Due to a confluence of legal and cultural factors, healthcare professionals generally recommend cannabis as last resort; considered only when other treatments have been unsuccessful. This attitude persists even though extensive data shows that cannabis provides safe and effective symptom relief with minimal side effects. The avoidance of this treatment, in favor of one with the opposite attributes is hard to justify in its own right. In the midst of a harrowing drug overdose epidemic, on track to claim over 50,000 lives this year, the practice becomes an abomination. Doctors must be allowed to offer cannabis as a front-line treatment, instead of leaving it for desperate situations.
America is highly medicated. Seven of every ten Americans take a prescription drug and fifty percent of Americans take at least 2. Many of these drugs cure or prevent the progression of disease; like antibiotics and blood thinners. However, other popular classes of drugs alleviate symptoms; like pain relievers, sleep aids, anti-anxiety/depression medicine, and anti-emetics. While the latter classes of drugs are absolutely essential, they also present substantial risks. Narcotic pain relievers and anti-anxiety cause addiction and dependance, and contribute to a large percentage of overdose deaths. Others cause side effect that disrupt a patient’s quality of life to varying degrees..
Cannabis is objectively safer than the vast majority of pharmaceuticals, be they curative or palliative. The risk of overdose from cannabis is non-existent while risk of addiction or other side effects are minimal, even less so under the supervision of a doctor. Formulations can be obtained that have no intoxicating effect whatsoever. Further, it works. Peer reviewed research indicates that cannabis can treat some forms of pain, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, spasm, and seizure.
If we can recognize the problem: the over-consumption of pharmaceutical drugs which has lead to a nationwide epidemic of addiction and overdose; and have at our disposal a means to address this problem: a safe, effective, plant-based alternative with minimal side effects; we should take the logical next step: encourage the medical community recommend cannabis before they prescribe riskier pharmaceuticals.
This is admittedly only an option for doctors in states with an active medical cannabis program. However, some of the the country’s most prominent states have these programs. If attitudes in these states begin to shift we may see the federal change required for a broader evolution in opinion.