Marijuana: Benefits, Properties?
Cannabis? beneficial herb
In the America of the sixties marijuana was beginning to be very popular among young people and the authorities, alarmed, they had already started the propaganda about its harmfulness, coming to support the joint that led to madness. So it was that stimulated the interest of the institutions, Lester Grinspoon, then a young psychiatrist and now a professor at Harvard University, he thought to check the existing literature on the dangers of cannabis. The research results were quite unexpected: the allegedly harmful psychopharmacological properties of cannabis were not enough evidence, at least not as many as they had the legal and social consequences of its consumption. Grinspoon then wrote an article entirely different from what we had planned, which was released in '68 and the International Journal of Psychiatry in 1969 as an editorial in Scientific American. In this publication was followed by others, fed not only by the medical and scientific literature, from French Romanticism. From the works of Theophilus Gautier, Charles Baudelaire and other members of the Club of Haschischins was born in 1971 Marijuana Reconsidered (Reconsider marijuana) and, two years later, co-authored with James Bakalar Marijuana, the forbidden Medicine (Marijuana, the forbidden medicine publisher Muzio 1995), in which he argues the therapeutic usefulness of cannabis with a large collection of clinical cases.
Today Grinspoon is at the forefront of battles anti-prohibitionist. Through a website offers information to patients that their doctors refuse to provide. Currently in the United States only six patients can legally use cannabis. They are the survivors of a group of forty patients entered nell'Individual Treatment Investigational New Drug Program, also known as the Compassionate Ind., stopped in 1992. Program, which provided the opportunity to prescribe cannabis to patients whose physicians were willing to follow particular procedures, was launched in 1976 by the federal government in lieu of research programs in many states (with the permission of the federal government, as the Comprehensive drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 puts cannabis in the table more restrictive) to allow patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer using hemp. Last September Grinspoon took part in the conference "The cannabis therapeutics: Science and the Law", held in Rome from Drugs Forum, and in that circumstance Knowing interviewed him.
Professor Grinspoon, what is true about the therapeutic properties of cannabis?
"It's been used as a medicine for thousands of years. The earliest record dates back to 5,000 years ago, writing in the reign of the Chinese emperor Chen Nun, who recommended it for malaria and rheumatic pains. When I made my first studio in 1967, I found about a hundred papers on the therapeutic uses of cannabis in Western medicine between 1840 and 1900. Was indicated as an appetite stimulant, muscle relaxant, analgesic, sedative, anticonvulsant and to treat addiction opium. He was a professor of the medical faculty of Calcutta, William Brooke O'Shaughnessy, the first Western doctor to become aware of its healing properties. In the first half of the nineteenth century, after it has been tested on animals, began to use it with patients hydrophobic, or suffering from rheumatism, epilepsy or infected with tetanus. The decline of its medical use was recorded as early as the 1890s, with the discovery of aspirin and then chloral hydrate and barbiturates. The lack of interest in the study of the analgesic properties is instead linked to the spread of opiates and the invention of the hypodermic syringe which allowed the fast-acting pain medication intravenously. In 1941, finally, as an indirect consequence of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, cannabis was excluded from the U.S. Pharmacopeia. Personally, the stories of many clinical cases have convinced me that it is a miraculous substance like the penicillin of the XXI century. Works in alleviating the symptoms of chemotherapy against cancer, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, glaucoma, AIDS and depression, in addition to the symptoms of less common diseases, such as Crohn's disease, diabetic gastroparesis and disorders post-traumatic stress. "
It is mostly of anecdotal evidence, however, is not fully recognized by the scientific world ...
"It is true, there is no research with control groups, double-blind to know the percentage of cases in which marijuana may be effective for a certain disorder. But in my opinion you do not need studies so expensive. Its use on the basis of the reports of individual cases would be a problem if cannabis was dangerous. But all the research conducted in recent years have shown that it is safer than most prescription drugs, has fewer side effects and creates much less dependence on other substances in use today. I'm not sure which to demonstrate the efficacy and harmlessness Agree to apply the protocol of the Food and Drug Administration. Typically, in fact, the pharmaceutical companies to see their approved products must subject them to the risk-benefit analysis: a very expensive operation that the companies claim only if they can recoup costs over the twenty year life of the patent. But no company is interested in conducting research on a plant that can not be patented. And then I wonder, why spend money to find out at the end of what we already know? Given the low risks associated with the medical use of cannabis should be available even if only a few patients could benefit from it. In short, the risk is so low that prohibit the use of waiting evaluate it does not make sense. "
Excludes effects that are toxic?
"I have never found evidence, nor has ever been a case of overdose death from marijuana. The entire pharmacopoeia can not say the same of any other drug. It is certainly less toxic than most medicines. Take aspirin is considered safe and not harmful, but in the United States each year from 1,000 to 2,000 people die from it ingested and 74 thousand are hospitalized for the side effects of anti-inflammatories. In fact, what worries most is the respiratory damage from smoke, but this can be solved by resorting to devices for vaporizing separating the particles of matter present in marijuana smoke by its active ingredients, the cannabinoids. "
In 2006, the British government authorized the sale of Sativex, a drug for the treatment of neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis. But she is an advocate of greater efficacy of smoked cannabis compared to the synthetic derivatives. Why is that?
"The development of individual cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids, is the way in which it seeks to address the problem of making available the medical properties of cannabis and at the same time ban to those who use playful. This "farmaceutizzazione" but never make obsolete smoked cannabis. Take the case of dronabinol, which was approved in 1985 by the Food and Drug Administration under the name Marinol, for the treatment of nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy: the majority of patients continued to find much more useful than the grass. In fact, for some patients some cannabis derivatives may have advantages over the marijuana smoked or ingested. For example, cannabidiol may be more effective as anxiolytic and as anticonvulsant medication when it is not taken together to THC, which sometimes generates anxiety. But I do not think that these derivatives may be more useful than cannabis. "
How do you rule with the dosage?
"The advantage of administering cannabis through the lungs is the speed with which it takes effect, which allows patients to adjust the dose. This is not possible by taking cannabis in pill: it takes longer because the therapeutic effect is manifested. With Sativex, GW Pharmaceuticals are trying to develop products and delivery systems that bypass the two most common concerns: the smoke and the psychoactive effects (the so-called "high"). The drug must assume sublingually and, although acts faster than the Marinol, which employs an hour and a half to two hours, always requires more time than that of smoked marijuana. In addition, because of its unpleasant taste, many patients can not hold under the tongue for the time required for its absorption. "
And what about security?
"In fact, the new derivatives may be much less safe to smoke marijuana, because it will be possible to ingest when-A conference of Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey in favor of therapeutic marijuhana, Washington, May 2005. Quantities than necessary. Any new derivative must have a "safety index" acceptable. In the case of marijuana that index is unknown, because it has never caused an overdose death. It is estimated, based on extrapolations from animal data, it is an almost non-existent 20,000-40,000 [This figure shows the relationship between the lethal dose and the therapeutic dose: the higher, the more the drug is considered safe, Ed.]. It is unlikely that the safety record of a new derivative may be greater. "
But you can not eliminate the psychoactive effects?
"I'm not convinced that the therapeutic benefits of cannabis can always be separated from its psychoactive effects. I do not believe that this is desirable. It must be said that those who smoke marijuana frequently to reduce chronic pain or an elevated intra-ocular pressure will have a "high" no or very limited. Many patients suffering from severe chronic illnesses report that cannabis makes them feel better in general and noticed a slight improvement in mood. But if there is really any difference between the dosage of symptom relief and psychoactive effect, then it is important that patients have the opportunity to measure the amount of cannabis they need, and this can only be smoking it. For those who do not like the psychoactive effect, you can always develop a derivative of cannabis that is free. "
She also speaks of a field enhancement of the human faculties. To what are you referring?
"It is a field of action of cannabis that straddles the doctor and the playful. It encompasses a diverse range of uses, such as the enhancement of pleasure in a variety of activities ranging from food to sex, a heightened ability to approach to music and art, and also the ways in which catalyzes new ideas and creativity . This is the kind of uses the least appreciated or understood by those who do not smoke. It may well be that some people who use or have used marijuana are not aware of some of these possibilities of upgrading, if not most. This can be especially true for young people, who are mostly interested in the matter because it promotes sociability, fun, playfulness. Everyone is aware of the properties induced psicofarmacologicamente such as improving appetite. It is a very common and is manifested by the "crunch" can be a problem for consumers who frequently have difficulty controlling your weight, but it is a boon for those who suffer severely from loss of appetite, such as patients with AIDS. For the most part these skills enhancement are not simply manifestations of inherent psychopharmacological properties of cannabis; some require some degree of learning, to develop. Who wants to learn how to use hemp in all of these modes, it must first of all know these possibilities, and then explore and gain experience. "
He sees a future drug for cannabis?
"I doubt that will be developed as a medicine. A future may be the production of analogues of naturally occurring cannabinoids, maybe in some patients may be more effective than cannabis and manage to eliminate the psychoactive effect. But the drug companies will support their costs only in some cases, because they are more hemp, even though it is illegal. The number of arrests for marijuana has now reached 800 thousand in the U.S. yet patients continue to risk using cannabis as medicine. For drug war would be a lost cause. For all the reasons we have explained, the drugs are less effective than the natural plant and cost more. "
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