The Science of Cannabis and Cannabinoids
Cannabis has been used as medicine for centuries throughout the world. In ancient times it was a trial and error approach to determine if something had therapeutic value. As the field of medicine evolved, research protocols were developed and safety standards set. Modern research on the efficacy of cannabis as medicine was halted with its prohibition. With the advent of the War on Drugs, the focus of any research on cannabis was limited to the potential harmful effects of marijuana.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has been responsible for funding most of the studies conducted in the US and many other studies conducted in other countries. In order to receive grant funding and supplies of cannabis, researchers needed to submit study proposals that were designed to discover only its negative or harmful effects. A close review of some of the early studies will show that any positive results were buried or failed to get published and many of the negative reports were based on faulty designs or extreme doses.
Despite past national commissions that found no justification for the prohibition of cannabis, the federal government has continued to deny the efficacy of cannabis and drug warriors call for zero tolerance of “drug” users. Anecdotal patient reports that are favorable towards the medical use of cannabis are dismissed simply because cannabis is in Schedule I and therefore cannabis has no medical value. There is no science to support this circular thinking, only a biased ideology.
History in Medicine - History Timeline
We begin with an overview of the history of the medicinal use of cannabis or medical marijuana. You will find links to landmark studies and a timeline of significant events throughout world history. This history provides a wealth of information to form the basis of cannabis science.
Next we have a focus on the remarkable safety profile of cannabis. It is very significant that throughout its use since ancient times there has never been a recorded death. That cannot be said for most of the medications on the market today.
As verification of its’ safety and efficacy, we feature the Missoula Chronic Cannabis Use Study of the federal I.N.D. patients receiving quantified shipments of cannabis from the U.S. government over many years. In 2001 Patients Out of Time received grant to conduct a study of the long term effects of cannabis on the patients who have been in the Compassionate IND program. This study was conducted on 4 of the federal patients.
All drugs/medications come with potential side effects or risks. The goal in prescribing medications is to ensure that the benefits outweigh the risks for each use. Risks will be examined regarding the use of cannabis. Patients Out of Time sees the greatest health risk is due to the cannabis prohibition. There is no quality control of the medicine, no consistency for patients and most healthcare professionals aren’t willing to educate patients on the safe use of cannabis because of its illegal status. The most frequently cited risk is the risk posed by inhalation of toxic materials when smoking cannabis. This is not an inherent risk of cannabis, but a subsequent risk of its prohibition.
Ironically, much of the research that focused on determining the harmful effects of cannabis has led to the discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid system or endocannabinoid system that is essential to life. This is an evolving field of study and shows much promise in helping scientists gain a better understanding of its various roles in human functioning. Cannabis is the only plant that contains similar chemicals, called phyto-cannabinoids, and common sense tells us that Cannabis and its components have the potential to provide the needed cannabinoids when our ECS is stressed or failing.
The most frequently sited indication for the medicinal use of cannabis has been for the management of chronic pain. The opioid-sparing section will present the growing body of research that shows the synergy between opioids and cannabis. Chronic pain patients who have been prescribed opioids to manage their pain usually decrease or eliminate the use of opioids when cannabis is added to their medication regime.
Finally, the clinical trials section will present the evidence-based studies on various patient populations using cannabis as medicine. We recognize that cannabis has great therapeutic potential and encourage clinical trials with various strains and preparations of this medicinal plant.