Medical Marijuana Can Save Lives


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A new study, just published in the journal Neurology, confirms the value of medical marijuana for people with HIV/AIDS, proving scientifically what many of us have seen first-hand or through the experiences of friends. This new data should rouse our community, and the organizations that represent us, to action.

This particular study dealt with peripheral neuropathy, a painful condition caused by damage to the nerves of the feet and other extremities caused by HIV or by some of the medications used to treat it. It can range from mild tingling to pain so extreme that, as writer and AIDS activist Phil Alden puts it, "It can feel like you're being stabbed with a knife, or like your feet and hands are on fire."

Imagine living with pain like that every day. Imagine knowing that the medications you must take daily to stay alive are making it worse. Imagine that nothing your doctor can give you–not even the strongest painkillers that leave you feeling dizzy or drugged–helps very much. That's what Phil and hundreds of thousands of other people with HIV have had to endure. About one third of people with HIV eventually get neuropathy.

Neuropathic pain–also experienced by many suffering from multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other ailments–is notoriously difficult to treat. Indeed, there are no FDA-approved drugs to treat HIV neuropathy. None. Zero.

But in the new study, conducted by Dr. Donald Abrams of the University of California, San Francisco, marijuana clearly helped.

To be sure the effect they were seeing was real, Abrams and colleagues tested the effects of marijuana against both neuropathy and against a special type of lab-induced experimental pain. In both cases, marijuana clearly reduced the pain for most patients. And bear in mind that most participants were already on other medications for their pain, and getting little enough relief that they felt the need to participate in an experimental study.

Phil, who wasn't in the study but who uses marijuana to ease his neuropathy, says simply, "Marijuana works. It doesn't make the pain go away completely, but it reduces it to the point where it's bearable."
The White House reaction was as predictable as it was dishonest. David Murray of the Office of National Drug Control Policy called medical marijuana "a fraud and a dangerous one." The danger, he claimed, is because "people who smoke marijuana are subject to bacterial infections in the lungs."
In fact, marijuana's safety in people with AIDS has already been studied, and no such problems have been found. Indeed, if such safety concerns were real, Abrams' study would never have been allowed in the first place.

should be the final nail in the coffin of the U.S. government's lies about medical marijuana, but it is far from the only evidence. A study published in the January 2005 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes looked at individuals experiencing moderate to severe nausea from their anti-HIV drug cocktails. Those who used marijuana were 3.3 times more likely to consistently take their medications than those not using marijuana–and it's well established that better HIV medication adherence means increased survival.

For patients being treated for the hepatitis C virus (HCV), the results are even more dramatic, according to a study published last October in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Again, marijuana helped them stay on their anti-HCV drugs–which, like anti-HIV medicines, cause nausea and other unpleasant side effects. But unlike HIV, successful HCV treatment can completely clear this deadly virus from the body. In this study, the marijuana-using patients were three times more likely to rid themselves of HCV.

There is no doubt: Medical marijuana doesn't just ease suffering. It literally saves lives.
We can be silent no more. The LGBT community must speak up, and LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations–some of which have taken supportive positions on medical marijuana but few of which have done very much about it–must make this a high priority, now.

Thirty-nine states still give no legal protection to people with AIDS and other serious illnesses who use medical marijuana with their doctor's recommendation. And even in the 11 states that do have medical marijuana laws, that protection remains incomplete because of the federal ban on medical marijuana.
The lives of our brothers and sisters with AIDS are literally being held hostage to bad, unscientific laws. To paraphrase the old ACT UP slogan, our silence on this issue literally equals death.

Source: The New York Blade
Copyright: 2007 The New York Blade
A new study, just published in the journal Neurology, confirms the value of medical marijuana for people with HIV/AIDS, proving scientifically what many of us have seen first-hand or through the experiences of friends.

In a related story, the DEA stated "hogwash", with no scientific basis for their assertion
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