"Kidney transplantation has not been shown to be more beneficial than other alternative treatments for patients with ongoing substance abuse. Thus, I recommended denial of kidney transplantation" says the University of Minnesota/Fairview Transplant Center Doctor to a Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patient. Some CKD patients use medical marijuana to relieve their neuropathic pain, severe cramps, constant nausea, pounding headaches as well as to improve sleep, appetite, relaxation and anxiety. However, a patient in need of a Kidney Transplant will likely be denied by their Transplant Center if they use marijuana for medical purposes; even in the fourteen states where medicinal cannabis is legal. For many this is a choice of using less effective medications and suffering through pain or living with the likelihood of never receiving a Kidney Transplant.
Kidney Transplant Centers list several reasons for refusing transplants based on marijuana use such as a fungus that grows on cannabis which can lead to a lung infection when inhaled, and the inconclusive determination of whether cannabis increases or decreases the effectiveness of necessary Immunosuppresant Drugs. Ultimately, Transplant Surgeons have come to the determination that the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in the alternative remedy makes a new kidney reject earlier. But should this decision not be revisited with world renowned Doctors like Sanjay Gupta releasing a public apology stating that "I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis?" The Doctor found that only approximately 6% of the U.S. marijuana studies investigate benefits while the other 94% investigate the harm of cannabis. This imbalance offers a "highly distorted" image of high-visibility individuals just looking to "get high." The fact is that CKD patients use medical marijuana as an effective chronic pain management tool that assists in improving their quality of life, without the serious side effects of addiction and toxins, associated with other prescribed pain relievers.
Recommended Reading: Doctors Question the Casual Use of Anti-depressants
It does not make much sense to give a new kidney to a heroin addict who would then possibly share needles and come down with another life-threatening disease. This is why Kidney Transplant Centers screen for "substance abusers."Yet according to new research at the University of Michigan, cannabis use has no impact on the long-term survival rates of organ transplant recipients. It concluded, "Patients who did and did not use marijuana had similar survival rates."
Recommended Reading: Study: Longer Time on Dialysis Worsens Post-transplant Outcomes
Though you may be a legal medical marijuana patient, you are basically powerless under current laws to force any Kidney Transplant Center to keep you on their transplant lists. Having used medicinal marijuana does not absolutely disqualify you from receiving a Kidney Transplant, but Transplant Centers require you to cease your marijuana use and be tested clean for 60 days while others specify as much as six months of marijuana abstinence before they would accept you at their center for transplant surgery. In the longer term, as Dr. Gupta suggests cannabis should be removed from Schedule I and legalized for prescription so that it may truly be treated like all other medicines. KidneyBuzz.com encourages you to discuss this matter with your Nephrologist for additional options.
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"The Denial of Organ Transplants to Medical Marijuana Patients." The Huffington Post.
Gupta, Dr. Sanjay. "Why I Changed My Mind on Weed." CNN. Cable News Network
"Medical Marijuana Uses & Treatments: Chronic Pain." Medical Marijuana Uses & Treatments: Chronic Pain.
"How Many Medical Marijuana Patients Are Fakers? Does It Matter?" Medical Marijuana.