Medical Marijuana Can Ease Pain and Lessen Side Effects

Medical marijuana easing pain, and lessening side effect for people fed up with the side-effects of conventional medications

In the fall of 2012, 9 months after starting chemotherapy for Stage 3 colon cancer, Shannon Flowers of Seattle developed nerve pain in her hands and feet that was so intense she couldn’t sleep at night. Two commonly prescribed medications for neuropathy – Lyrica and gabapentin — certainly helped, but the side effects, she remembers, were “horrible,” everything from severe swelling in her extremities to mood swings, chronic exhaustion and hunger.

Fed up with the side-effects of conventional medications, Flowers turned to an unconventional but increasingly popular (as well as legal) alternative: medical cannabis, commonly referred to as medical marijuana.

In 1999, only three states – Alaska, California and Maine – had laws permitting the use of medical marijuana. Today, 21 states and the District of Columbia authorize the use of medical marijuana, primarily to help people with chronic conditions alleviate the severe side effects of the conventional medications they take for cancer treatment, glaucoma, HIV infection, nerve pain, nausea, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions.

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Sana Siwolop

Sana Siwolop

Sana is a New York-based science and business journalist who has written for national publications, including The New York Times, Business Week and Discover. She teaches journalism at St. John's University in New York City.


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