(02/27/14) - Is pot safer than prescription drugs?
"Gretta", as she wants to be called to conceal her identity, thinks so.
She used to suffer with seizures, having up to three a day as a child, "and it's scary because anything could happen to you."
Gretta took prescription medication, but it had rough side effects, "I could eat a piece of bread and my gums would start bleeding."
Then three years ago, she turned to marijuana, "and I have not had a seizure since."
She has not had any side effects, either. Gretta's story interests Dr. Eduardo Locatelli. He's had 20 epilepsy patients tell him they have used cannabis this year.
"I can tell you it's not making the epilepsy patients worse, but I need to answer the other question, does it make it better?" Locatelli wonders.
Dr. Shirley Zelikovsky, who works with terminal and chronic pain patients, believes it may, "and it reduces the need to take the other medications."
That is a huge concern for Richard Corso. He would like to try medical marijuana. His back pain is so severe he is on hospice level pain drugs.
"If you make a mistake with that, you just, you don't get another chance. You die," he says.
The CDC has no reports of marijuana-induced deaths, but every 19 minutes, someone dies of a prescription overdose. Even so, a consultant for the Drug Free America Foundation, Dr. David Gross, says smoking the drug is not the answer.
"My concern is there's going to be no control whatsoever on, on the use of the marijuana on the way it is now," Gross says.
Possible side effects could include impaired memory, anxiety, lung damage and weakening of the immune system. Gross adds, "what happens is you have the psychedelic, psychoactive effects as well on top of all of the toxins."
There are more than 480 natural components found within the cannabis plant, of which 66 are classified as cannabinoids. Advocates in Florida are fighting to legalize a strain, known as "Charlotte's Web," that is high in a non-hallucinogenic compound in cannabis. They say it can reduce and even eliminate seizures in children.
ABC12 Main Station