The Nature of Medicine

This research topic submitted by Adam and Kevin ( maurac@miavx1.miamioh.edu ) on 5/5/98 .

ABSTRACT:
Our intent for this paper was to show a positive correlation between the fact that people get sick and the fact that they are now becoming more aware of other types of remedies out there, many of which come from nature. In order to test our ideas we had to come up with some sort of survey that would cover a wide enough area to give us a wide dispersal of answers. Originally, we were going to pass out surveys to students on campus. However, this only limited us to the academic environment created by the university. We were looking for results from a broader demographic of people so we decided to move our surveys into the 21st century. With the rapid increase of users of the Internet we decided that would be the best place to perform such a study. The Internet offers us better statistics than a face to face survey because of the fact that people on the internet are by nature nameless. Their anonymity provided us with results that we feel support the fact that people are becoming more and more prone to try other types of medicines.
All one needs to do is look out the window (as long as they no not live in the city) to see the fact that nature is all around us. We see it everywhere, but do many of us think about nature very deeply? Many people do not understand that we as humans get most of what we need from nature, whether it be physically and psychologically. This is very clearly shown when it comes to the health benefits that can be ascertained from nature. Nature always has a way of healing, whether it be the new bud sprouting through the forest floor after a devastating fire to the ancient practice of Homeopathy to new fields in mental health such as Ecopsychology (the combination of Ecology and Psychology), nature always takes care of us.
We as humans benefit from nature especially through the medicines that we are given directly from nature. For example, taking Urtica Urens (Stinging Nettle) to assist in the healing of burns. Through medical practices involving nature we are able to combat much more than we used to in our history. “Surgery or Acupuncture? Antibiotics or Herbs? BOTH ARE BETTER. More and more M.D.s are mixing Ancient Medicine and New Science to treat everything from the common cold to heart disease.” However, sometimes our government can be a bit restrictive when it comes to the use of alternative forms of medicine. One type of restriction that comes to mind is the recent debate on the medical use of Marijuana. In the United States government's zeal to execute a "war on drugs", are there other legitimate natural substances being banned? Substances that could help cure cancer, inhibit AIDS, or retard the circulatory diseases? Also, along with the illegal drugs are other cures such as homeopathic remedies that have become blacklisted with a negative affiliation to these other drugs made by the government. We wanted to do research and find out what people really think about natural healing, whether it be Marijuana or other natural substances such as Arnica (mountain daisy - Which helps relieve different states of shock for the body, whether it is surgical shock or shock from an injury). We felt that society is changing, and at the same time becoming more aware of the possibilities for cures that are found in nature.
No issue has polarized people more than medical marijuana. This issue goes towards the heart of our thesis, that natural substances can hold the key to future cures. "It's a shame that the debate is so polarized. Science should know more about this substance by now, considering how long it has been in use," says Harrison Pope a psychiatrist with Harvard University (Consumer Reports, May 1997) Plants are a living pharmacy of possible medicinal panaceas. Twenty-four percent (Kellert, p. 20) of all pharmaceuticals have plant origins. Consider: "Some 70,000 plants have been utilized for medicinal purposes." (Kellert, p. 20).
Hundreds of thousands of more undiscovered plant species, most of them hemmed away in the tropical rainforests, await with possible medicinal benefits. With the overwhelming weight of evidence pointing towards plants as disease fighters, and such high numbers (like 70,000 plants), it is possible that some of these plants would have "mind-altering" properties like cannabis (whose active chemical ingredient is THC - tetrahydrocannabinol).
Many prominent researchers say "yes." They contend that the politicization of marijuana has detracted from its very viable medical uses. "Medicine in the Western World has forgotten almost all it once knew about therapeutic properties of marijuana," says Dr. Tod Mikuryia (Hemp Medicine. 1998). Since the government has made Marijuana a class I controlled substance research is not allowed to be done on the plant itself, however, they are able to use the active ingredient (THC) in studies. Just as a brief example marijuana as an antinausea drug has been totally forgotten about. As an antinausea drug, marijuana seems to have a place in modifying the toxic effects of the very poisonous drugs used in the chemotherapy of cancer (Weil, 1980). There are many other aspects about the medicinal benefits associated with marijuana that most have seem to have forgotten due to its legal status. Luckily the government does not try to prevent the use of most homeopathic remedies.
For instance, the study of homeopathic medicine has increased dramatically in the past decade. Even now, when you watch television you will see advertisements for different herbal supplements, such as, Gingkoba (a clever combination of name Gingko Biloba) and Ginsana (which uses G-113, which I can only assume is the dilution Ginseng used in this product. Most homeopaths feel that, since all remedies are highly diluted, it would be impossible to overdose on homeopathic drugs; the number of pills required for a toxic effect would simply bee too high to consume at once (www.onhealth.com, 1997). One of the nice benefits of homeopathic remedies is that once a person takes the medicine and starts to feel better that is all that is needed. This runs contrary to the whole idea about taking prescription medicine. One of the biggest reasons that prescribed medicine is starting to fail is due to the fact that people think that once they begin to feel better that is all of the prescription they need to take (and they will keep the rest for a day when they are not feeling well). This idea only works with homeopathic medicine. Prescribed medication acts as an attacker against an invading organism, while homeopathic medication acts more as a reinforcement for the body’s natural healing capabilities. As we humans move further and further away from nature the fact that our body is made to fight illness becomes more and more forgotten.
METHODS:
Many college students will survey their own peers for scientific studies. We have found this method to be deeply flawed. This flaw is especially evident in rural campuses like Miami University, where the pool of people available is highly homogenous. In today's world of 21st century technology, there is no need to limit yourself to your backyard. The Internet provides instant access to a limitless - and importantly - anonymous pool of people. It is from this pool that we drew our wellspring of information.
Internet surveys are not without their inherent problems as well. First of all, you are limiting yourself to a cross-section of the community that owns computers. This may tend to tilt the demographics toward a higher income bracket. Still, we feel that the demographics are more diverse than on an ivy-covered college campus.
On the issue of anonymity, we feel that while risky, it actually provides us with a more accurate sampling than in-class surveys. The people on the Internet are faceless, nameless souls who are far more likely to be honest than someone sitting two feet away from the surveyor (especially on a drug-related topic).
Another advantage of an Internet survey (one conducted on a popular chat service like America Online) is the ability to truly pick and choose a cross-section. For instance, we can cull through profiles (each AOL member has a personal profile) and select only females over 40, or only males between 25 and 35. A researcher has to use some discrimination when selecting profiles. Choosing someone with a profile that includes obviously racy titles like "SEX DEMON" or "LOVE GODDESS" tends to diminish credibility. We tried to pick people with very "normal" profiles with no obvious agenda to be dishonest.
When we finally whittled down a pool of people that we thought would be good candidates for this survey, we asked them several questions relating to their personal medicinal usage and personal feelings about certain drug usage (for either medicinal or non-medicinal purposes). Since this treatment focuses on natural illegal drugs and not rock cooked in a lab, we focused primarily on pot as a specific substance with medicinal properties. While at the same time we asked them other questions relating to their feelings about and knowledge of non-traditional therapeutic methods such as homeopathic therapy.

Results:

We surveyed dozens of people in many different cities with a focus on San Francisco and Indianapolis. San Francisco is known for its more liberal and tolerant views. In fact, in San Francisco, the possession of small amounts of marijuana has been legal long before the mainstream medical marijuana movement took root. Indianapolis was another other city we surveyed in. We figured that this was more representative of a conservative heartland attitude.
Our expectations mirrored our findings. San Francisco's answers consistently were more magnified in their acceptance of certain drugs. Still, the majority of people thought that cannabis possessed healing properties in each locale - San Francisco's just held a greater percentage. This trend followed throughout our survey. Specific graphs and charts, including P value analysis, are included on the accompanying charts.
Along with the specific questions surrounding Marijuana we also asked questions dealing with people’s thoughts and opinions of homeopathic remedies. We hypothesized that more people are becoming increasingly aware of and approve more usage of natural remedies. The data that we collected in part showed a positive correlation, however, the statistics were not very solid. Unfortunately, there were only slight differences in opinions, but the differences are there. Questions asked are listed below, in no specific order.

The following are samples of the questions we asked in our surveys:

1. Do you believe that cannabis has any healing properties?

This question was asked primarily for the purposes of side-stepping the political issues surrounding pot, and asking people point-blank, "do you believe in marijuana's healing properties." We feel we got a more honest answer. Here is what people in each city said:

SAN FRANCISCO
MALE: 64 percent (Yes) (13 men out of 20)
FEMALE: 23 percent (Yes) (5 women out of 20)

INDIANAPOLIS
MALE: 50 percent (YES) (10 out of 20)
FEMALE: 10 percent (YES (2 out of 20)

If anyone was going to lie on a survey, it would be to the following question that actually delves into peoples' personal histories. Still, we felt that the Internet anonymity garnered an accurate sample. This perhaps was the most revealing question in our research because it shows that despite government attempts to criminalize marijuana, the efforts have largely fallen on deaf ears.

2. Have you ever used Cannabis (Pot)?

SAN FRANCISCO
MALE: 71 percent (YES) (21 out of 30)
FEMALE: 50 percent (YES) (15 out of 30)

INDIANAPOLIS
MALE: 49 percent (YES) (14 out of 30)
FEMALE: 18 percent (YES) (5 out of 30)

The following question takes a look at what people consider to be a "natural drug." After all, even cocaine is found in a mild form in the wild. How far would people go, how much latitude would they give, when classifying drugs as natural? The outcome was fascinating. We had expected pot, or even nicotine, to lead the list. But when people think of "natural", mushrooms come to mind. The answers were culled from San Francisco and Indianapolis. Perhaps it is a statistical aberration, that if we had carried out the question to more people, pot would have been first. Still, it shows a strong association between mushrooms and nature in people’s minds.

3. What is the first “natural drug” that comes to mind?

33- Mushrooms
29 - Pot
22 -Poppies/Opium
10 - Nicotine
6 - alcohol

The next question is simply a more direct form of some of our previous queries. Unlike earlier answers, this one was not broken down by gender.

4. Do you believe that Marijuana should be legalized (both genders)?
SAN FRANCISCO, 22 people.: 18 yes, 3 no
INDIANAPOLIS, 11 people: 11 yes, 2 no

The final question about marijuana gave us some of the most insightful responses in relation to the use of marijuana, whether it be medicinally or for recreational use.

5. If you knew that you would not get caught, would you smoke marijuana?

SAN FRANCISCO
Women: 17 yes, 1 no
Men: 22 yes

INDIANAPOLIS
women: 14 yes, 7 no
Men: 19 yes, 4 no

These next set of questions deal more with the legal, homeopathic, remedies and how people felt about them in relation to doctor prescribed medication.
1. When you become ill, do you see a doctor in order to get a prescription for medicine?
Men: 10 yes, 12 no
Women: 8 yes, 10 no

This could just mean that people do not like to go to the doctor or they more often do not like to take medicine.
2. Have you ever tried homeopathic medicine (non-over-the-counter products)?
Men: 13 yes, 9 no
Women: 10 yes, 8 no
We were quite happy with these responses because this shows that on the average more people are trying alternative methods of curing their ailments.
3. Have you ever gone to a homeopathic doctor?
Men: 9 yes, 13 no
Women: 5 yes, 13 no

With this question we were glad to get any sort of response that showed that people went to homeopathic doctors. We did not expect to get a higher value for the “Yes’s” due to the fact that homeopathic doctors are not covered under insurance and also due to the fact that it is still quite an unknown field of medicine. People just do not know enough about the field.
4. Do you feel more comfortable taking prescribed or homeopathic medicine?
Men: 10 Homeopathic, 12 prescribed
Women: 10 Homeopathic, 8 prescribed

These results were interesting with more women trusting homeopathic medicine then men do. Again these answers were so close together that there is the distinct possibility that our findings are inconclusive.

CONCLUSION:

Throughout our paper we tried to make the point that more people need to take into consideration the fact that there are other types of medicines out there. Sometimes our government acting in our “best judgment” will prohibit the use of some of these different alternative medicines (i.e. Marijuana), but hopefully the people in the government will start to listen to the voices of those whom they are trying to protect. The people want greater choices for health care. Sometimes the general run of the mill prescriptions do not work and they need something else. Time is the greatest test of anything, if something survives over the years it must have some sort of value contained within. For years people across the globe have been using remedies commonly found in nature to cure their diseases and illnesses. It is only now in the age of chemically produced medicine that we are getting away from that idea. Sure, pharmaceutical companies are searching the rainforests (before they get destroyed) looking for cures for disease, but that is only the start. They need to come up with more products that are just that, a part of nature. Over 60% of homeopathic remedies are prepared from vegetable or plant materials. Other remedies are prepared from naturally occurring mineral substances, including metals, non-metallic substances, and mineral salts (www.arnica.com/homeopath.html). My question is then, what are the prescription medicines made out of? If someone asked what we could have done to make the results a little more viable we would have a couple of things to tell them. First off, when it comes to working with the Internet do be careful to get a broad demographic of participants. We went into chat rooms looking for people to fill out our surveys, but not everyone you ask will be very willing to help. The very nature of the chat rooms limits the type of person you are dealing with. For example, the results that you would get from a person in a chat room whose heading is, “alternative medicine” are much different from those results you would get from a person who is in a chat room entitled, “auto repair.” What one needs to do is go into a “general” discussion chat room and ask there, where there will be a more diverse set of responses. Also, when it comes to researching topics such as Marijuana, or rather hot topics in today’s society. Be sure to weed out (no pun intended) the articles and information that is obviously biased. Try to find information from an authoratative resource.
Reflections:
KEVIN:
I found this to be a fascinating topic, and I feel the paper fulfilled its mission: to give each student a chance to research and study a topic of his or her choice. In doing this paper, I had the chance to delve into issues that I had never thought of before. I had always just lumped pot in a "dangerous drug" category. This project allowed me to spend hours talking with people and scientists who felt very differently. In this sense, the project was very fulfilling.
For someone, however, who's background is not science, but journalism, I found the data analysis to be very tricky. Even with the computer program's ability to do most of the work, there still needs to be a basic understanding of P value and Chi, and other important factors. These were covered and explained well in lecture sessions. However, I feel that such an important topic needs much greater addressing. I just do not feel that I could have spent 10 weeks attending lectures and learning about data analysis and then used it intelligently and meaningfully. I certainly tried to in this paper, but I could have done with a lot more training and explanation.

Adam:
In general I liked this project. The whole Statview component was a bit tricky since I have never really worked with it before (this is one of the few times I wish that I would have transferred to Western as a freshman and learned how to do this in NS I ). However, I now feel like I have a beginning knowledge of the program which will become useful, I am sure, in my years in my years to come. When it comes to the connection between the final paper and the poster I think that the best course of action is not to have them connected, related maybe (for instance ours). We came up with our idea for the final from parts of the research that we did in preparation for our poster project. When it comes to the whole issue of making it a group assignment I do not feel this project is one that benefits from using two people. Sometimes there is a lack of communication that goes on and when the paper involves intricate pieces such as this communication is important. Therefore, I think that maybe next year each individual should write a paper. (smaller versions of course, so you do not have to read as much). Overall, it was enjoyable, along with the course. I learned from it so I look upon it as time spent well.


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