The legality of medical marijuana is at an all-time high in North America, but a doctor in Canada is refuting the drug's efficacy for chronic pain when smoked. Dr. Meldon Kahan says there are safer methods of using cannabis medically.
Dr. Kahan, medical director of the 'Substance Use Service' at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, was quoted by Globe and Mail reporter Robert Everett-Green last week and went beyond simply pointing out that marijuana has negative effects, suggesting smoking it is not effective for chronic pain.
“There’s no role, or hardly any role, for smoked cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain. There are safer alternatives, such as cannabis in pill form or inhalers," Dr. Kahan said. "There are toxins in cannabis smoke that are carcinogens, and that accelerate heart disease. Smoked cannabis is addicting, unsafe during pregnancy and especially dangerous for young people, in terms of triggering psychosis, depression and mood disorders.”
Harmful effects of marijuana
The claim marijuana is an unsafe drug for teenagers is gaining traction with research. Studies published in recent years suggest marijuana can have harmful effects, in particular for teens. A Duke University study published in August found that teenagers using pot may be lowering their IQ for life. It found that teens who used marijuana more than once per week lost on average 8 points on IQ tests and even those who quit using later in life did not regain IQ points.
A study from a team of researchers out of Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K published in the British Medical Journal in March of 2011 found that teens and young adults using cannabis are almost two times as likely to exhibit psychotic behaviors at some point in their lives than those who didn't use cannabis.
Another 2011 study, this one lead by a Dr. Matthew Large of the Univ. of New South Wales, found marijuana hastens the onset of psychotic illnesses and is especially harmful to young people. Further, a 2007 British study involving brain scans found marijuana can trigger temporary psychotic episodes and that using it is particularly dangerous for young people.
Medical Marijuana in North America
There is a rise in usage of medical marijuana in North America. It is legal throughout Canada and in the United States there are now 18 states and the District of Columbia who approve its use, with Connecticut and Massachusetts approving marijuana usage for medical reasons just this year (two states, Colorado and Washington, voted to begin legalizing the drug). Most of the usage of medical marijuana is through smoking it.
Dr. Kahan, also an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Univ. of Toronto, said it's hard to get a message out that smoking marijuana for medical purposes is not effective or advisable. “There’s a pretty potent lobby that makes claims about the medical benefits of cannabis, and anybody who disputes them is labelled part of the war on drugs,” he said.