Pubdate: 24 Jun 2008
Source: Terrace Standard (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Terrace Standard
Author: Dr. John Krisinger


Dear Sir:

The other day, when I read yet another story of a grow-up in town and the
argument that the individual had a medical need for smoking pot I thought
one should publicize some scientific facts about smoking pot.

Smoking dried plant material, whether it is tobacco or cannabis, is a
well-known health hazard.

After all, one is inhaling gases of combusting thousands of chemicals in
these plants. No reasonable person would stick their head into a chimney of
a burning woodstove which we know, emits a number of well-known carcinogens
and other hazardous hydrocarbons.

If one advocates the positive effects of pot on appetite, nausea and pain,
one needs to realize that it is a distinct group of chemicals in cannabis
that cause this, not the smoke.

These compounds are well known to science and they are available in clean
pharmaceutical preparations devoid of the gamut of collateral combustion
products present in smoke.

This is true for cigarette smoking as well. Nicotine in doses as in tobacco
products is a relatively harmless though addictive compound. The serious
health effects of tobacco smoke are once more the compounds in the smoke,
not the nicotine.

Two products that can be prescribed in Canada containing compounds acting
like the psychoactive components of cannabis to help people with nausea,
chronic pain, multiple sclerosis symptoms, etc. are Cesamet and Sativex,

These are used like most other drugs as tablets, and oral sprays.

The compounds are absorbed into the circulation and produce their desired
effect in a few minutes. The main difference of administering drugs via
inhalation, as in smoking is the speed of action.

It takes less than 20 seconds for the first effects of inhaled drugs to
commence, but the small dose of one inhalation does require repeated puffs
until enough drug has been absorbed.

As a pharmacologist I do not know of any type of drug that works via only
one route of administration and not another, except for some problems with
gastrointestinal absorption, degradation in the stomach and a few other drug
transport problems, none of which affects these aforementioned drugs.

One consequence of smoking (inhaling that is) is the higher potential to
become addicted to the effects of the drug. It has to do with the
time-dependent relationship of the beneficial effect of the drug and its
administration. The faster it is, the more you get hooked.

The strong addiction potential to tobacco smoke is a manifestation to this
notion. That even applies to the addiction to fast food. So the argument to
support medicinal use of smoking pot makes no sense to rational, medical

One wonders what politics is behind the non-scientific sort of debate on
this issue that seems to go on and on.

Dr. John Krisinger,
Nursing/Biology Department,
Northwest Community College