Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Medical Cannabis - The Science

As time has gone on, we’ve discovered more about the chemistry of both the cannabis plant and the endocannabinoid neurotransmitter system (characterized by Dr. Raphael Mechulam, Professor of Jerusalem University in 1992). Cannabis contains 483 chemicals. In addition to THC (characterized by Prof. Mechulam in 1964), the cannabis plant has over 60 cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are 21 carbon molecules which are attracted to specific receptors in the brain. The most pharmacologically active is delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. Other C21 compounds include cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN). CBD has no psycho-active capability however CBN is a mildly psycho-active chemical. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabichromene (CBC) are also important cannabinoids. Cannabis also contains six essential oils, at least eight alkaloids, flavonoids and sugars. (Cannabis: Booth, pg. 7 and Russo & Grotenhermann). Several cannabinoids and some phenoids and flavinoids have been found to have therapeutic value. (Cannabis and Cannabinoids edited by Russo & Grotenhermann)

The Conditions
The list of conditions cannabis helps provide treatment and relief for continues to expand. In 1995 The Lancet lists relief of nausea, analgesia, glaucoma, and appetite stimulation. The 1997 House of Lords Science and Technology Report had a longer list which included cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. The 1999 U.S. government funded Institute of Medicine (IOM) report concluded that THC is an analgesic, muscle-relaxant, anti-depressant and anti-emetic agent. Some other chemicals in the plant may also contribute to cannabis’ therapeutic effects. Clinicians and researchers have demonstrated that cannabis is also useful in treating ADD/ADHD, OCD and PTSD (O’Shaughnessy’s). Cannabis can reduce epileptic fits , stimulate appetite , and dilate bronchial tissue (Tashkin). It’s helpful in treating ulcerative colitis, IBS, and Crohn’s Disease.

Recently it’s been shown to be of help in alleviating some symptoms of Alzheimer’s and slowing the progressive neurological deterioration (O’Shaughnessy’s). Compared to other recreational drugs including coffee, cannabis is considered by experts to be the safest. A 1994 New York Times article cites work by Jack Henningfield of NIDA and Neal Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).
Henningfield and Benowitz rated the addictive symptoms of cannabis vs. other commonly used drugs including heroin, alcohol and cocaine. Overall, ‘Marijuana was ranked lowest for withdrawal symptoms, tolerance and dependence (addiction) potential; it ranked close to caffeine in the degree of reinforcement and higher than caffeine and nicotine only in the degree of intoxication.’ (Henningfield and Benowitz, 1994). Noted cannabinologist and neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo, points out that, “Even in cases of high daily intake, such as the 94-day cannabis study (Cohen 1976), any withdrawal symptoms on its sudden cessation were transient and mild.” (Medical marijuana pro/con website)


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