Dagga safer than pain meds - expert

2013-01-18 08:55
Dagga is safer than some prescription pain medication and less addictive, a researcher and author has asserted. (Matilde Campodonico, AP)

Dagga is safer than some prescription pain medication and less addictive, a researcher and author has asserted. (Matilde Campodonico, AP)

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Cape Town - Dagga is safer than some prescription pain medication and less addictive, a researcher and author has asserted.

"It provides a much safer alternative to painkillers for those suffering from chronic and debilitating pain. Specifically, it is far less dangerous and less addictive than prescription painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin," Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project in Denver, Colorado told News24.

Dagga, or marijuana as it is known in the US, was recently legalised for personal consumption in America and several organisations, including the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Lymphoma Foundation of America (LFA) have expressed support for medicinal research into the drug.

"[The LFA] urges Congress and the President to enact legislation to reschedule marijuana to allow doctors to prescribe smokable marijuana to patients in need… [and] urges the US Public Health Service to allow limited access to medicinal marijuana by promptly reopening the Investigational New Drug compassionate access program to new applicants," the LFA said in 1997.

"When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients… We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug," wrote the American Academy of HIV Medicine in 2003.

Access

Anti-dagga campaigners argue that legislating medical marijuana will open the door for weaker enforcement and frustrate efforts to combat all drugs in society.

Internationally, some countries, including Russia, Mexico and Portugal, permit possession of a small amount of dagga for personal use, while continuing to prosecute dealing and trafficking in the drug.

In Portugal particularly, a correlation between the country's drug policy and a reduction of adolescent use was observed from 2001 to 2007.

Some experts have pointed out that no deaths have been directly attributed to dagga, while legal drugs such as alcohol and even aspirin have contributed to thousands of deaths.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 450 deaths were attributed to prescription drugs in 2008, a rate of 11.9 per 100 000 of population in the US.

Tvert, who co-authored Marijuana Is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?, said that the US government had initiated a programme to grant access to dagga for several years.

"It's also worth noting that the federal government recognised the medical benefits of marijuana via the Investigational New Drug (IND) compassionate access programme, which enabled some patients to receive marijuana from the federal government for about 15 years from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s."

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