Medical Cannabis, Functional Medical Practitioners’ View
Recently I watched a Functional Medicine Forum on the topic of Medical Cannabis.
Medicinal Cannabis has become such an important topic that UCLA has created the UCLA Medical Cannabis Research Center.
At the center Director, Dr. Jeffry Chen says they are researching how cannabis reacts in the body.
Since cannabis is still classified as a Class 1 controlled drug – classification from 1937 states that marijuana has the potential for abuse and has NO accepted medical use – it is only recently being accepted as a topic of serious research.
Now is a good time to look at some terminology.
- Marijuana contains more than .3% THC (considerably more these days) and will get you high.
- Hemp contains less than.3% THC and will not get you high.
- THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive constituent of Cannabis that gives the user the high.
- Cannabidiol (CBD oil) is made from hemp which contains very low levels of THC
- Cannabis oil is made from the marijuana plant and does contain THC.
- Medical marijuana the whole flowering (bud) of the plant.
- Cannabinoidsnatural chemical constituents found in both CBD oil and cannabis oil that mimic the endocannabinoids our bodies naturally produce.
There are over 480 natural components found in cannabis, of which 66 are cannabinoids (ADAI – University of Washington) and THC is the only one that is psychoactive. Although hemp and marijuana are basically the same plants, through specific cultivation practices the THC content is different.
Hemp a very versatile fiber
Hemp was at one time legal. In fact, it used to be mandatory in the United States for farmers to grow hemp if they had the land. In the 17th and 18th centuries refusing to grow hemp was illegal and could land a farmer in jail.
It was used to manufacture things like cars, plastics, building materials, rope, paper, linens, food, medicine and so on. There are plenty more stats regarding hemp you can find here.
We all know the of the conglomerate DuPont right? Founded in July 1802 as a gunpowder mill by American chemist and industrialist Éleuthère Irénée du Pont. In the 1900’s DuPont developed polymers such as, neoprene, nylon, Teflon, Mylar, Kevlar, Lycra, okay you get it because the list goes on and on.
As the saying goes – follow the money.
With DuPont’s move into polymer production, hemp became a threat to him and his billionaire investors business. So, hemp had to go. Since the world knew how amazingly useful hemp was they would never be able to get away with banning hemp, so they used a name they knew no one would care about. An obscure Mexican slang word – ‘marihuana’.
Next up, the media. (some things never change)
With the prompting of these powerful men with “friends” in government, the media began a propaganda blitz and soon after came 3 movies. The most popular of which was “Reefer Madness”. Upon seeing these movies, the public came to fear Marihuana. Mission accomplished. On April 14, 1937, the Prohibitive Marihuana Tax Law was passed and hemp was outlawed.
If you have never seen the insanely ridiculous movie “Reefer Madness”, you can watch the original black and white version here.
or this version colorized by a crew with a sense of humor here
As the media claimed, the movie portrays marihuana as,
- Is a violent narcotic
- It’s use causes acts of shocking violence and
- Incurable insanity
- Has soul-destroying effects
- Under the influence of the drug an addicted user killed his entire family with an ax
- Claims more vicious, deadlier even than these soul-destroying drugs (heroin, cocaine) is the menace of marihuana!
Those of us that came of age in the 70’s know this is NOT the truth. “Sigh”
Okay back to reality
What began largely due to anecdotal findings, such as parents obtaining cannabis oil illegally to treat their child’s severe seizure, researchers have now been allowed to study just how cannabis works in the body.
Current research finds that mothers milk has endocannabinoids in high concentrations. And our bodies have cannabinoid receptors throughout.
Dr. Chen went into great detail explaining exactly how researchers have found endocannabinoid receptors and how cannabis works on those receptors. Fascinating to a physiology geek like me. If you’re interested, you can watch the Forum here
Dr. Chen feels that UCLA’s studies will move in the direction of cannabis’ “opioid reducing qualities” ie: reducing pain so it could be used to curb the epidemic of opioid use. He states that in the US every 15 minutes someone dies of an opioid overdose. Cannabis could be used in unison with prescription meds cutting down the dose needed for pain relief OR on its own for pain.
He adds that this epidemic has begun to curb life expectancy of Americans in the future.
64,070 Americans died of drug overdose in 2016
That’s more than the total number of US troops killed in combat during the Vietnam War.
What ARE Endocannabinoids?
Raphael Mechoulan, Ph.D. Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem expert in Endocannabinoids says:
In a nutshell, Endocannabinoids are compounds that regulate vital functions such as internal stability, homeostasis, pain regulation, and immune system functioning. Whether they’re produced by the body or obtained from the cannabis plant, cannabinoids facilitate communication on a cellular level between cells to trigger various bodily processes.
As you can see from this screenshot from the forum, nearly every organ in the body can benefit from cannabinoids and is especially valuable to the Immune and Central Nervous Systems.
He also explains that 35 years ago they found cannabis effective in the treatment of schizophrenia with no side effects but the majority of medical professionals were not interested in pursuing it further.
Dr. Mechoulan explains often the whole plant including THC is more effective for specific disorders.
- Cannabinoids for autoimmune disease
- Trauma THC more important
- Anxiety and depression could be helped by smoking the bud.
- Cannabidiol for epilepsy
- Full plant with THC for neuropathy
Israel did a small clinical trial in bone marrow transplant patients with Leukemia that used THC to subdue the immune system’s rejection of the transplant.
A Medical Cannabis Expert’s View
Stuart Silverman MD Professor, Rheumatologist, Cannabis Expert finds allopathic medications don’t always work. However, Cannabis works in many ways and affects multiple systems.
- chronic pain
- muscle spasms
- Pediatric nonstop seizures.
- Fibromyalgia – important it must be organic, due to hypersensitivity to chemicals.
With extended use of prescription pain meds, the opioid receptors become down-regulated, so they need more and more drugs. He suggests using cannabis lower dosage of opioids.
Dr. Silverman says some don’t do well with THC and smoking could affect lungs in patients with lung problems.
A doctor currently can’t prescribe cannabis due to the fact they are required by the DEA to follow Federal laws. Instead, they can recommend a patient use several methods depending on the diagnosis. That could be smoking or vaporizing cannabis plant, cannabis oil, cannabis gummies, or tincture. He is not however big on other edibles because the dose could be irregular.
So what does the traditional Western Medicine community think about Medical Cannabis use?
It seems most physicians don’t know enough to have a conversation about it with patients who inquire. See what Medscape has to say about this.
With so much compelling evidence I don’t see how Cannabis can remain illegal even on the Federal level much longer.
Of course, Big Pharma, the alcohol producers, and tobacco producers have lobbying and cronyism power that could prevail.
Until next time, don’t bogart that joint, my friend. 😉
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