Why are we encouraged by health professionals to use manmade pharmaceutical drugs to treat medical illnesses; such as, Depression, Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), Parkinson’s Disease and AIDS/ HIV to name a few, when we are aware that in some cases natural remedies have been used successfully by patients with symptoms to relieve pain; such as, drug extracts opium found in the poppy, used in manufacturing codeine and morphine. (Opiate based painkillers), Acupuncture, a Chinese medicine used to relieve stress, Chronic back pain and Cannabis used to relieve symptoms of ME (supplements and herbs), Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and AIDS/HIV. (Sidney, 2001 as cited in Cannabis therapeutics in HIV/AIDS).
We have all been guilty to reach for a pill to aid a headache; for instance, but do we really know what chemicals we are digesting. Should we be the ones researching these drugs more effectively before taking them ourselves, rather than solely relying on the drug companies that made and sold them to us. Can we assume that stronger painkillers used for long-term pain relief (Co-Codamol) which is prescribed by our doctors, is actually safe and will not have any long-term side effects; even though the main ingredient is Codeine, an element which is used in the same drug as Morphine from the Opium poppy plant. MHRA, (2006). Would it not be safer to use these naturally grown drugs, rather than to mix them with other man-made chemicals that drug companies have approved themselves, surely there is a bias there and a threat to their research reliability, a threat to validiy.
Not all drugs approved by the government have been safe. It is reported that 1 in 10 people from America, and fifty thousand children in the UK are taking antidepressants drugs, which had once been made legal by drug companies to consume, then later discontinued due to the hazardous and additional side effects. With over 30 varieties to choose from, both the confusion and complexities with risk associated with the drugs are much greater.
In 2003 the UK Department of Health banned antidepressant drug “paroxetine” (used for depression) for the use of those under the age of 18, as they were found to be ineffective and could cause increased suicidal behaviour (Cheung et al., 2005 as cited in BMJ medical journals). These were drugs that were once approved by the government for use after clinical trials.
Natural drugs like Cannabis are used to medicate a variety of conditions such as, depression, anxiety, HIVAIDS-related problems, chronic pain, menstrual cramps, migraine, Narcotic addiction as well as everyday aches, pains, stresses and sleeping difficulties, so why are doctors not pushing the government into prescribing prescription cannabis instead?
Interviews taken for a study into who is using cannabis as a medicine and why, (Ogborne, Smart, Weber, & BirchmoreTimney. 2000) unearths self-medicated cannabis users who prefer Cannabis to treat these conditions. Although few participants interviewed for the study, (n=50) experienced negative experiences, those who told their doctors about their use were found to be unsupportive.
So why, even though we have the evidence that chemicals within these natural drugs do help to relieve chronic symptoms, and are used to self medicate by patients; regardless whether the drug is legal or not, be enough for health professionals to support their patients further, and to research more optimistically into the positive indicators that drugs like these have on chronic conditions. In addition the government should re-evaluate the drugs and their classifications, identifying the use for medicinal purposes only to prescribe for severe medical conditions in the interim, over any drug that is physically made.
So why are these drugs illegal and what evidence do the government have in classifying the drug? Well it would appear the home office is still undecided to their agreement as to how and whether cannabis should be classified, in accordance to their harm and misuse act (1971). Constant changes in the classification of Cannabis have been evident in recent years.
Although Cannabis is currently graded as a class B drug, along side; Amphetamines, Methylphenidate “Ritalin”, Pholcodine) (brought into action during 2009). The classification of the drug was previously classified from a class B to C in 2002, due to acknowledging “the classification of cannabis is disproportionate in relation both to its inherent toxicity, and that of other substances (such as Amphetamines) that are currently within class B”. (Rawlins, M. 2002).
It is hard to believe that more health damaging drugs such as alcohol is legal and is heavily consumed socially, even when it has no health benefits and is ineffectively a poison. The health risks associated with alcohol consumption alone cause: Liver problems, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, increased risk of various cancers and heart attack. NHS, (2012). According to the governments own classification that any drug which falls into the category “in accordance to harm and misuse”; should be classed as a class B. (Misuse of drugs act, 1971) It appears then that the government has failed to recognize their own policies on drug use, ignoring that alcohol is a poison, misused and harmful.
Based on an assumption, this is due to the controlled production of alcohol and the revenue it creates in TAX for the government. Alcohol is not something they would want to legislate against because they are making so much money from it.
A survey of the UK TAX system have identified that the government forecast to make £45.9 billion in 2011-12 from the sale of Alcohol and tobacco products. (Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2011). Apposed to Cannabis that can be home grown, cannot be regulated or profited by the government, and can have positive health risk factors which can be seen in the recovery of patients, or by the improvements in their quality of life, following life changing medical diagnoses.
Something’s not quite right there!
Action for ME (2012). Opiate based painkillers. Charity registered in England and Wales: 1036419 retrieved from http://www.actionforme.org.uk/get-informed/about-me/treatment/managing-pain/medication/opiate-based-painkillers.htm
Action for ME (2012). Supplements and Herbs. Charity registered in England and Wales: 1036419 retrieved from http://www.actionforme.org.uk/get-informed/about-me/treatment/managing-pain/other-approaches-to-managing-pain/supplements-and-herbs-for-pain.htm
Adam, S., Browne, J., (2011). A SURVEY OF UK TAX SYSTEM. Institute for Fiscal Studies, (2011). Retrieved from http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn09.pdf
n.p. (2003, December 13). “UK – Major antidepressants banned – suicide threat.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from
NHS, (2012). Treating depression. Depression. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Treatment.aspx
Ogborne, A.C., Smart, R.G., Weber, T., & BirchmoreTimney, C. (2000). Who is Using Cannabis as a Medicine and Why: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Volume 32, Issue 4. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02791072.2000.10400245
Rawlins, M. (2002). The Classification of Cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs. Retrieved from http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/acmd1/cannabis-class-misuse-drugs-act?view=Binary
Russo, E. (2001). Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. Cannabis therapeutics in HIV/AIDS retrieved from http://books.google.co.uk/
The Home Office, misuse of drugs act (1971). Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs. Retrieved from http://homeoffice.gov.uk/agencies-public-bodies/acmd/
The Home Office (2010). Penalties for possession and dealing. Drugs and the Law. Retrieved from http://homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/drug-law/
Medicines and healthcare products Regulatory Agency, (2006). Safeguarding public health. MHRA. http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/groups/l-unit1/documents/websiteresources/con2023544.pdf