by Norman J. Lepoff, M.D. retired
On July 15, 1977, I received my M.D. degree from Jefferson Medical College and moved to California to begin my internship in Internal Medicine at the Long Beach V.A. Hospital. It was an honor and a privilege to serve our nation’s veterans, the majority of who informed me of their opposition to the laws against cannabis. They fought and sacrificed for our freedoms and the values upon which our country was founded. Regretfully, in 2009, these freedoms and values are still not being granted to those Americans who use cannabis.
My first V.A. “rotation” was on the G.I. (gastrointestinal) ward. This ward was filled with veterans dying from alcohol-induced diseases. It was a sad place. Many suffered, and ultimately died a miserable death. One evening, I admitted a patient to the I.C.U. with severe internal bleeding due to aspirin. This patient was taking the aspirin in the recommended dose for arthritis and ended up with a bleeding stomach ulcer. G.I bleeding from causes other than alcohol was unusual for the G.I ward, but the treatments were the same.
My new patient, Mr. H, was in excruciating pain and was vomiting up large amounts of bright, red blood. His life was in grave danger so I immediately inserted a tube into his stomach in order to directly deliver medications and irrigate the internal bleeding site with iced, cold water. Mr. H could not stop shaking with chills from the frigid water irrigations.
This went on all night. I stood at his bedside fighting alongside him trying to save his life. As sore and stiff as my hands and arms had become, I did not stop irrigating his stomach. He slipped in and out of a coma as the hours passed by. At 5 A.M, the bleeding intensified. This battle was being lost. The only option left was stomach surgery. This was undertaken and was successful . His life was saved. Mr. H was one of the lucky ones who survived a bleeding ulcer.
Shortly after my internship, the NSAIDs were developed. These include Aleve (naproxen), Advil (ibuprofen) and Motrin (ibuprofen). These newer, over the counter drugs, can also cause internal bleeding and death, but the risks are lower as compared to aspirin. Nonetheless, the risks are real and many people end up like, Mr. H, or even worse.
In conclusion, there are many dangerous and deadly drugs, which are readily available at our neighborhood supermarkets and pharmacies. Even our children can buy them if they please. However, nobody is arrested for selling or using aspirin, an NSAID, or any other of the numerous, lethal over the counter drugs. Ironically, people are still being persecuted, arrested and imprisoned every day for using one of the least toxic and most beneficial substances on our planet; cannabis. – From The West Coast Leaf (2007)