What Qualifies Cannabis to be a Medicine?

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Cannabis produces positive effects in people suffering from scores of diagnosed medical problems. You’d think that the proven results were good enough to justify treating cannabis as a medicine. But, no!

The District of Columbia, Guam, and more than half of the United States have legalized cannabis for 40 or more medical therapies — even those many states that have not legalized recreational use. And, a few states have approved CBD-derivative oil for compassionate care in the treatment of recalcitrant epilepsy. You’d think that the numbers are enough to justify treating cannabis as a medicine. But, no!

People with medical problems can consume cannabis in many ways without smoking. People in all stages of suffering from medical conditions can choose from an increasing inventory of cannabis strains, administration methods, and advice on dosing without the risks associated with smoking. Patients can medicate with pills, oils, edibles, drinks, lozenges, candies, and more. You’d think that would justify treating cannabis as a medicine. But, No!

So, just what qualifies cannabis to be a medicine?

Cannabis qualifies as a medicine because of its cannabinoids and their chemistry. THC and CBD are the best-known cannabinoids, but there are a hundred more. Much of what cannabinoids do is unknown, much of what they do results from combinations of cannabinoids, and much of what they do has never been researched.

But, with great appreciation for the work of Israel’s Raphael Mechoulam, the research at Britain’s GW Pharmaceuticals, and the limited research at major U.S. universities, you know more than you once did. But, there is so much more you need to know about the positive and negative roles in cannabis as medicine.

THC binds to CB1 neuro-receptors in the brain. The binding can produce psycho-active results that are pleasant, euphoric or paranoia. Or, the binding can balance and modulate neurotransmitter flow to reduce depression, anxiety, inflammation, spasticity, and pain.

How CBD works is not so clear. CBD Project says, “Cannabidiol is a pleiotropic drug in that it produces many effects through multiple molecular pathways. The scientific literature has identified more than 65 molecular targets of CBD.” It has little interest in CB1 or CB2 receptors. But, it appears to run interference against agitators with “an entourage effect.” For instance, it delays the “reuptake” of anandamide and adenosine restoring balance and harmony.

Without extensive research with long-term studies including human subjects, research that is severely restricted by the FDA position on cannabis as a Category 1 drug. And, without that research, the powers that could make a difference have no disciplined access to identifying the linkage between cannabinoids and their known effects.

What Dr. Mechoulam discovered shows that the cannabinoids map over to the human brain and body’s natural endocannabinoid system. Research and extensive anecdotal history see cannabis treating pain, nausea, anxiety, spasticity, inflammation, and more. In modulating communication between cells, they correct unpleasant physical symptoms.

That should be enough of a case to qualify cannabis to be a medicine.

Cannabis in the medicine cabinet

Cannabis is regularly used to treat dozens of medical conditions:

  • Alzheimer's disease: Research has accelerated in the connection between cannabis and Alzheimer’s. Science Alert reports, “An active compound in marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been found to promote the removal of toxic clumps of amyloid beta protein in the brain, which are thought to kickstart the progression of Alzheimer's disease.”
  • Appetite loss, anorexia, and cachexia: Cannabinoids slow down gastrointestinal movement and emptying. This tends to increase appetite and food intake more significant than the munchies.
  • Cancer: Research at several locations finds that test subjects have shown a reduction in cancerous tumors and metastasis while on a cannabis regimen. National Geographic covered the work of Manuel Guzmán of the Complutense University of Madrid. “Guzmán and his colleagues, who’ve been treating cancer-riddled animals with cannabis compounds for 15 years, found that the tumors in a third of the rats were eradicated and in another third, reduced.”
  • Chron’s disease: A study published in Gastroenterology & Hepatology concludes, “current options for IBD [Irritable Bowel Disorder] management, including corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and biologic agents, carry risks for long-term side effects such as malignancy and infection.” But, “Epidemiologic data and human therapy studies reveal a possible role for cannabinoids in the symptomatic treatment of IBD, although it has yet to be determined in human populations whether cannabinoids have therapeutic anti-inflammatory effects in IBD or are simply masking its many debilitating symptoms.”
  • Epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome: According to the Epilepsy Foundation, Epidiolex (a 99% CBD oil extract created at GW Pharmaceuticals) has restricted authorization by the FDA for compassionate use. Results of one 12-week test on children and adults found seizures dropped by 54% on the average.
  • Glaucoma: The British Journal of Ophthalmology covered a study assuming, “Cannabinoids effectively lower the intraocular pressure (IOP) and have neuroprotective actions. Thus, they could potentially be useful in the treatment of glaucoma.” However, some ophthalmologists are concerned that the effect only lasts a few hours and that, in lowering blood pressure, cannabis risks further eye damage.
  • Multiple Sclerosis: Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy reports an interesting study where MS patients, treating with cannabis, showed no reduction in spasms, they thought they had. The authors advocate additional research into the effectiveness of cannabis inhalers.

And, there’s so much more

Cannabis has properties that reduce vomiting, diarrhea, pain and nausea attached to chemotherapy, and more.

It can be consumed sublingually, ingested, drunk, and more ways to avoid the negative perceived and real effects of smoking.

Big pharma sees potential in cannabinoids and their derivatives. And, an increasing number of medical professionals are signing on as proponents recommending that cannabis qualifies to be a medicine.