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Nursing: You Wanna Know What I Think?

My Thoughts on Medical Marijuana

Published February 26, 2014 1:46 PM by Pat Veitenthal
Something very strange has happened to me. As you know, I have an opinion about everything. And for some reason, people often seek my opinion on matters, which I happily, and admittedly, often haughtily give. I am currently stumped on a recent development in medicine, and actually, in our country. I am speaking of the legalization of marijuana. Medical marijuana. Even the name confuses me. I just see an oxymoron.

Oh I know what it is, but I remember (sorta) the ‘60s when it was named pot...weed...maryjane...grass...wacky tobaccy. I am really struggling with the stuff from the ‘60s being seen as a serious weapon in the arsenal of treatment modalities. Yes, yes, I know it's true, but my twisted brain can't get past, well, the past.

I can't help but thinking that patients will still have these illnesses, but after a few tokes, (I mean therapeutic inhalations) they just won't care anymore. Or they'll giggle incessantly about being sick. I see progress notes saying things like, "the patient no longer suffers from her high-atal hernia." Or "the patient's kidneys are now successfully re-stoned." And "the patient reports no more nausea, but has developed a severe craving for Cheetos."

So I've decided all I can do is just sit back, fire up the pipe (um, I mean woodstove pipe) and wait for the re-make of Reefer Madness 2015. I have my Cheetos ready.

posted by Pat Veitenthal



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velly multh November 2, 2014 5:42 AM
indianna IN

Timothy his this on the head.  As an ER nurse, I can only imagine the lines in the waiting room waiting to get thier free Medical Pot along with their Dilaudid.  If you don't work in an ER, you don't understand how much of a problem this will be.  People that actually pay thier medical bills and have jobs won't be your clients.   Please keep it out of the ER.

Daniel Matthews, ED - RN, MSHMC April 3, 2014 11:52 AM
Hershey PA

I was recently caught in the middle of this debate personally.I live in Texas,My husband has chronic neuropathy(diabetes)& recently dx'd with pulmonary Fibrosis (33% pft) a "friend"of his gave him a 1/4 oz.before Christmas.I was livid,its illegal and in my home,I am a ICU nurse and dang it.......Wait a second,hes not taking as many Norco 10/325(180 a month)I counted 52 left at the end of the month and the 1/4 oz lasted 10 weeks( a few "tokes" a day) So,yes PLEASE do some research and see why his pain level was decreased by just a few puffs a day.The decrease in use of a acetaminophen based narcotic would help many...I was a non-believer,but now my eyes have been opened by my very own patient.

dianna, RN March 27, 2014 1:30 AM

Uninformed perhaps, but hardly stupid. Unfortunate choice of words regarding your colleagues.

Pat Vee March 26, 2014 4:24 PM

I am impressed with the stupidity or your comments. It's apparent you have not done your research. As an RN who worked on a cancer floor for years, I saw the worst kinds of suffering and as pain was anticipated, narcotics were readily available and administered as needed. If there is hope that marijuana in some form can alleviate the pain and suffering of the 10 or more percent of the population who might benefit from it's medicinal effects, that who are you or anyone to hemorrhage at it's potential use. Like the person Rene, who suffered CRPS/RSD from Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome and a number of surgeries that did not help her, I also developed CRPS//RSD due to a reckless surgeon who nicked my nerve during a Carpal Tunnel Release. The subsequent pain has been unbearable and ruined my life. So until you have known and experienced such suffering, lest it be said........people with intractable pain will try anything for relief...so bring on the research and let's pray that medical marijuana will help those who can benefit from it. Who knows, you may wind up just like us...........in need of something to stop your pain.

Deborah, Medical-Surgical - RN March 25, 2014 12:04 AM

Kimberly NP Thank-you! Your remarks were dead on and the only ones I felt compelled to respond to. You are correct about the debate heading off into the wrong direction from it's intended path. Even my feeble attempt at humor regarding the subject was overlooked. I too am very much PRO pain relief, and certainly PRO data collection on the matter. I'm not anti pot either, just not a user. nd as I said, I will remain observing, with my bag of Cheetos, awaiting the outcomes of legalization.

Pat Vee March 22, 2014 1:57 PM

Let me start with my position that I support the legalization of marijuana as a medical treatment option. Although not personally against recreational use, I am still ambivalent about legalization to the extent that Colorado has allowed. Without doubt, though, in the next few years, we will gain an invaluable amount of knowledge from this, and other progressive states.

As I read through many of the proceeding comments, I was struck by how often and easily the "anti-marijuana" argument points left the medical focus and landed on a variety of other social, economic, legal, moral and religious points. Whatever your position, I believe these divergent arguments only add to the hysteria and hype surrounding this topic. My hope is that each of us, myself included, will continue to learn about the science of marijuana (ie THC/CBD/hybrids) and use that knowledge to support our position.

Lastly, I, for one, find myself excited and intellectually challenged by this debate. I believe that we are about to experience a major paradigm change in many areas of patient care. Let's not forget the historical medical pioneers who were vilified as they forged into new territory.

Kimberly, Nurse Practitioner March 22, 2014 1:17 AM

There is some research being done in other countries that is encouraging as to medicinal value. And of course until marijuana is legalized or decriminalized, it is difficult to do good solid research in this country. The oil of the plant seems particularly beneficial in early indications, and the anecdotal evidence is copious.

There is, however, beyond the medical possibilities, a larger issue that should concern us as Americans: what business does the government have in turning citizens who are not harming anyone into criminals? No behavior of any citizen should be criminalized if there is no victim; there cannot in fact BE a crime UNLESS there is a victim. These laws were first passed as a response to prejudice against Mexican-Americans and African-Americans, and those prejudices were inflamed by business interests that wanted to eliminate competition, especially in the textile and paper industries. Today we see racial inequity in action in the way these laws are enforced. When the rich and the intolerant use (or apply)the law to pursue their own profits and racist ideologies, then there is no law.  As medical providers, we should want to see a potentially beneficial plant studied scientifically. As Americans, we should abhor any unnecessary infringement of our liberties, and despise bigotry, intolerance, government corruption and crony capitalism.

John , RN March 21, 2014 11:55 AM

   I am not sure but a lot of things are in place to control our minds subdue us.  Fluoride used in WWII gulags to calm those interred.  Heavy metals also increased in most water systems, including bottled. Mercury has been in vaccines until recently, completely?  Aluminum stabilizer in many common use meds & psyche drugs never tested till got to clients.  All of these have enhanced & probably grew the incidents of mental problems, chemicals do not belong in our brains. Cannabis is more of this control,subdue divert. It is a problem for white matter & frontal lobe development in children . Therefore I vote for magnesium as has been used for partum seizures.  Dose to be determined

Maureen Angie Absten RN, Natural Health - RN, home March 16, 2014 3:02 PM
Columbus OH

I have mixed emotions of the legalization of marjuana. However, Alcohol was legalized. Would you rather have a paranoid stoned person driving 30 miles an hour taking all precautions out of paranoia or having a speeding drunk driver that doesn't care?

I had to reitree as an R.N due to an Tarsal Tunnel Syndrom. After multiple failed treatments and surgeries. I came down with RSD/CRPS which on the MCGILL PAIN INDEX it is ranked #1 for being the most painful Pain Syndrom. As a nurse I have dealt with those who was in acute and chronic pain. Thought I had a full understanding og PAIN. Until I had the unfortunate experience of haveing to deal with pain personally. NO NARCOTIC worked. It just dulled my brain to help me to deal with the horrific pain!! Yes, folks believe your patients if they tell you they are still in pain after adminitering them a large dose of pain medications. As I am experiencing being a patient my eyes cant believe how close minede medical professionals are. I tried all pain medications and was still in horriffic unrelentless PAIN 24/7. I tried Medical Marijuana which helped relieve some pain. But could not handle the side effects. In Oct 2013 I went into an outpatient pain treatment. My pain doctor asked if I would be willing to try a marijuana pill called Idrasil. This pill has helped to decrease my pain and has not distorted my thinking capabilites.  For several years when medical providers saw I was using medical marijuana they would discourage it. People need to get take their blind fold off and get better educated and stop judging others. You never know when you may need to use it!!

Renne , R.N March 15, 2014 2:37 PM

I firmly believe in legalizing marijuana for all.  It was made illegal because it would have cut into there Rockefeller's profits of making our own countries fuel for cars. The only proven side effects are lose of brain cells but what are narcotics doing.  Legalizing it would not only help patients in chronic pain but help so much more.  

D'Ann Jacobs, RN. BSN March 14, 2014 6:05 PM
Phoenix AZ

I have quite a few patients coming in for tx at the general hospital who are already taking medical marijuana.  I have to explain to them that we have no place for them to smoke/use in the facility, nor do we condone the possession of the substance.  In some CA and/or failure to thrive cases we provide the synthetic THC (active ingredient in marijuana), whose name escapes me at this time, to stimulate the appetite.  We are building a new facility and I doubt very seriously that a "smoking room" is being provided there either.  In the late 90's, I applied for work at a HIV board and care and was told the residents were allow to smoke marijuana there.  This is really all I know.  I do not know if the pot clubs here in Oakland allow members to smoke on the premises.  I think it will take a lot more lobbying to see marijuana used in even the county hospitals where it is legal locally.

Evelyn Sheridan, staff nurse - RN, Highland Hospital March 14, 2014 2:22 PM
Oakland CA

I have been a nurse for over 20 years and have seen so many people die from the results of alcohol abuse I have lost count. I have administered obscene amounts of narcotics to patients who you have to wake up first to medicate them. I have, however, never seen someone die or go through withdrawal from using pot. I was a pot head in college many years ago and still graduated on the Dean's List. My step son suffers from PTSD from the war in Iraq. He saw countless professionals and took handfuls of pills to help with his anxiety/depression. Nothing worked until he got his MM card in Cali. The difference in him is like nothing I can describe. He is a fully functional human being again. He is able to be a father and husband to his family. He can be in large groups of people and be OK. So, I am a firm supporter of legalizing it for all purposes. To those who say that potheads are lazy and on welfare, they clearly haven't met their neighbors, friends or co-workers. Potheads are everywhere living fully productive lives. Who are we to judge someone who works hard all day and has a few tokes before bedtime to sleep or a few extra tokes on the weekend when hanging with your friends? Is it any worse than taking Restoril/Ambien for sleep or drinking alcohol with your friends. It isn't. To say it's a gateway drug is excusing the person who chooses to go to the next level of drug use. I never went beyond smoking pot in college, nor did I want to. That is someone's personal choice, not the drug. I ask everyone here to watch Sanjay Gupta's special on MM and watch the little girl who suffered from near endless seizures and what her parents went through to help her. I don't know how you could watch her and not understand the benefits of this plant. I thank you all for providing this forum and a place to air our opinions on this topic.

Kim, CVICU - RN,CCRN March 14, 2014 2:16 PM

There is no valid evidence that marijuana has medicinal value.  All the evidence is anecdotal.  That is why those who want it legal had to go around the system and through the back door.  If it had value the pharmaceutical companies would be all over it.  Every single double blind study done marijuana does not pass placebo.  Only one meta study demonstrated that maybe it is helpful in a certain demographic. That demographic are those who already use it regularly.  So unless you are already a regular marijuana user it won't help you.  And anecdotally I saw this with my mother when she was dying of cancer. Marijuana did NOT help her nausea and vomiting, it did NOT increase her appetite, it did NOT reduce her pain and it did NOT reduce her cancer cells.  All of these are things that the propaganda claims marijuana does but with absolutely no evidence to back it up.

It has been proven that marijuana can cause seizures and in rare instances coma. I treated a young man who was in a marijuana induced coma.  It does cause birth defects even years after use because it damages the unformed eggs in the ovaries. It does cause significant brain damage to rather specific areas of the brain.  It interferes with brain chemistry and hence does cause mental illness (though some are reversible once the person stops using).  I have had so many patients in my practice who were diagnosed with Bipolar who had their "bipolar" cured once they stopped using marijuana.  And enough numbers of this that I have decided to keep track so to publish these findings.  

I really don't care if it is legal or not.  What I care about is as a provider it can be difficulty to obtain real information about the drug because there is so much false , propaganda trying to make it appear benign. And when you point out the facts people will become extremely upset because it has become a politically emotional issue.  

Natalie, Psychiatry - NP, owner March 14, 2014 1:50 PM
Salisbury NC

I witnessed my husband suffering through 6 years of Hodgkins Lymphoma between 1974 and 1980. He smoked marijuana by water pipe, and found it relieved his anxiety and loss of appetite. His entire chest and throat was filled with enlarged lymph nodes by the end of his life, and he could not eat or swallow. Without marijuana, he would have been miserable. Difficulty breathing will bring on anxiety and fear, and I know of no medication that will relieve it without making someone unconscious.

I now have cancer, and if I should ever develop intractable pain, I would not hesitate to seek out "medical" marijuana. I believe the legal penalties of it should be reduced if not removed. Rarely do folks who are high" become annoying to others, unless they try to drive a car or operate machinery. Even so, they are so slowed down, they should be easy to apprehend. I am tolerating chemo induced neuropathy of my hands and feet now. Perhaps by the time it becomes intolerable, I will have this option.

People not suffering from physical difficulties or pain should not be so quick to judge those who do.

Susan, Nursing - BSN, RN, Per Diem March 14, 2014 1:48 PM
Indianapolis IN

I am probably the only "child of the 60s" who never tried pot, but after 40 years of nursing, and 10 years of living with chronic pain from neuropathy, I would try it if it were legal in PA. No one understands chronic pain until they have it. I see my physician every 3 months, and he has used the pain algorhythm to treat me. I am currently on a narcotic and other meds in order to continue working and living life. My whole life has changed because of this , and I have had to accept, but if I had the chance to try medically supervised pot, I would. I have never abused the narcotic I am on in all the years I have been treated, and believe me their have been nights when I wanted to. Pain is the great equalizer, and no one should judge how we treat our pain unless they can take it away.  

Roxanne, Aging - Director, BMHS ADSC March 14, 2014 12:56 PM
Lehighton PA

As a teenager I smoked marijuana out of curiosity, it always led me to do things I would not have done with out it.  I believe it to be a gateway drug, that prompts you do more to stay in that state of euphoria.  I returned to the drug in my forties when my partner was smoking.  The drug had not changed, I was trippin, getting the munchies, and not getting much done until I made the decision to stop.  I was delivered by God's grace manifested in the death of His son Jesus Christ and I am thankful. Still a nurse educator at age 68.

Laurie, Nursing - RN, Educator March 14, 2014 11:37 AM
Victorville CA

A lot of people are going to make a lot of money with the legalization of marijuana.  If it helps the sick, that I am all for it.  If managed properly and only use for medicinal purposes, then it is a good thing.  I just don't want to see the improper management of medical marijuana, like the issues we are dealing with improperly management of narcotic substances.

Loni, case management - BSN, RN, Humana March 14, 2014 10:52 AM
Tampa FL

I am an RN, I have MS with severe spasms when I lay down.. I never know when it is going to happen.. what I do know the spasm is relentless and lasts about 20 minutes... the pain is agonizing.. I have started to use medical marijuana...

Does anyone know if I can work if I use ... an ounce lasts me 2-3 months ...so I am not a pot head by any means... it does not make me lazy, I hate the feeling of inhaling it because it isn't comfortable...I just don't want spasms....people with health problems should not be judged because of its use...

jackie, home health - RN March 14, 2014 4:15 AM
phoenix AZ

The bottom line is that it's an herb.. That's why we call it "the healing if the nation"

Paula March 14, 2014 2:42 AM

I have known multiple people who have suffered through cancer...some in remission, others passed...Marijuana is the only thing they could afford to help them get through the pain and nausea...I once read some years ago that the CNA(California Nurses Association) encourages nurses to be advocates for those who have their medical marijuana recommendations....I am for legalizing marijuana... even for recreational purposes... I would much rather see a person smoke a joint and drive home after the party.... they we make it home...be legal and drink alcohol at that party and then drive home...you will probably kill yourself and someone else in the mean time...of course I'm talking of a daily smoker/ingester....I would not recommend a first time smoker/eater(brownies) get behind the wheel...

Reefer Madness did its job alright.. and because of it...we are spending money to keep nonviolent marijuana "offenders" in our jail.systems...for what...because of a plant...stupidity of the population...

Legalize it already...take it off the black market...

Helen , Psych - RN March 14, 2014 12:20 AM
Running Springs CA

My husband tried Med Marijuana when I'll with Cancer... It did not help him, but the individuals that can benefit, I say they have a right to use what works for them. And like others who have responded, our Patients should be allowed to use what works to relieve their pain and suffering ...

Stephanie, Acute Care Facility - Registered Nurse, RCH March 13, 2014 11:14 PM
Redlands CA

We make most of our medicines from plants, why can't we make the type medication the marijuana plan can provide and sell it like all other controlled medication prescribed by an attending doctor.

Dave Trueblood, Real Estate - President March 13, 2014 11:08 PM
Kissimmee FL

Well since an ounce can cost around $300, I don't think that people using marijuana recreationally are going to be jobless people laying around all day. They are going to be needing a job to buy it. And speaking of jobs, recreational marijuana is proving jobs. Someone told me today there was a job fair in Denver for the marijuana industry here now. Huge lines of people showed up. There are the dispensaries that need people to work in retail. There are the growers who need help with the plants. And someone is putting together the edibles, etc. for medicinals. It is a booming industry here. Already millions have been made from the tax revenue. That is not my plug for it but I am countering what I think people fear based on what the beliefs were in general from stoners of the 60s and 70s.

Not only is there the THC and CBD but there are two strains. Sativa and Indica. Sativa is more likely to keep a person awake and Indica will give "couch lock." It a real science in the medical arena. If you haven't heard of the first child who was literally saved by marijuana because it stopped her seizures, you need to hear her story.  Just google Charlotte's Web and marijuana and you will find all you need. People are moving here from all over the country so their children can have access to the lifesaving wonders of a product high in CBD and low in THC.The growers of the plant are serious about it. And marijuana needs to be removed from its restricted class for it to be researched. Follow Dr. Sanya Gupta as well. He changed his mind on medical marijuana and is now a strong advocate for it. I was married to an addict of mostly alcohol and marijuana as well, and even I changed my mind. People become addicted to all kinds of things. Like someone said, why are we depriving those who need it because some become addicted. That is somewhat the case with restrictions on narcotics. It is just hurting the people who need it.

Patti, Insurance - RN nurse reviewer, Remote March 13, 2014 9:33 PM
Lakewood CO

I have never had to detox a pt from marijuana, nor have them suffering from a liver toxicity from this substance - alcohol, popular mixes of alcohol and "angel dust", etc - plenty.  I don't drink, and I don't smoke (dull person), but if this medical marijuana would be available to me legally, and  I had an inkling that it would relieve my chronic pain, I would try it immediately.  I am a WW11 veteran, and disabled, and have yet to find meds without horrible side effects, and surgeries haven't helped either.  Medical marijuana - bring it on.

Annabelle, nursing psych - retired RN, BA, MS, psych hosp March 13, 2014 8:59 PM

I work in an ED and the unofficial poll is unanimous, legalize it. We see the devastating effects of heroine, alcohol, crack and welfare all day everyday! I am hearing that the only cons are 1) "we don't know", really, how long has it been around?

2) The puritanical and such have one less thing to criminalize!

Benefit definitely outweighs anything else I've been shown!

Pat March 13, 2014 8:00 PM

Medical Marijuana is a blessing for those who are in need.  I have a nurse friend caring for her partner, who is under hospice care.  Two Marijuana brownies and he no longer felt nauseated and had the best day he'd had in a long time!  

Toni Muscatello, Nutrition/Caregiving - Business owner/Trainer, Home Instead Senior Care March 13, 2014 6:26 PM
Rockledge FL

Researchers throughout the world have proved that there are clearly medical benefits to cannabis. There are 2 major psychoactive ingredients that have been identified.  THC which provides euphoria and CBD which has a calming effect on the CNS.  The latter has been shown to have multiple applications for serious conditions (seizures et al)  that do not respond to current pharmacology or mainstream treatments.  Some growers are now focusing on low THC, high CBD varieties that are usually ingested orally rather than smoked.  It is my political belief that the public would be best served by legal deregulation and a truth campagn that returns choice to the consumer based on objective data on the potential side effects of use.   The current system creates victimless crimes, taxes our legal and law enforcement resources and has created a black market with huge revenues for the underworld.  Regulation would provide a  means of taxation and not necessarily consumer protection.  I am much more concerned with GMO, chemicals and pesticides as a health risk than one genus of a plant.  As with most public policy issues todayI suggest that you follow the money and see who has the vested interest.  

Linda, Psych - RN, Retired March 13, 2014 6:25 PM
Ventura CA

Excellent topic, I think it should be legalized nationwide for those patients suffering with terminal illness and cachexia, and also for recreational use.  It has been shown to cause or increase risk of short term memory loss and schizophrenia in adolescents, that population and pregnant women should be warned, and know about those possible side effects.  JUST LIKE ALCOHOL and any Drug, all have side effects,there are those who will abuse it.  It is only human.  1 in 5 has suffered at sometime with addiction or mental disorders.  The benefits outweigh the risks.  Just look at the prohibition of the 30's did we not learn from that?? It was INEFFECTIVE and only made matters worse.   People will seek out what works for them.

Marinol doesn't work for everyone.  Marijuana doesn't work for everyone.

The prohibition increased racketeering, crime, murder.

Just like our current drug wars.

Legalize it completely and let people make there own decisions.

Karen, RN

Karen, HomeHealth - RN March 13, 2014 6:16 PM
Hayward CA

From the ER perspective, I find 1 to 2 patients per shift using marijuana ranging from 1 to 3 grams per week.  The majority of them are unemployed, not seeking education, and either on welfare or pursuing welfare status.  The rare, and I mean rare, few have regular jobs.  If the trend for increasing marijuana use continues, especially now that it has the "credentials" of being "safe for medical use," I think the trend toward a drain on society and the economy will only worsen.

The same will manifest for the new "safe" vapor cigarettes in which people can inhale the neurotransmitter nicotine, but without the smoke.  It's only a matter of time before other substances are inhaled through these e-cigs.

There will always be stories about how "medical" marijuana has helped people.  I can provided an equal number of stories from my personal ED experiences of depression, anxiety, panic, paranoia, legal trouble, injury, and assault, not to mention that someone else is providing the funds for their Medicare/SSI checks.

Timothy Hall, Emergency - MSN, NP, AGACNP-BC, FNP-BC, Local Hospital March 13, 2014 5:34 PM
Byron Center MI

Marijuana appears to have amazing medicinal properties as research from Spain and experience in the USA and other countries shows. It has no significant ill effects. The plant can be grown to enhance medicinal benefits while decreasing psychotropic action. The only reason marijuana was ever made illegal is that W.R. Hearst did not want hemp to compete with his (incredibly more polluting) pulp wood factories. Congress had one witness, paid by Hearst, testify as to its "dangers", none of which existed then or now. It has remained illegal as part of the US government's War on Young Black Men (a.k.a. "The War on Drugs"). Opposition to medical marijuana in anti-scientific. Opposition to recreational marijuana is racist. There should never be any law that punishes people for doing something that is not an act of violence or fraud committed against another person. Not even nurses get to enforce their Puritan beliefs (which are religious, not scientific) on other people.

Bruce, Family Medicine - RN, UF SHCC March 13, 2014 5:24 PM
Gainesville FL

I am in Tx, marijuana remains illegal. However, I have been a cancer nurse, work comp nurse, rehab nurse, hospice nurse, psych nurse.  I have had numerous patients, including parents of little ones, who have told me in secret, their stories.  Marijuana got their child or themselves through chemotherapy while the 2500.00  injection for nausea did not.  I met people in therapy with eating disorders are thriving because they smoked every day.  Their biggest issue was dealing with the guilt of being in need of something that was so frowned on by friends and family.    I have witnessed vomiting of Morphine, Phenergan, Zofran, oxycontin, oxycodone while people  remained with  pain levels of 9/10 to 10/10.  I have used these medications rectally, infused IV or sub q, topically  and the suffering didn't stop.  I have had a few who told  me they finally gave in to their son, nephew, etc to try this drug they'd been made to believe was horrific and find the only relief they could find.  I had many others who died in horrific pain as the families looked on.  I am currently working in a field where there are "new compounded pain creams" at 300.00 for a 1.5 oz tube.  My field is sending out "new studies" showing the numbers of deaths due to legal synthetic  drugs on the market, so the pharmaceuticals are inventing new ones.   I had a patient pass away not too long ago for over use of Tylenol.   And I am to believe these wonderfully new pharmaceutically created drugs they are bringing out are somehow more safe!!!!!  How many of us were around when oxycontin hit the market and was supposed to be so successful in pain relief and not addicting, to only hear later, oops, they were wrong.  I guess I've worked in fields where horrific pain is one of the problems people deal with.  So, I've seen, read, studied as much as I can, along with what is sent my way by my nursing industries about the dangers of the current prescribing practices of such drugs as hydrocodone.    I personally know someone who went to jail, lost his law license because he was caught with marijuana, having failed all of the other measures to stop his alcoholism, which he states was brought on in an effort to relieve his deep depression.  His medical chart literally says he had "terminal alcoholism".   With the marijuana, his life was coming back, his depression relieved, his law practice thriving. Prior to smoking, he was not showing up at work, missing court dates, throwing up daily, taking other drugs such as lorazapam at very high doses.   He had never once done a thing to hurt anyone, or an illegal act to hurt his clients and yet, served 5 yrs in prison.  He waited his necessary 5 yrs after release to work in the law field, then worked as a legal assistant for 10 more to finally take the BAR and get his license back.    What did they give him in prison to assist his depression, after a lengthy stay in one of the better up north federal facilities?  They prescribed Marinol. Does anyone even understand that all marinol is is a synthetic THC. THC is the very drug in marijuana that makes you high.   A person who wants to, can get more THC than they could ever smoke, by taking 10-15 mg of Marinol.  Yes, it is prescribed that high, ask your pharmacist.  For my friend, he took 25 mg daily, this prevented starvation from his depression. HIs medical records are almost 9 inches thick from his years in prison, the medications they tried that failed, his almost death, etc.  I have seen them.  He failed all other anti depressents and got down to 110 in prison. They kept him on Marinol for 3 yrs.  When they let him out, he could make 7.75 an hour with a prescription for a medication that cost 1000.00 a month at that time, 18 yrs ago.   He fought his way every way he could until Marinol came down in price, he took the state bar again and is practicing law again.  He has never had to start on any of the other anti depressents out there, never taken another drink, takes no other medications, is happily married and amazed he is alive.    This is but one story, if you study, you will find so many more. I believe we are an ignorant nation on the most part, and our information that is provided to us, is based on dollars, not the well being of the person.  We have all of these drugs that are legal, including alcohol. The death rate among them is so high. NOTHING is being done about these and yet, here we sit, being ignorant to the information that is out there about marijuana.  My stories, most of what you will hear are what they call anecdotal evidence.  This is not because the drug is so dangerous they won't do studies.  When you can grow a weed in your yard, where is the dollar payoff? It's not there.  The fed. government has refused to put money into studies.  Do you know, over 50 yrs ago, physicians had marijuana listed on their prescription pads.  What happened?  Do  we open our ears to those who have had to use marijuana for their well being or research the little that is out there by those physicians who have believed their patients and decided to learn more.   Study the facts you can find, that's all I can say.  You will see, that the cost, both from our pockets and in lives is so high with all of these legal drugs, yet, here is this little plant that can be grown in our back yard, that people keep bringing back to us to consider, over and over and over again, state after state.  We can't study the studies, they don't exist.  I know we all joke, I do too, but I am faced daily in my practice with human suffering and have had too many people tell me their story, which ended the suffering and they never hurt a soul.  Personally, I have every reason to hope this medical industry will change and provide help to it's people in masses, that are being overlooked every day.  If Marijuana is a way to do that, then I say, let's get on with it already.  

M, Oncology, hospice work comp, hospital - RN, BSN, CCM March 13, 2014 5:21 PM
Beaumont TX

As an addendum, dosing is also a problem, from one strain to the next, and one plant to the next, while some say Marinol is not effective, I've seen it work, and the dose can be adjusted.

Robert Sanchez March 13, 2014 4:53 PM

I think the medicinal uses are limited.  That said, my brother lives in N Calif.  Where a large amount of it is grown and usually illegally on US Forest Land.  The growers use illegal pest control, banned in the US, like DDT, and are polluting the rivers with massive amounts of artificial fertilizer as well as the pest control.  River levels already low from drought are lower still by tapping into the resources.  Tax Free, the growers don't care for the environmental impact, they kill wildlife which may potentially eat their profits.  Worst is most patients who want a "Natural" or "Herbal" remedy are inhaling or cooking these added toxins, as most "Clinics" don't test or know how the pot was grown.  Far cry from the organic small crop hippy days.

Robert , Insurance - RN Senior CM March 13, 2014 4:50 PM
San Fernando CA

My biggest concern is where the economy will go when everyone is stoned, lacking motivation and not contributing to the general wellbeing.

I am not necessarily against the legalization of pot, but don't try to give it credence by calling it Medicinal Marajuana. The research is at best anecdotal and at worst biased.

Kirk, psych - arnp March 13, 2014 4:35 PM

I contracted Hepatitis C thru Blood transfusions R/T MVI.

I underwent experimental therapy with Antiviral Drugs in 1997.

They worked well but I had a horrible experience with unrelenting

nausea & weight loss, I weighed 85 lbs. after 20 months of treatment & felt terrible.  I was given so much Compazine that I now have a terrible allergy to Compazine. I do wish that Medical Marijuana was available to me because it has been proven to decrease nausea & improve appetite. I do believe that there is a use in Medicine but it needs to be monitor by a Doctor & prescribed for the right reason.

Rochelle , Special Needs - Registered Nurse, Holly Dell TOP March 13, 2014 4:27 PM
Sewell NJ

Thank you for bringing this controversial topic into NURSING!  Often issues like this are debated by law makers and physicians and the Nurse patient advocates remain quirt in the background and accept any decision others made.  This discussion is (I hope) a grass roots motion in understanding the perceptions and intelligent discourse on the topic!%0d%0a%0d%0aIn my years in law enforcement, EMS and ED, I NEVER had to cuff someone whose only indiscretion was smoking cannabis, NEVER had to transport to the ER or treat a victim of abuse because their domestic partner was “stoned”.  The same cannot be said of alcohol.  However, this isn’t a discussion of which drug is worse, marijuana or alcohol but highlights the limits of drug induced behavior accepted by society and the healthcare field in general.  Comparing marijuana to alcohol in socially acceptable behavior, short and long term health risks, I think we would all (who have worked in areas exposed to casual and chronic users) agree the legal drug(alcohol) is not the safer of the two.%0d%0a%0d%0aRepealing prohibition a hundred years ago certainly didn’t make anyone any safer or enhance our health, yet it was enacted by congress and celebrated by society.  There has never been a (serious) debate on medical alcohol as the data simply isn’t there to support it.  However, the body of evidence in existence for decades is there for the medical use of marijuana.  Like many in this discussion have mentioned, it’s a drug that has the potential for alleviating pain and suffering as well as for misuse.  Pier reviewed literature is abundant in the medicinal uses of marijuana and increasing every day.  If it is legalized, I imagine the scientific studies will increase tenfold and likely find new uses as well as new warnings.  Like any other drug, we must consider the risk vs. benefit on an individual basis.  So far the risks appear to be minimal in comparison to risks of medically accepted drugs used to treat many ailments that marijuana is used for so the issue really isn’t one of medical acceptance.  It’s a question of social acceptance and hearing our parents in the back of our mind talking bas about those dope smoking hippies.  %0d%0a%0d%0aI can’t speak for someone else and as a nurse I refuse to judge others.  I’m simply here as a patient advocate and stand up for patients who desire a safer, more effective and more cost efficient treatment for their conditions.  If that means legalizing marijuana, I’m all for it.  As far as the legal and social debates?  Those I will leave to society at large.%0d%0a

Jim Reimer March 13, 2014 4:23 PM

I work in Maternal Child Health.  The number of women coming in to deliver their babies and testing positive to marijuana is increasing.  What will the effects be on all these babies, who will grow up and go to school... we have yet to see?  It seems that legalizing it has given even pregnant women an excuse to use it thinking no harm will come to their offspring.  The thing that has been surprising us is that the Child Protective Services almost always send the babies home with the mom who will be breastfeeding and continuing to use the drug.

Cathie, RN March 13, 2014 4:02 PM

Pat, just think of it as an herb. Yea, one that is smoked but can be eaten or taken in a tincture. All or most medication came from plants, right?

I am going to get some today to try. In a tincture. Want to see how it helps me with chronic pain primarily but also want to see if it helps my migraines.

As far as recreational being legalized I didn't vote for it here in CO but when I compare it to legal alcohol which is FAR more dangerous I don't see the problem with maryjane being legal. Abuse of either would be a problem so why shouldn't marijuana be legal. We should probably re-consider keeping alcohol legal. Think of all the patients we have seen dying from liver disease or coming in for their umpteenth time to detox. Drunken driving, violence you won't see with MJ use. I changed my mind on it once I really thought about it. I wish more people would really think about it concretely. And I have never tried it before.

Patti, Insurance - RN nurse reviewer, Remote March 13, 2014 4:00 PM
Lakewood CO

After watching my daughter's father die with cancer of the throat, attributed to marijuana, I really can't condone the use.  Yes, it was recreational use and yes, it was used over a number of years.  I know some of the side effects of other drugs are detrimental, but a known cancer causing agent used to treat? Well I guess you have to make that choice for yourself if it is offered.

Peggy, RN, Rehabilitation - RN March 13, 2014 3:56 PM

How can any nurse who has administered narcotics, psych drugs, or per Drs orders, phoned in Rx's for pain meds, be against Medical Marijuana.  So, some will abuse it, as they do pain meds and alcohol, teenagers will still smoke weed, which they seem to have no problem obtaining...but this is about helping people and kids who can benefit and nothing else has helped. Should the folks who do need it, suffer because of others addictions or party lives.  Where is the outcry over Morphine and cocaine products.  To deny the research showing the need for a different Marijuana compound, is not consistant with research based medicine.

Becky Bosselman, retired - RN, BSN, MSHCA, Surgial PRN March 13, 2014 3:56 PM
Atlanta GA

I have worked with many patients who have successfully used marijuana in a medical context, both legally and illegally.  Having been an RN for 37 years, I came of age in the early 70's so I also had many friends who used it recreationally, and continue to do so.  I realize that there are possible negative side effects but I challenge anyone to name a currently approved medication without negative side effects.  I cannot personally name anyone who has had any problems.  I believe we, as a country, are far behind on this.

Laura, MS, RN-BC March 13, 2014 3:35 PM

Medical uses..I am for it. Casual use...no. I predict rehab centers will flourish and ED visits will increase if legalized. Mark my words...this is a pandoras box we should never open. And love the article.

Leigh, RN MSN CNS CEN CCRN CRN February 26, 2014 9:58 PM

Whatever its previous associations and connotations, it works and is far kinder than many of the other hideous treatments we give people that are accepted without question.

Donna Beebe February 26, 2014 5:47 PM

Like I said, I KNOW it's a legitimate treatment, and I in no way meant to be disrespectful of those who use(d) it for medicinal purposes. I think Reagan still wouldn't have used it, because he would have been surrounded by only conservative doctors.

Pat Vee February 26, 2014 4:00 PM

Going through a dual protocol of chemotherapy for stage IV cancer in the mid-80's, I can attest to the value of marijuana (NOT marinol, marijuana) as an anti-emetic, appetite enhancer, and mood enhancer. When I started treatment at NIH/NCI, I was given a prescription for govt issued joints which were the filled at the Clinical Center. However, Reagan took office and the "war on drugs" was stepped up, including no more medical marijuana, especially at a Federal hospital. So we brought our own...the nurses and doctors looked the other way, often requested some for their other patients, and "self medicating" became the norm for many of us. It helped, it helped A LOT....and for public policy to say I couldn't use pot to feel better while I was dying made me realize "public" meant the politicians, not the general public nor the healthcare community. Ironically, one of my best "chemo friends" was advisor to Pres. Carter. He was fully aware of pot's value as a medicinal herb and did what he could to try to loosen the restraints during and after his treatment. Alas, he died. Have often wondered if Reagan had had cancer, or if pot had shown promise in alleviating the effects of Alzheimer's disease, if he would have smoked it. What do you think?

Tom, RN February 26, 2014 3:37 PM

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About this Blog

    Pat Veitenthal, BSN, RN
    Occupation: Per diem nursing supervisor and cruise ship nurse
    Setting: Community hospital and cruise ships
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