Cannabinoids and the Body

The question of how cannabinoids (CBNs) interact with the human body is a vastly complex issue, as there are numerous effects that are transmitted from the chemicals. After cannabis ingestion both psychological and physiological effects begin to appear as the chemicals, THC specifically, interact with the vastly complex body receptor system.

In the late 1980’s scientists first identified the CB1 receptors in the nervous system, cannabis’ psychoactive and behavioral effects being produced via the stimulation of said receptors. A few years later, in the early 1990s, CB2 receptors were discovered in the immune system, and identified as responsible for the control of many biological tasks, such as inflammation and pain response. Endocannabinoids, chemicals found naturally in the body, possess a molecular structure nearly identical to herbal cannabinoids and act as neuromodulators and cytokine modulators inside the receptor system, regulating such functions as appetite, blood pressure, bone growth, immunity, inflammation, memory, muscle tone, and more. In theory, a healthy endogenous cannabinoid receptor system is vital to healthy living and certain diseases may be symptoms of weaknesses within the system. Supporting this theory, a National institutes of Health review states that modulation of the endocannabinoid system shows promise in a large variety of diseases, from mood or anxiety disorders to movement disabilities, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, stroke, glaucoma and others.

The standard psychological and physical effects experienced after consumption of cannabis is difficult to define simply because the experience is different for each individual. A majority of the plant’s effects are largely dependent on the percentage of THC and other cannabinoids contained in the specific strain of cannabis. Additionally, those who consume cannabis more regularly will receive altered effects compared to new or infrequent consumers because of a higher tolerance to the psychological and physiological cannabinoids present in the plant. If an inexperienced subject were to take too much cannabis at once, for example, they would be subject to a panic attack or heightened paranoia. These experiences are temporary and do not show any actual long-term risk to the subject’s health. Tolerance of the physical effects of cannabis will normally build as consumers continue to use cannabis and learn to temper their dosage in order to avoid the anxiety and paranoia that could ensue from overuse.

Medical Marijuana: The Child Side

Proven research and results abound in the subject of the life-changing effects of medical marijuana on autistic children. In 2009, an article in the New York Times covered a young boy with an extreme case of pica. This condition, which compels the brain to eat non-food, and was so severe that the boy would eat his own shirts over the course of a school day, was relieved almost immediately after the boy ingested cannabis-infused cookies. Marijuana brownies have been shown to give ADHD suffering children focus and clarity, while OCD afflicted children have been calmed with just a drop of cannabis tincture. Based on these studies, a conclusion that medical marijuana is a valid alternative treatment for unmanageable neurological disorders would be logical. Following this theory, at least two of the sixteen states in which medical marijuana is legal have allowed its use for patient younger than 18. The biggest issue that medical marijuana now faces is the dichotomy of opinion in the scientific community about whether it is safe for children.

Those who fear for child endangerment through smoke inhalation need not fear: edibles and tinctures are the recommended treatments for these neurological conditions. The medicine can also be infused into bread, butter, candy and soda, which make medication softer on child lungs.

With smoke not an issue for child medication with cannabis, one may wonder what the still-present issues are. There are a few critics who suggest the gateway drug theory, which presumes that marijuana would lead users to more powerful drugs once they become used to the effects of marijuana, but the most common cause for apprehension is how use of the plant might affect brain development. Dr. Steven Sager, director of Echo, a Malibu, California-based teen drug and alcohol center, believes that medical marijuana has a negative effect on youth symptoms. He adds that cannabis may merely sedate the patient, hiding the underlying causes and presenting new problems like depression and anxiety. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, who is a retired physician and professor of Harvard Medical School, states that although while there is no evidence medical marijuana will work, it is also remarkably non-toxic and unlikely to cause harm. Grinspoon has written several books on the subject and also experienced its healing personally: his son used cannabis to relieve the nausea and pain from chemotherapy treatments. Grinspoon believes that the most dangerous aspect of medical marijuana is public belief of the drug, saying that they have been brainwashed about it, yet there will come a time when marijuana is recognized as the wonder drug of our time.


The Vaporized Alternative To Smoking

The three most common methods of ingesting marijuana are through smoking, eating, and vaporizing, with smoking by far the most preferred. Unfortunately, smoking also carries with it the greatest health risks overall. Fortunately, vaporizing is just as effective as smoking, yet comes with a fraction of the health risks.

During the smoking process, multiple harmful gases are released into the air such as carbon monoxide and dioxide, tar, ash, and more. The inhalation of this potent cocktail has an extreme derogatory effect on the lungs and increases the chances of developing cancer later in life.   Not only is this bad for the lungs, but it can wound and damage the throat as well. Not only does smoking induce these damaging effects, but it also decreases the efficiency of the bud, losing 25-50% of the marijuana over the whole smoking process.

In contrast to the dangerous effects of smoking, vaporization has been proven multiple times to be a much healthier process, slowly heating the marijuana to a precise temperature that can be fine-tuned to the specific strain. This causes an almost nonexistent loss in material and ensures the patient is able to maximize their medication process. Patients or smokers who have particularly sensitive throats are able to use vaporizers much more comfortably due to the lower operating temperature that causes almost no throat or lung irritation. Other benefits to vaporization are a higher level of discretion, leaving a greatly reduced residual odor, and fully exposing the flavors and effects of the strain without the harsh carbon taste.

Recent research has also proven that vaporization is the most effective medicinal delivery system, even over edibles or tinctures. Without the carbons or gases of smoking, the chemicals in cannabis (namely THC and CBD) are able to enter the bloodstream immediately, providing a much faster relief from symptoms that will also last longer than smoking. While the decision still lies with the patient, the facts have been laid out and it is up to them to decide what medication method is right for them.

Defeating Opiate Addiction with Medical Marijuana

For over 120 years, doctors have been utilizing the healing effects of marijuana to combat opiate dependence. Records of this treatment exist as far back as 1889 and can be seen repeatedly throughout history with such doctors as E.A. Birch, M.D. Birch was able to catalog success not only with opiates, but with Chloral addiction as well.

While traveling in Calcutta, India, Birch met a local man who claimed to be suffering from a severe opiate addiction. The addiction had become increasingly more prevalent after the man’s wife had died from her own addiction to the drug, and was so advanced that he could not eat or sleep without it and almost constantly debated suicide. After a close inspection of the patient, Birch prescribed a tincture composed of 10 minims indica marijuana and stronphanth. He instructed the patient to use the tincture daily and return in six weeks for Dr. Birch to follow up his diagnosis. After six days, the patient reported that the tincture had initially relieved his addiction, but it had returned in force soon after. Acting on this information, Birch then prescribed a pill containing indica cannabis, which was able to completely negate the patient’s desire for opiates within 24 hours of consumption and completely eliminate them for the rest of the man’s life.

In more recent history, a study by Valerie Dauge of the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System was published by Science Daily. The 2009 study concluded that lab rats who were formerly addicted to morphine or heroin were able to consistently reduce their need for the drug, and finally be cured of addiction completely, after being given 10mg injections of THC (the most common chemical found in cannabis). These results led to the theory that opiate addiction can possibly become a valid reason for a patient obtaining a medical marijuana prescription.

The chemicals in marijuana have other incredible uses alongside their anti-opiate effects, such as reduction of opiate-based drugs for those who suffer from severe and chronic pain. In multiple examples, Oxy-codone, Oxy-cotin, morphine and other pain relief drugs were replaced with 2-4 hits of marijuana per day. In these trials each patient reported up to a 50% reduction in pain medications required to achieve a pain-free state, which made them less reliant on the drugs.

The question will of course arise that those who use marijuana to treat opiate reliance would in turn become reliant on cannabis. The opposite of this fear was reported: there has been no research that confirmed cannabis a physically addictive drug. Certain findings have reported that cannabis’ effect on opiates is so effective because the high from marijuana feels much the same as an opiate high, and thus it is recommended that patients continue to take marijuana to reinforce their resistance to opiates in the future.

Cannabis Over Sleeping Pills?

Insomnia plagues thousands of Americans, and every day there are dangerous sleeping pills prescribed to these patients in the hope of curing their sleep deprivation. Chief among these are such medications as Trazadone, Valium, Lunesta, Ambien and Librium. Each contains a set of complications that can arise from extended use, including such ailments as kidney failure, thoughts of suicide, liver disease and psychological collapse.

A large portion of these pills are created from chemical found in such highly poisonous plants as belladonnas and mandrakes. These plants have been classified as unsafe by the FDA but are still utilized in the production of sleeping pills regardless. Side effects of ingesting mandrake can include vomiting, nausea, and extreme inflammation of the digestive tract, while use of belladonna can lead to nervous system issues or collapse and increases to both breathing and heart rate.

Henbane, another highly dangerous plant used to create sleeping pills, has a safe dosage of zero, yet is still used by pharmaceutical companies around the globe. Dangers of henbane ingestion can include hallucinations, dry mouth, dilated pupils, urinary blockage, increased heart/breathing rate and lethality to children.

In contrast, the risks of marijuana include lung issues (which can be completely avoided by non-smoking ingestion), temporary short-term memory loss and reduced blood pressure, which is not always a negative factor. Lower blood pressure can open the arteries, allowing a reduction of stress which benefits sleep quality. Utilizing marijuana also lowers the body’s temperature by about half a degree, allowing this combination of effects to provide great relief from daily life. Reports also show a larger unbroken sleep time as well as patients waking less groggy and felling more rested. Generally, indica and indica-dominant varieties of cannabis boast the greatest results for insomnia relief, and are ideally taken either vaporized or through edibles before falling asleep, 30 minutes before with vaporization and 2 hours before with edibles for best effect and maximum rest.



Prescription Drug Abuse Results in One Death Every 19 Minutes in U.S

img-04One person dies every 19 minutes from prescription drug abuse in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 27,000 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in 2007, UPI reports.

The rise in unintentional drug overdose deaths has been driven by an increase in use of opioids, the CDC notes in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For every unintentional overdose death linked to opioids, nine people are admitted for substance abuse treatment, 35 people go to the emergency room, 161 report drug abuse or dependence, and 461 report non-medical uses of opioids.

The rate of opioid misuse and overdose deaths are highest among non-Hispanic whites, men ages 20-64, and poor and rural populations.

The CDC says the two main groups at risk for prescription drug overdose are the nine million people who report long-term medical use of opioids, and the roughly 5 million who have used opioids without a prescription or medical need in the past month.

Marijuana : National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The question of whether marijuana — produced from the flowering top of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa — should be used for symptom management in multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex one. It is generally agreed that better therapies are needed for distressing symptoms of MS — including pain, tremor and spasticity — that may not be sufficiently relieved by available treatments. Development of more treatments for MS symptoms is a priority for the National Society in its 2011-2015 strategic response. Still, there are uncertainties about the benefits of marijuana relative to its side effects. The fact that marijuana is an illegal drug in many states and by federal statute (see Supreme Court ruling below) further complicates the issue.

The Society supports the rights of people with MS to work with their MS health care providers to access marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with legal regulations in those states where such use has been approved. In addition, the Society supports advancing research to better understand the benefits and potential risks of marijuana and its derivatives as a treatment for MS.

Recent trials
In a study (e-published ahead of print April 30, 2014 in Neurology) to learn more about the impact of smoking cannabis on cognition in people with MS, researchers looked at the association between cognitive deficits and brain activity in 20 people who regularly smoked cannabis (but had not done so for at least 12 hours) and 19 non-cannabis users. The participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing a memory test, which allowed the researchers to compare brain activity in the two groups. Participants were also given other tests of memory, information processing speed and attention. The results showed that people with MS who smoked cannabis performed less well on some of the cognitive tests and these findings were validated by fMRI results indicating abnormal patterns of brain activity during the performance of a memory task.

A large, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 660 people with different forms of MS was conducted in Britain to determine whether taking capsules of extracts of marijuana and THC (tetrohydrocannabinol, an active ingredient in marijuana) could help control spasticity. The results from this study indicated that oral derivatives of marijuana did not provide objective improvement in spasticity (as measured by a standardized assessment tool). However, significantly more participants in the treatment group reported subjective improvements in spasticity and pain (but not in tremor or bladder symptoms). In other words, participants reported feeling improvements that could not be confirmed by the study physicians. These findings were further complicated by the fact that the study became unblinded: unpleasant side effects made it clear to many patients that they were receiving the active drug rather than the placebo.

Based on previous laboratory studies suggesting that certain types of cannabinoids may protect the nervous system, Dr. John Zajicek (Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry) and colleagues in the United Kingdom conducted a three-year clinical trial (CUPID) to test whether dronabinol (a synthetic Cannabis/marijuana derivative) slows progression in people with primary-progressive or secondary-progressive MS. The results of the trial, published in 2013 in Lancet Neurology showed that dronabinoal was unable to demonstrate a positive effect on disease progression.

In 2013 Dr. Zajicek also reported on the MUSEC study, which evaluated oral cannabis extract for treating muscle stiffness in 400 people with all types of MS. In this study muscle stiffness improved by almost twofold in the group taking cannabis extract compared to placebo, and improvements were also noted in body pain, spasms and sleep quality. The most frequent adverse events were urinary tract infections, dizziness, dry mouth and headache.

A controlled study found that nabiximols (Sativex®, GW Pharmaceuticals plc), an oral spray derived from Cannabis, significantly improved spasticity in a proportion of people with MS who had been identified as likely to respond to the therapy. Alena Novotna, MD, and colleagues in the Sativex Spasticity Study Group report these results in the European Journal of Neurology (2011 Mar 1, Epub ahead of print). Well-controlled clinical trials such as this one help sort out conflicting findings surrounding the use of cannabis and related products to treat MS symptoms. Sativex is now available in 11 countries and approved in an additional 13 countries – not including the United States – to treat MS-related spasticity.

Another study highlighted the impact of cannabis on cognition. Since MS can impair thinking, and previous studies suggest that smoking cannabis also impairs thinking, investigators at the University of Toronto investigated how cannabis use influenced cognition specifically in people with MS. Their study, published in Neurology (2011;76:1153-1160), measured cognitive function in 25 people with MS who regularly smoked or ingested street cannabis, compared to 25 people with MS who did not use cannabis. The users were tested at least 12 hours after last using cannabis so that intoxication was minimized. By matching the groups and also controlling for differences in terms of disease course and duration, age, gender, education and other factors, the cannabis users were found to perform significantly worse on measures of information processing speed, working memory, executive functions and other cognitive functions, and were twice as likely as nonusers to be considered “cognitively impaired.” The study confirmed for the first time that cannabis can worsen cognitive problems in MS.
Supreme Court ruling

On June 6, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government has the power to prohibit and prosecute the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes — even in the 20 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) and Washington, D.C., where it is currently legal.

The decision overturned a 2003 ruling by a federal appeals court that shielded California’s Compassionate Use Act, the medical-marijuana initiative adopted by the state’s voters nine years ago, from federal drug enforcement. The appeals court had held that Congress lacked constitutional authority to regulate the noncommercial cultivation and use of marijuana that did not cross state lines.

In December 2014, the federal government ended its prohibition on the use of marijuana for medical purposes in fiscal year 2015 in those states where the use of marijuana had been approved for medical purposes before May 2014 (when the bill to end this prohibition was passed in Congress). Read more in Marijuana FAQs.

CBD: The Medical Miracle

CBD-CannabidiolThanks to recent studies on the medicinal benefits of cannabidiol, or CBD, we have uncovered a vast amount of information on its amazing healing properties. CBD, a chemical component of almost all marijuana strains, has been proven to combat anxiety, chronic pain, vomiting, inflammation and convulsions, as well as slow or even terminate advancement of cancerous cells. Schizophrenia has even been shown to be treatable by CBD in rare cases. The biggest challenge in the widespread distribution of CBD, however, is the inability of many researchers to perform a complete set of trials and research due to stonewalling in the federal government.

Though CBD does not contain compounds that can cause severe narcotic effects, there does still exist effectual changes between high- and low-CBD strains of cannabis. If the strain contains any amount higher than 2%, it will usually create a feeling of relaxation and peace, acting as a reliable sleeping aid for anxiety-induced patients.  Most of these high-CBD varieties are also indica/indica-dominant, and easier for personal growing than many other strains.

Typically, 420 doctors and physicians will recommend selecting a variety with a moderate amount of THC while retaining a high amount of CBD. This is to minimize the standard disorienting effects of THC while still possessing the soothing powers of CBD. Research is currently underway at Temple University in Philadelphia to learn more about CBD’s benefits and effects, and has thus far confirmed general knowledge of the chemical’s power. However, testing on lab mice has also revealed that CBD has the ability to soothe pain caused by the chemotherapy treatment paclitaxel.  Sara Jane Ward, lead study author and research assistant professor for the Temple University School of Pharmacy, states, “From what we’ve seen so far, it’s almost a complete prevention of the onset of neuropathic pain.” Yet a few of the scientists were unfortunately unable to conduct a complete series of tests and studies due to marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance via federal law (including all of its components).