Dr. Brian Richardson Medicine is defined by Webster’s dictionary as a substance or preparation used in treating disease.We are all familiar with pharmaceutical or prescription medications that have been studied intrials and approved for usage in patients.We hold fast the belief that these substances are given for the good of the patient with the intent to help prevent or alleviate some condition that may affect the well-being of ourselves, friends and loved ones.Unfortunately, even with the best intent, many prescription medications do cause harm.One doesn’t need to watch television for any extended period of time to find out that the drug created to help you may cause fatigue, diarrhea, spontaneous bleeding, erectile dysfunction, suicidal thoughts... and the list goes on and on.For many patients, even knowing there is a risk with the drug, the possible benefit is well worth it to them.We have an innate desire to avoid pain and suffering.
Pain is a big problem.The opioid crisis we are currently facing was, inpart, born out of a desire to treat and prevent pain.Unfortunately, the properties of opioids can lead to addiction and that can ruin or end lives.There are now more deaths from opioid drug overdoses per year than breast cancer.Fortunately, I have never experienced chronic pain or the consequences of it.As a physician, I see it far too often with many of my patients.As a son, I watched it first hand whenmy mom battled pancreatic cancer.I would not wish that type of suffering on my worst enemy.
In recent years, there has been a big push by some to go “all natural.”Many patients have either lost faith in traditional medicine ortraditional medicine has not been able to meet their needs.Homeopathic concoctions, herbs, spices and essential oils have gained a tremendous amount of attention based on hearsay andtestimonials from patients who have been cured of some illness.Do they work? Perhaps they do, perhaps they do not.
Some would argue that drugs sales and medical treatments are such a money-making business that the government, drug companies and even doctors do not want the public to know about the “real cure” for
cancer or other medical conditions.This type of conspiracy theory has certainly contributed to the search for alternative medicine and treatments. In my opinion, curiosity leads to a possible cure.
What if there were something that was all natural and might be able to alleviate many of the symptoms of pain? What if you could grow it in your back yard?What if it not only helped alleviate pain but also helped prevent seizures in children? What if it helped cancer patients with nausea and weight loss? What if your family member were at theend of their life and using this all-natural substance helped relieve their anxiety, pain and suffering? Wouldn’t you want to do anything and everything you possibly could to get them that substance? As I watched my mom grimace in pain day after day after day, I was desperate to provide her with anything possible to ease her pain.
For many, the words “medical” and “marijuana” just don’t fit together in the same sentence. The stigma of a pothead creates an image of college kids sitting on the couch, smoking a blunt, munching on chili-cheese Fritos and not contributing to society. The idea that this plant could do anything other than get you high, will not even be considered by some. Is there a potential for abuse? Yes, of course. Should it be legalized for recreational usage? That is a totally different topic. Is there a potential role for marijuana to be used in medicine to help relieve pain and suffering?I would strongly argue, yes! Twenty-nine states have passed laws that allow the use of medical marijuana. Alabama is not included in those 29 states.There has been some movement in that direction, including the passage of Carly’s Law a few years ago.However, many states still classify marijuana in the same category as cocaine or heroin.
Just because something is natural, does not mean it is good for you. Just because something can be abused, doesn’t mean there isn’t a role for it to be used in a positive way. Americans are a compassionate people. The pharmaceutical solution for pain has contributed to the opioid epidemic and the death toll and the number of ruined lives keeps rising.I would encourage everyone to take a step back from the idea that marijuana is just for the stoners and consider the idea that this truly is an “all-natural” plant that could be a part of the solution of treating pain and suffering.
Dr. Brian Richardson
Urologist and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive SurgeryJackson Hospital and Clinic