Only 14 states across the United States recognize the use of medicinal marijuana.
While it is still debatable whether or not the use of medicinal marijuana is actually legal, it is known that Physicians are prescribing it for patients with a wide variety of illness including: migraine headaches, anxiety, chronic back pain, arthritis, movement disorders, HIV/AIDS multiple sclerosis, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, glaucoma and epilepsy.
For patients with chronic pain in states that do not allow medicinal marijuana, pain is treated with a variety of pain medications. One medication that is prescribed is the Duragesic patch which releases Fentanyl. It is applied to the skin once every three days.
If you are a patient or caregiver trying to make the decision about using medical marijuana or prescription medication, you will probably be interested in the long term side effects of each.
Side effects of marijuana
Conjunctival injection, increased appetite, dry mouth, tachycardia. Additional symptoms as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Euphoria with inappropriate laughter and grandiosity, sedation, lethargy, impairment in short term memory, difficulty carrying out complex mental processes, impaired judgment, distorted sensory perceptions, impaired motor performance, sensation that time is passing slowly.
Occasional side effect
Anxiety, suspiciousness, paranoia, dysphoria, social withdrawal
Rare side effect
Hallucinations, use of marijuana can bring on symptoms of schizophrenia in patients who were previously symptom free
Long term use
Psychological dependence, lack of motivation, depression, chronic cough
According to the DSM -IV-TR the THC content in illicit marijuana has increased significantly since the late 1960s from an average of approximately 1%-5% to as much as 10%-15%.
Side effects of Fentanyl
This information has been obtained from a Walgreens pharmacy prescription patient handout on the Duragesic patch.
Fentanyl is a narcotic analgesic pain reliever used to treat persistent moderate to severe chronic pain, that requires around the clock administration and cannot be relieved by non-steroidal analgesics, narcotic combinations analgesics or immediate release opioids.
Warnings before using
Serious life threatening, breathing problems can occur (especially in patients who have not been given narcotic medicines previously), seek immediate medical attention in the unlikely event that very slow, shallow breathing occurs.
When used for long periods of time or at high does some people develop a need to continue taking this medicine. This is known as dependence or addiction.
Do not expose the patch to direct sources of heat such as heating pads, electric blankets, heat lamps, saunas, hot tubs or heated waterbeds. Avoid sunbathing, long hot baths, or other sources of heat to the body, Tell your doctor if you develop a fever. The heat may cause more medicine to be released into your skin and could cause serious, even fatal, side effects.
There are many warnings listed regarding using other prescription drugs while using the patch.
There are several cautions listed regarding possible allergic reactions. Symptoms of allergic reaction include rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness or trouble breathing
Use of this medicine is not recommended
During an asthma attack, or if you have a history of alcohol or substance abuse, severe stomach problems, severe liver problems, severe kidney problems, or severe breathing problems.
Possible side effects
Drowsiness, stomach pain or discomfort, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, dry mouth, sweating, weakness or tiredness, headache, muscle ache, fever or dizziness.
Check with your Doctor as soon as possible
If you experience loss of appetite, mental or mood changes, unusual muscle movements, loss of memory, difficulty breathing, vision problems, seizures or difficulty urinations
Contact your Doctor immediately
If you experience chest pain, coughing up blood, irregular heartbeat, fainting, unusual sensation felt through the body (such as burning, tingling, tickling or pricking) or high fever.
American Psychiatric Association. (2007). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders
(4th ed). Washington, DC: Author.
Walgreens Pharmacy- Patient prescription information – May 4, 2010