Medical Marijuana Has Pros and Cons

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

Once a drug associated with burn-outs and addicts is now being debated as a medical miracle. In the cancer treatment community, some say marijuana helps patients through their chemotherapy.

"Marijuana supposedly would alleviate nausea and increase appetite," says Dr. Barbara Conley, MSU's chief of hematlogy and oncology. She has advanced cancer patients lose lots of weight, making them frail and immobile.

"So in an effort to make them have more quality of life, then appetite stimulant [like marijuana] may be helpful."

A pill that gives cancer patients marijuana-like effects already exists. It's called Marinol and Dr. Conley says her staff does occasionally prescribe it at the Breslin Cancer Center. But she says Marinol is already outdated in terms of drug efficacy.

"Even more effective drugs on the way to block nausea from chemotherapy and those we would use in preference to anything like Marinol," Dr. Conley says.

She isn't breathing easy about the potential to prescribe marijuana.

"From the smoking point of view, smoking marijuana is like smoking anything else-- very bad for your lungs."

And Dr. Conley reminds without national FDA approval, patients would be "at the mercy of those who made it."

She says at this point, medically, the cons outweigh the pros.

"I'm at a loss to what exactly we're going to add by adding marijuana, at least in my practice."

For now, patients will have to find alternatives to quell their sometimes unbearable symptoms.

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