausea and vomiting. This personalization is dependent on a patient’s age, general medical condition and the chemotherapy drugs used.
In some instances the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or formerly delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is used as the first choice of antiemetic therapy in management of severe vomiting and nausea (Earleywine, 2002). There are drugs that contain synthetic version of THC, dronabinol, used in antiemetic therapy.
However, oral ingestion of such drugs that is the primary mode of ingestion of dronabinol has its own limitations. Severe nausea and vomiting aspects of colon cancer severely limit the effectiveness of oral ingestion of dronabinol. Even in instances where dronabinol is successfully swallowed, the same is vomited before it takes effect (Earleywine, 2002). In this context, smoked marijuana cigarettes or vaporized marijuana is more effective as a means of THC ingestion.
Marijuana use in management of anorexia
Anorexia or loss of appetite to eat is one of the conditions associated with terminal colon cancer. Effective management of anorexia is of critical importance to the overall management of terminal cancer as well as improving the quality of life in such conditions. Psychoactive chemicals in marijuana are used to manage anorexia effectively. Such psychoactive chemicals generally known as connabinoids have positive effect in the management of anorexia.
In this context, the CB 1 cannabinoid receptors in the brain and spinal cord of human body interact with the marijuana cannabinoid (Mack & Joy, 2001). These interactions have diverse effects resulting into improved appetite for food. These interactions act on the brain stimulating increased desire to eat and a psychological feel-good effect associated with eating (Mack & Joy, 2001). The interactions also act on the hypothalamus stomach lining and intestinal lining stimulating a desire to eat.
Characteristics of all cancers, colon cancers do produce tumours. The body mechanism reacts by producing cytokines proteins to fight the tumours. However, the cytokines proteins have a negative of body muscle loss and body weight loss resulting into wasting away of the body (Mathre, 1997).
Cachexia is the wasting away of the body as result of cytokines protein action on the cancer tumours. Anorexia has been identified as one of the major factor resulting into cachexia. Management of anorexia through the mechanism identified above works a long way in the management of cachexia.
One of the devastating effects of terminal colon cancer is the severe pain experienced. In this context, marijuana use is more effective than conventional medicine based on two aspects. Acute pain often needs a fast pain relieving solution. Synthetic THC often administered through the mouth takes up to an hour to take effect (Jacob, 2009).This contrasts with the few minutes that smoked or vaporized marijuana takes to relive pain (Earleywine, 2002).
Identification of the right dosage of synthetic THC needed to relieve the pain without the associated negative side effects has been a problem (Jacob, 2009). Smoked or inhaled marijuana has its own side effects (Earleywine, 2002).However, there are chemicals in marijuana absent in conventional medicines that interact with THC enhancing its pain relieving properties. In this context, marijuana is a better pain reliever (Mack & Joy, 2001).
Management of anxiety and depression
Cancer patients often undergo great emotional turmoil. In particular, terminal cancer causes anxiety that may result into depression if not checked. Resilience and the will to live is one critical component in winning the psychological battle against cancer. In this context, marijuana is effective as a means of managing anxiety and depression. Smoked marijuana induces a feel good effect and loss of touch with reality. These effects can be used positively to relieve anxiety and depression.
Earleywine, M. (2002).Understanding marijuana: a new look at the scientific evidence. Oxford University press.
Gerber, J. (2004). Legalizing marijuana: drug policy reform and prohibition politics. Greenword publishing group.
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Jacob, J. (2009). Medical uses of marijuana. Trafford publishing.
Mack, A & Joy, E. (2001). Marijuana as medicine?: the science beyond controversy. National Academies Press.
Mathre, L. (1997). Cannabis in medical practice. McFarland