The cost behind medicinal marijuana

In Blog // on October 27th, 2012 // by // No comment

Medication is expensive, but it is the price to pay when trying to lead a relatively normal life after trauma.  Modern science has given us many options for pain management and treatment – and has saved countless lives.

However, some medicines offer greater benefits than others and there are heavy decisions to be made when choosing the right ones.

I’d like to discuss a few options for pain relief.  There will be differences for everyone and their individual needs, but here are a few choices.

1.  NSAIDs

There are over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that target pain, such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Pampren) or Naxopren (Aleve), and Aspirin.

This class of drugs is one of the most marketed types of medications by drug companies.  There is no clear evidence existing that the prescribed medicines costing a dollar a pill, or more, are any better than those that cost less than a penny a pill.

Naxopren tend to last longer, but sometimes take a while to kick in.  Ibuprofen is for more immediate pain relief and usually must be re-administered fairly quickly after the first dose.

These drugs can be purchased at nearly any pharmacy, and for economical prices.  A bottle of Advil containing 150 tablets runs about $17.00.  The suggested dose is 1 capsule every 4 – 6 hours, so on a daily basis, that’s 4 (or $0.45 per day).

Advil, and all NSAIDs may produce side effects such as mild constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, gas, headache, heartburn, nausea, stomach pain or upset.

It’s important to read the label with these medications and not contradict medications or medical conditions.  Side effects harsher than above may occur if instructions are not followed closely.

2. Narcotics

Another level of pain medication is that of the narcotic family.  Narcotics target pain by altering the patient’s perception of what they’re feeling.  The English word narcotic is derived from the Greek narkotikos, which means “numbing” or “deadening.” Narcotics are extremely addictive.  This medicine is prescribed through doctors and is meant to only treat the body’s sensations.  Narcotics do not fix any health problems.  The withdrawal from prescription medications can be, and often are, hell.

The longer one has been using narcotics as medication (or otherwise) the more severe the withdrawal symptoms become.

They include, but are not limited to: anxiety, irritability, cravings, rapid breathing, excessive yawning, runny nose, drooling, goosebumps, muscles aches, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, sweats, confusion, enlarged pupils, tremors, lack of appetite, liver disfunction, constipation, seizures, coma, loss of menstrual cycle, and absolute agony.

Two narcotic medications on the market today are Hydromorphone and Opana.

Hydromorphone is used as an alternative to morphine.  It is considered the strongest of a line of drugs developed shortly after heroin was removed from clinical use.

“Users taking over 40 milligrams per day can experience painful withdrawal lasting up to two weeks with symptoms including constant shaking, cold sweats, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle pain, body cramps, and insomnia. 

“Even after the withdrawal, long-term users of this drug can experience symptoms for months, even years after, however, those symptoms are usually psychological, including drug cravings, feelings of self-doubt, of “emptiness”, moderate depression, mild anxiety, and sometimes slight insomnia.”

A prescription of Hydropmorphone, or 240 tabs costs about $73.00.  An average dose is 6 tabs per day ($1.83 per day).

Opana is another brand name for a derivative of opium, also known as Oxymorphone.  These pills are prescribed for pain relief in a wide variety of patients.  The dependence level is extremely high, just as with Hydromorphone.  If one overdoses on this medication, the results are (but are not limited to) respiratory depression, extreme somnolence progressing to stupor or coma, skeletal muscle flaccidity, and cold and clammy skin.  Sometimes, in severe cases of overdose, cardiac arrest and death may occur.

Opana is a common medication.  It’s used in hospital and in recovery.  It’s used to help reduce chronic pain.  It’s sold at $745.00 per 120 capsules.  The recommended dosage is 6 capsules per day.  Or $37.25 per day.  That’s $260.75 per week, and prescriptions need to be refilled every 3 weeks.  That’s $13, 410 per year for pain pills.

NSAIDs, Hydromorphone and Opana are examples of medicines used for pain relief.  There are many other types of prescription drugs that target specific issues, for example, iron poisoning, bone growth or viral infections.

3. Medicinal Cannabis

Medicinal marijuana is a proven pain reliever – and is being studied for new ways (or re-introduced ways) to help prevent disease and fight illness.

The cost of using medicinal marijuana varies depending on the method of use.

Organic, legally grown, dried herb runs between $8 – $15 per gram.  A prescription for pain relief can range from 1 – 8 grams per day.  Some prescriptions are even larger because patients are advised to ingest the medicine only, and it does take more grams of bud to produce the equivalent in edible or oil products.

For arguments sake, the average price of smokeable medicinal marijuana is $12 per gram, and the average prescription is 3 grams per day, that’s $36 per day, $756 every three weeks or $13, 608 per year.

It seems expensive – but here are a few good points:

Three grams of medicinal marijuana is actually quite a lot.

One gram can produce about 2 marijuana cigarettes.  Many patients report one marijuana cigarette is enough effective medication for one day.

Medicinal marijuana prescriptions are easy to administer – no one has every died from overdosing on marijuana! Cannabis prescriptions are easy to modify, and easy to reduce – there are very little withdrawal symptoms.

In addition, prescribing to medicinal marijuana is a step towards other important methods of recovery, including dietary and physical life changes that are crucial to optimum health.  I feel, from what I’ve seen, patients who use medicinal marijuana are more inclined to grow or purchase whole foods (reducing or completely eliminating processed foods) and will implement more physical activity into their daily lifestyle.

There is a lot of research and paperwork to go through in order to become a patient of medicinal marijuana.  It is, however, this time spent and commitment to health that is the long-term, effective way to treat illness.  Popping pills is becoming a thing of the past – and too expensive and hazardous to continue in our world today.

Below is an abbreviated chart of the glaring pros and cons between pain relief medications.

Any treatment of disease, and the symptom of pain is expensive.  But there are natural remedies! And if we can advocate on a grand scale and make these treatments and medication accessible to many, there are ways to make health care affordable.  Taking care of the earth, our bodies and our health are values Westcoast Medicann subscribes to.

Please check out our website at www.westcoastmedicann.com for more information.

Bibliography:

A Mom. “The Big Post of Pain Medication Cost.” Pharmer.org. N.p., 28 May 2008. (online).  http://www.pharmer.org/forum/chronic-pain-and-pain-management/big-post-pain-medication-cost. 21 Oct. 2012.

Cunha, DO, FACOEP, John P., Standiford Helm Ii, MD, and Melissa Conrad StöpplerMD, Chief Medical Editor. “Read What Your Physician Is Reading on Medscape.” EMedicineHealth. WebMD Inc., (online). http://www.emedicinehealth.com/pain_medications/page2_em.htm. 21 Oct. 2012.

“Hydromorphone.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Oct. 2012. (online). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydromorphone. 21 Oct. 2012.

“Oxymorphone.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Dec. 2012. (online). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxymorphone. 21 Oct. 2012.

Zwanger, MD, MBA, Mark, and Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD. “Read What Your Physician Is Reading on Medscape.” EMedicineHealth. WebMD Inc., (online).  http://www.emedicinehealth.com/narcotic_abuse/page3_em.htm. 21 Oct. 2012.

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