In the course of attending various workshops and meeting and corresponding with men in various stages of prostate cancer, those whose condition hurts my heart, are the men with chronic pain from advanced forms of the disease. For some of them, hope is already spent, and what remains is the pain. A number of them have turned to tetrahydrocannabinol, medicinal cannabis, as a palliative and effective way to cope with their suffering.
Proper name, delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC is a psychoactive compound extracted from the resin of Cannabis sativa (marihuana, hashish). The isomer THC is considered the most active element, producing characteristic mood and perceptual changes associated with this compound. In recent years, the use of medical cannabis for the relief of pain has become an accepted practice, especially in those states where the possession of cannabis has been decriminalized.
In patients seeking pain relief, the compound is not employed for entertainment of adventure. If you can demonstrate a need, and with your doctor’s prescription, you can obtain THC for medicinal use, almost always specified as relief of chronic pain.
The stories I have heard from men who have benefitted from ingestion of THC are very encouraging. “I am pain free for the first time in two years,” one man told me. Another reported, “The constant nausea has subsided, I am able to get to sleep again.”
A number of these men are aware that they are dying. And prior to getting medical marijuana nothing else had helped. One must ask: Should these dying men be deprived of an effective palliative because it is known to be “habit forming” or might lead to the use of “stronger drugs?” Not one of those I have spoken with has sought relief or pleasure from “stronger drugs.” They do not have the time or the will to form habits.
Public support for medical marijuana has increased. As of this writing, more than 20 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis in some form, and recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington state. Medical conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and HIV are commonly treated with medicinal marijuana. And yet many physicians are still reluctant to recommend it, because federally cannabis remains illegal.
The situation is very different in the nation of Israel, where medical marijuana has been legal since the early 1990s. In the past decade, Israeli scientists have developed a strain of marijuana without THC. Apparently the Israeli government funds the research on medical marijuana, which today benefits some 18,000 or more Israeli patients and is grown on eight farms for a state-run medical cannabis distribution center.
The irony of the U.S. position on cannabis as a palliative was summed up in an e-mail I received from a man whose prostate cancer had advanced to his bones. “I’m dying and in constant pain,” he wrote “and they’re protecting me from addiction?” Perhaps in the future the controversial aspects of medical marijuana can be resolved by producing a “pleasure free” medical marijuana specifically for pain alleviation. In the meantime, the medical community needs be bolder in recommending such an effective agent that is now readily available to most.