Recommend Cannabis Before Prescription Drugs


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.


How to Talk to a Loved one about Medical Cannabis


Medical cannabis has become nearly mainstream. Millions of people around the world use cannabis to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. Twenty-nine states in the US recognize the therapeutic value of cannabis and are willing to defy the federal government to ensure their citizens have access. Both public opinion and the scientific community recognize that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine. Despite the massive progress that has been made on this issue, some of those nearest and dearest to us have not yet been persuaded.


Americans have been inundated with unscientific propaganda opposed to cannabis for several generations. It is understandable that a significant number of us have negative opinions about the plant. Many of us rely on cannabis and want our loved ones to understand the importance of the therapeutic benefit it gives us. Some of us have a friend or family member who might benefit from cannabis medicine but have dated understandings of its effects. The following facts should make even the most ardent cannabis skeptics reconsider.




It’s Safe


The first thing they should know is that cannabis is safe. It’s surprisingly nontoxic. Even at very high doses it does not cause damage to organs or tissue. There has never been a recorded overdose attributed to cannabis. Cannabis use does not correlate with higher rates of disease. Even when it causes strong intoxication, cannabis use is far less likely to induce the kinds of risky behaviors associated with alcohol intoxication


It Doesn’t Cause Dependency


Drug dependency occurs when a person begins taking a drug regularly, and due to the persistent use their body becomes reliant on the chemical. When that occurs if the person stops taking the drug they experience painful medical symptoms. Drugs that have the potential to cause the most powerful dependencies are well known and widely available; opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and tobacco. Other kinds of drugs that cause dependency but are not generally thought of as dependency causing drugs include anti-seizure, anti-depressant, and anti-psychosis medication.


Cannabis does not cause users to experience painful symptoms of withdrawal, even if used long-term. People who stop using cannabis only risk the resumption of the symptoms that drew them to cannabis in the first place. Further, cannabis is an effective alternative to many dependency causing drugs like many of the classes of drugs listed above.


It’s Effective


Millions rely on cannabis for effective relief. The American Academy of Sciences has done a thorough review of medical cannabis research and found that cannabis has extensive therapeutic potential. Veterans attest to its ability to banish PTSD induced nightmares. Parents of epileptic children move their families across the country to get legal access. Sufferers of HIV and cancer swear that cannabis is the only medicine that allows them to keep food down and maintain their weight. Both the clinical and anecdotal evidence is conclusive: cannabis works!


Why We Use the Term Cannabis


There are many terms in use for the plants in the cannabis genus. Marijuana, ganja, weed, and hemp are some of the more familiar synonyms. Some of the nomenclature reflects a quality about the cannabis. For instance hemp is often used to signify cannabis of an industrial variety, while sensimilla describes female cannabis plants that have been prevented from breeding. Otherwise it’s mostly local slang. In common usage, whichever terminology suits the speaker’s purpose is totally acceptable. However, doctors, scientists, government officials should be precise and proper. Making conscious decisions about the language we use is more than just an exercise in pretension, it has important implications for history, the present, and the future of cannabis medicine.





First and foremost, the reason we use the term cannabis is because that is, and has been, the accepted scientific name of the plant since the classical Greeks were introduced to the plant by the ancient Scythians. Since our mission at CITIVA is to provide the public with safe, effective, and dependable medicines we want our language to reflect the seriousness of our commitment to our customers. Most patients and doctors would probably prefer if the healthcare industry avoids the use of slang


The use of slang has also been used to marginalize and demonize cannabis, often with racist undertones. Cannabis was a widely used plant, for both industrial and medicinal purposes, in the United States from the colonial era to the 1930’s. In fact, cannabis was the active ingredient in a variety of patent medicines available in pharmacies across the country. Doctors and patients would have probably recognized the substance as cannabis or “indian hemp”.


Despite the fact that the plant already had a familiar scientific name that was internationally recognized, in the 1930’s the US government began referring to cannabis in official reports using an obscure northern Mexican slang term favored by migrant workers “marijuana”. In propaganda, cannabis was “reefer” a term tied to African American jazz musicians. This change in nomenclature coincided with a concerted effort by federal law enforcement agencies and private interests to ban the plant.


By exploiting racial animus, prohibitionists tied cannabis to ethnic minorities and sensational crimes in order to turn popular opinion against a plant that many were using for medical benefit. They went so far as to rename a familiar plant with obscure slang. It may seem absurd but the tactic was wildly successful and we continue to fight federal prohibition to this day.


Words have meaning besides simple identification. They evoke images and inspire emotion. In medicine we must not only be specific, though specificity is crucial, we must be comforting and inclusive. Always seeking to elevate our field.


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