Cannabis

Cannabis
The exact origins of something as old as Cannabis is almost an impossible task. History shows that it was one of the first crops to be cultivated by Man. Archeological evidence indicates that the earliest use of Cannabis leads back some 10,000 years. Due to its quite amazing properties, Cannabis became entwined into the cultures of the Middle East, Asia Minor, India, China, Japan, Europe and Africa. Its medical features were used worldwide for at least 5000 years. It was even a part of the British Medical Formulary until 1971 when was outlawed by the Misuse Of Drugs Act. The bloom of cannabis medicine was around the end of the nineteenth century, when it was used for a number of symptoms in a number of ways, however it was later displaced by the invention of new synthetic drugs. The later research on some of these new drugs has proven that they are ineffective for some people, and have dangerous side-effects in their use. Regardless of that, the medical use of Cannabis was never reinvented. It was not only forgotten, but the further states of law policies have prevented its legal use and restricted any research efforts that scientists have attempted. It is really strange that currently the so-called hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine, that are illegal to use recreationally, are available on prescription while the relatively harmless cannabis plant is considered to be too dangerous to use even under full medical supervision. "Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality...Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death...In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity...In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume...Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." - DEA Administrative Law Judge, FL Young, 1988 Nobody listened to this otherwise reasonable statement back in 1988, but the ice around cannabis is slowly starting to crack during the last several years. Many surveys have been done recently and most of them have come out with support for medical marijuana usage. Actually, certain referendums have been made in the United States, allowing the use of medical cannabis in several states for example California and Arizona. However it is not an adequate solution as cannabis usage is still a federal crime. In July 2001 Canada became the first country to legalise cannabis for medical use. Cannabis can be legally prescribed there by doctors, of course under heavy restrictions. People suffering from illnesses such as AIDS or cancer that have less than a year to live, will be allowed to use cannabis medicinally if they have a form signed by their doctor and two other experts. Of course the questions "How this people can find and buy medical Cannabis" immediately pops up. Unfortunately at this time it is hard to use the medicine in practice due to lack of supply. The licensed patient can grow cannabis for personal usage, but no-one else is allowed to cultivate or sell any form of cannabis for any reason. It seems that these local solutions are not working so well. The problem will not be solved till there is a steady thesis supported by reliable research based scientific statement to convince the world in the either healing or harmful characteristic of the Cannabis. There is one company that has been engaged with this hard mission. GW Pharmaceuticals was granted by the UK government with the legal permission to cultivate cannabis and test cannabis compounds. After almost 5 years of research the Chairman of GW Dr. Geoffrey Guy says: "My professional view of cannabis as a substance is that it appears to be a remarkably safe substance in comparison to most medicines prescribed today. The more I learn about this plant the more fascinated I become. It has through its various constituents multiple effects of therapeutic interest, many of which are now being validated by the enormous growth in basic cannabinoid research."
"I want to apply the many years experience I have in plant medicine and drug delivery development to achieving the successful development of what would a couple of years ago seem to be an impossible task. It is my biggest challenge yet. All of this is made more meaningful by the reports I receive daily form patients (over 1,600 so far) about their various conditions and how cannabis has helped them. We have instituted a formal survey of these patient through the use of a special questionnaire."
The GW Pharmaceuticals officially started its research on June 1998 when the license from the Home Office was received. They went trough a couple of phases and are currently at the final Phase 3. Soon they will have enough evidence in defence of medical use of canabis and will be able to convince the UK government to take off the ban. GW not only looks for the positive effects of the medicine but also is trying to bring the unwanted effects to minimum. Many self-medicating patients smoke cannabis in order to relieve their symptoms, as this is rather easy and provides relatevly quick action, but smoking does produce unwanted side-products such as tars. During the years of research the scientist in GW have looked into other methods of ingestion such as tablets, sprays and inhalers.
Cannabis has been claimed to help with a large number of wide-ranging symptoms. However a research has established three major properties which are medically useful. It relieves pain, nausea and vomiting and induces hunger. The first look over this symptoms shows nothing special, but cannabis succeeds there where no modern medicine does. Patients with AIDS for example are treathed with many medicines that cause severe nausea which is very perilously for patients who are already losing weight and appetite. Cannabis seems to reduce any nausea, appetite suppression and physical pain that come from either the disease itself or its currently-prescribed medications. Approximately 1 in 100 people suffers from the neurological condition called epilepsy. There are medicines that can control most of the kinds of epilepsy very well, but there are few forms that do not react well to these. Basically these drugs have potentially serious side-effects such as bone softening, reduced production of red blood cells, swelling of the gums, and emotional disturbances.
Investigations from the 19th century as well as 1-patient case studies indicates that Cannabis is known to have anti-convulsant properties. In 1949 Davis & Ramsey prescribed THC to 5 hospitalized children who were not responding to the treatment with any standard medicines. One became entirely free of seizures, one almost completely free of seizures, while the other three did no worse than before. The severe headache that lasts for hours or days or the so known migraine, is often combined with disturbance of vision and nausea and vomiting. Again back in the 19th century when Cannabis was not an illegal substance, it was highly regarded as a treatment for migraine. Today more than 20% of the popluation has experienced a migraine attack. Drugs are used to prevent the attack or to relieve pain once the attack has started, but more than 10-20% of them get no relief from these drugs and many more get incomplete relief or suffer serious side effects. Glaucoma causes an increase of intraocular pressure and is the second-largest cause of blindness today. Standard medicines have unpleasant or dangerous side effects, and have little effect on patients with end-stage glaucoma. Cannabis however dramatically lowers intraocular pressures, with none of the serious side effects caused by the modern medicines. The funniest thing here is that this feature of cannabis was discovered by a police survey which task was to discover if the use of cannabis caused pupil dilation in order to quickly and eazily detect and arrest marijuana users. The ninth report for science and technology which was ordered by the House of Lords of the UK Parliament states:
The anecdotal evidence to convince us that cannabis almost certainly does have genuine medical applications, especially in treating the painful muscular spasms and other symptoms of MS and in the control of other forms of pain." "We therefore recommend that clinical trials of cannabis for the treatment of MS and chronic pain should be mounted as a matter of urgency" MS or Multiple Sclerosis has no known effective treatment. Most of the patients suffer from muscle spasms, cramps or muscle pain and spasticity. The standard drugs that are used to superess MS symthoms are addictive and have damaging long-term side effects. Many of the patients claim that they even do not work. It has been discovered that cannabis has an incredible and profound effect on these symptoms. It stops muscle spasms, reduces tremors, restores speech and eyesight. There are outstanding reports from wheelchair-bound patients that they can walk without help when they have smoked cannabis. Many cancer suffering patient that were subject of chemotherapy chose to stop treatment, preferring death. The medicines used to treat cancer are the most powerful, and most toxic chemicals used in medicine, producing extremely unpleasant and dangerous side effects. The weeks of vomiting, retching, and nausea after each treatment are highly depressing. Patients have no desire to eat anything and lose weight and strength. Cannabis can be used as a drug which relieves nausea and vomiting, and helps patients to eat and live normally. Much can be said also about the cannabis treatment of chronic pain, menstrual cramps, morning sickness, labour pain and many others. Reading all these articles and surveys on Cannabiss that were conducted trough the last several years, this ancient herb is starting to look like one of those heal-all bottles with suspicious liquid that peddlers were advertising in the new born towns of the wild west. However the medical use of Cannabis is supported by scientific researches from the highest level. The increasing number of health-related organisations, government-commissioned reports and experts that are recommending the use of cannabis for medical purposes confirm the necessity of cannabis implementation in the modern medicine for its unique qualities and the lack of unwanted side effects.

Resources: [WWW document] URL http://www.ukcia.org/ [2002, November 08].GW Pharmaceuticals [WWW document] URL http://www.gwpharm.com/ [2002, November 10].The United Kingdom Parliament (1998, November 04) Science and Technology - Ninth Report[WWW document] URL http://www.publications.parliament.uk/ [2002, November 10].

Cannabis 7.5 of 10 on the basis of 1003 Review.