Western medicine has an inherent flaw: its insistence on settled science even when none exists. This flaw often manifests itself when doctors are trying to figure out the best way to treat a patient. As more states approve medical cannabis, we are seeing the issue manifest itself even more frequently.
The difficulty with claiming settled science in medicine is as simple as understanding that patients react to all sorts of medications differently. For that matter, they react differently to just about every therapy under the sun. So to assume one particular therapy is always the most appropriate for treating a particular condition is both shortsighted and incorrect.
Promoting medical marijuana is based partly on the understanding that there is more than one way to treat certain kinds of conditions. Take chronic pain, for example. Medical marijuana is an alternative to opioid painkillers. But let us not forget that this is a two-way street.
Not Always the Best Choice
Medical marijuana, or medical weed if you prefer, is still relatively new in dozens of states. It is so new that proponents have a tendency to aggressively push it as though it is a miracle cure for everything. It is hard for them to accept that marijuana is not always the best choice.
Chronic pain is the most often cited reason for using medical marijuana, according to the medical experts at Utah Marijuana, an organization that helps state residents obtain their medical cannabis cards. But is marijuana always the best option for chronic pain? The answer should be obvious.
Assuming all chronic pain patients are best served by prescription cannabis is inappropriate. Similarly, it is inappropriate to treat all chronic pain patients with opioids. But why stop there? Medication of any kind may not be the best choice at all.
Pharmacology Is Not Perfect
Western medicine struggles with the idea of settled science because of another inherent flaw: the assumption that pharmacology is the best way to approach medicine. The Western system is based primarily on drugs and medical devices. By contrast, Eastern medicine tends to be more holistic in nature.
This is not to say that Eastern medicine is superior. Neither form of medicine can make that claim. But in the West, we tend to dismiss therapies that are not directly related to pharmacology. That is to our detriment.
Pharmacology is not perfect, and it does not work in every case. And even in situations where pharmacology does work for the majority of patients, there are always those few who do not respond well to traditional pharmaceutical therapies.
Still A Lot to Learn
Western medicine still has a lot to learn in a general sense. When it comes to medical marijuana, we know next to nothing at all. Researchers and medical providers are only now starting to learn just how cannabinoids affects human health, but we have barely scratched the surface to date.
In the meantime, we have a lot to learn about other medical options. For example, regenerative medicine treatments like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections could do far more to permanently alleviate some types of chronic pain than either opioids or medical marijuana – at least for some patients.
Whether you are talking medical weed, more traditional prescription medications or alternative therapies, the question should always be the same: are there other ways to treat a patient? The minute a medical provider settles on a single therapy as the only option the patient’s best interests are not being served. This fundamental truth applies as much to medical marijuana as any other treatment option.