AIDS Daily Summary - May 20, 1997

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Marijuana as Medicine: How Strong Is the Science?

Consumer Reports (05/97) Vol. 62, No. 5, P. 62

The debate over whether marijuana should be legalized as a medical treatment is still raging. The drug's classification as an illicit substance has made research difficult, but scientists have learned a few things. They know that long-term use of marijuana causes more lung damage than smoking tobacco does, and they also understand that a person high on the drug is cognitively impaired. Less certain is whether that cognitive impairment is temporary or permanent and whether the drug actually causes lung cancer. In terms of benefits, scientists suspect the drug reduces nausea, helps AIDS and cancer patients improve their appetites, and relieves the pain of people with spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis. Marinol, a synthetic pill-version of marijuana, has shown some of the same positive effects, but also appears to cause a greater number of side effects and to be less effective for some patients in treating the wasting syndrome.

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