Medical marijuana less harmful than prescription painkillers

Medical Marijuana

Francis Emelogu/The Cougar

The medical industry has many tools for treating pain and illness, and while America has some of the most advanced medical treatments in the world, treatment is a tricky thing and sometimes has unintended side effects.

One issue that afflicts Americans in particular is reliance on painkiller prescriptions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 10,000 men and 6,600 women died in 2010 from painkiller overdose. Women in particular are facing a tremendous increase in the number of overdoses each year, with a 400 percent increase since 1999 compared to 265 percent among men.

In contrast to this worrying trend, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that states with legalized medical marijuana have significantly fewer painkiller overdoses than states where marijuana is still completely illegal. In fact, they had nearly 25 percent fewer lethal overdoses.

In spite of many states having recognized the medical potential of marijuana, most have still not legalized marijuana for medical usage, and all usage is still illegal under federal law. Marijuana is illegal nationwide according to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. In comparison, cocaine is considered a Schedule II drug, making it legal for some very restricted medical usage.

Fortunately, public opinion of marijuana has moved in favor of legalization over the years as people become more aware of the medicinal potential.

Although drugs like Marinol deliver THC — the main ingredient of marijuana — in a legal manner, such drugs can be expensive and not as effective as the real deal. While the effects of marijuana have not been studied in full, prescribed uses for the plant include helping appetite, curbing pain and most relevantly, dealing with chronic pain.

Many ailments and conditions — such as glaucoma, migraines, fibromyalgia and other chronic pains — can be treated with both painkillers and marijuana. Combined with the recent findings, it seems obvious why medical marijuana seems to cut down on lethal overdoses; the side effects of marijuana simply aren’t as lethal as those of prescription painkillers.

While opinions have been shifting in favor of legalization and decriminalization, there are still many Americans against any use of marijuana. It is hard to imagine medical marijuana being legalized in Texas; however, even in Texas there are more and more people pushing for the right to let their doctors decide what is best for their health rather than politicians.

Many simply don’t seem to find marijuana prohibition reasonable, including some UH students. Undeclared freshman Zack Arrazola said he believes that medicinal marijuana needs to be encouraged as an option for those dealing with illness.

“I think it should be promoted more often, but I believe Texas is too conservative of a state to legalize it anytime soon,” Arrazola said.

Although Arrazola said he supports medicinal marijuana options, he also said he believes recreational use should not be legalized.

“It shouldn’t be completely legalized because the benefits that come from legalizing it, like being able to tax it and collect revenue, are outweighed by all the costs on healthcare and the money it will cost citizens to provide governmental help for junkies. And also, that’s a lot of productivity loss,” Arrazola said.

Medicinal marijuana has plenty of potential in the medical field; however, current laws in Texas ignore that potential due to misinformation in public opinion. Education on the potential medical benefits will be necessary for Texas to change its mind.

Unfortunately, most education on marijuana tends to be about the negative effects, and is often intentionally misinformative in order to “protect” children from drugs. Many are familiar with D.A.R.E. from their school days. The program is known by many for omitting information, and often exaggerating the negative effects of drugs such as marijuana in order to discourage students from abusing drugs.

Even studies during the 1990s found that D.A.R.E.’s methods were ineffective in discouraging drug usage, and D.A.R.E decided to drop marijuana from its curriculum in 2012. This may be due to the fact that marijuana simply isn’t as dangerous as people once thought.

Perhaps with time and a balanced education on marijuana’s positive and negative effects, Texas and the rest of the nation will open up to marijuana as a medicine. More states may decide to regulate marijuana like alcohol, but certainly people can start to agree that the entire country should allow its usage for medicinal purposes.

It’s time that people allow doctors to decide what is right for their patients. This doesn’t mean one has to support getting high for a good time’s sake, but people need to question whether their tax dollars are best spent on policing medicinal usage for those who really might need it. Prescription painkillers are not more moral, and they are not healthier than prescription marijuana.

Opinion columnist Shane Brandt is a petroleum engineering senior and may be reached at [email protected].


  • wonder if anybody knows why scurvy isnt running wild… oh, right, oranges.
    why would a chemical be better for what this plant can do? There is already plenty of research on this plant. so much more than just about any other “drug” out there.
    endocannabinoid system running through out our whole body, access to this plant should be available to any who need it. Ive had multiple friend and family die from cancer, ms; two grandmothers with cancer currently; type one diabetic suffering from nerve pain, rls, this could be as simple as taking any other natural herb or vitamin as a preventative for glaucoma. can stop a stroke within seconds. and recover from a concussion much easier.
    Education is key, and we need to be informed of the truth and let lies fall on deaf ears.

  • When a loved one is in pain, wasting away unable to eat, and needs this marvelous herb in order to increase their appetite, reduce the overwhelming pain, and live as as healthy and happily as they can with the time they have left, let’s have the compassion to allow them to have it.

    Stop treating Medical Marijuana Patients like second rate citizens and common criminals by forcing them to the dangerous black market for their medicine.

    Risking incarceration to obtain the medicine you need is no way to be forced to live.

    Support Medical Marijuana Now!

    “[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana,” editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997

    “[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications.” — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001

    “[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate.” — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998

    “Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.” — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003

    “The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses’ Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine.” — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995

    “[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use.” — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, “Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis,” 1995

    “When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003.

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