OGDEN -- A resident at Mckay-Dee Hospital believes prescribing marijuana for certain types of patients makes far more sense than prescribing narcotic painkillers.
Dr. Courtney LaDika said the use of medical marijuana has been proven to help significantly when it comes to neuropathic pain, nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients; people who suffer from AIDS-related pain; and those with multiple sclerosis or glaucoma.
"Currently there are 15 states and D.C. that allow the use of medical marijuana," LaDika said. "The Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians and the National Cancer Institute also strongly support its use."
Utah is not one of the 15 states where marijuana use is allowed for medical reasons.
LaDika made her presentation at the 66th annual medical conference sponsored by the Ogden Surgical Medical Society.
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, LaDika said, meaning it is listed as a very high-risk drug, especially when it comes to addiction. She doesn't agree.
"Marijuana is listed as 11th on the addiction list, far behind prescription narcotic pain killers, heroin and alcohol," she said. "It also has a low rate of toxicity. There are no substantial deaths related solely to marijuana use to date."
On the other hand, she said, there's plenty of data that shows the dangers of prescription narcotic painkillers.
Dr. Benjamin LaRose, also a resident at McKay-Dee Hospital, agrees.
LaRose said 7 million people reported in 2009 that they used prescription narcotic painkillers without any reason to do so.
LaDika said marijuana has been shown to affect receptors in the brain that control pain. In one controlled study of HIV patients with neuropathic pain, she said those given marijuana reported a significant decrease in pain compared to those on a placebo.
Opponents also argue that medical marijuana is a front for drug legalization and recreational use.
Dr. Anthony Feinstein, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, wrote an article titled "Effects of Cannabis on Cognitive Function in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis," in the March 29 issue of "Neurology."
The aim of the study was to determine the neuropsychological effects of marijuana use in MS patients.
"Cannabis users performed significantly more poorly than nonusers on measures of information processing speed, working memory, executive functions, and visuospatial perception. They were also twice as likely as nonusers to be classified as globally cognitively impaired," Feinstein wrote.