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Medical Cannabis Is a Symptom Alleviator, Not a Cure

Millions of Americans favor medical cannabis legalization. That is all well and good, but I wonder how many of them really know anything about medical cannabis. For example, are there people who mistakenly believe it is a cure for certain types of medical conditions? If so, they are in desperate need of some education.

Medical cannabis is not a cure for any disease. To whatever extent it has medicinal value, that value is tied to its ability to alleviate symptoms. Comparing medical cannabis to a prescription painkiller illustrates the point well enough.

Managing Pain With Medication

Medical science has access to a variety of prescription medications for pain. They run the gamut from prescription analgesics to narcotic painkillers. In every instance, these medications only make it easier for patients to manage their pain. The medications take the edge off. They might temporarily reduce inflammation or block pain signals from reaching the brain. But they do not cure the actual condition responsible for creating the pain.

Medical cannabis is in the exact same position. It is believed to be helpful for managing different types of pain including neuropathic and cancer pain. And in fact, pain is the most frequently cited medical condition for which cannabis recommendations are sought.

That is certainly the case in Utah, where the operators of Brigham City’s Beehive Farmacy say the vast majority of the state’s 86k medical cannabis patients use the substance to manage persistent pain. Without a cure for their underlying conditions, patients are left to find relief with cannabis.

Typical of Western Medicine

None of this is intended to be a slight on medical cannabis. I do not necessarily oppose medical cannabis myself, and I know a few people who might benefit from using it. My only point is to clarify what medical cannabis can and cannot do. It can alleviate some types of symptoms. It cannot cure anything.

In fairness, this is pretty typical of Western medicine. Our medical system relies heavily on pharmacology. This is to say that we treat illness, disease, and injury mainly through the use of drugs and medical devices. When necessary, surgical procedures are also in play.

Most of pharmacology is designed to do the same thing medical cannabis does: alleviate symptoms. Doctors write prescriptions designed to help people feel better as they wait for their bodies to heal. Yet the healing does not come from the drugs, it is the result of natural physiological processes.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Genuine healing requires more than a prescription or a surgical procedure. It requires getting to the root of the problem, which is something Western medicine has historically failed at. I don’t know enough about Eastern medicine to say whether or not it suffers from the same systemic failures. What I can say is that I wish there were more of a focus on both cures and prevention rather than such heavy reliance on pharmacology.

If science one day reveals that medical cannabis legitimately cures a particular condition, I will be all for it. I personally live with a chronic condition for which there is no cure. I do not take any medication for the simple fact that the few medications available to me come with side effects that would prevent me from living a normal life. I would rather not.

The long and short of it is that medical cannabis is not a cure. People should know that before they jump on board the medical cannabis movement. If more people knew it only alleviates symptoms, perhaps it would not be as culturally acceptable as it now is.


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