Pubdate: Wed, 22 Oct 2008
Source: Meliorist, The (CN AB Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Meliorist
Author: Jeff Henry


 From the Archives

The medicinal use of Cannabis goes back around 4 000 years. In 1550
BC, the Ebers Papyrus (Ancient Egypt) described the medical uses of
marijuana. The Ebers Papyrus is one of the oldest medical documents.
Some its contents describe remedies for everything for stomach
problems to asthma. Numerous texts from ancient Egypt, India, China,
and the Middle East make reference to the medicinal properties of marijuana.

In the 1800s, Irish doctor William Brook O' Shaughnessy conducted an
experiment to study the effects of marijuana on animals to show
Western colleagues its healing properties. During the nineteenth
century, medical cannabis became common throughout most of the world
and, until the invention of aspirin, it was the world's leading pain
reliever. O' Shaughnessy and others led the way for scientific inquiry
into the drug, using it to treat melancholia, migraines, sleep
deprivation, muscle spasms, stomach cramps and pain. Cannabis began to
lose its popularity in North America during the formation of the 1937
Marijuana Tax Act (US).

In Modern Medicine

In 1972, Tod H. Mikuryea published Marijuana Medical Papers 1839-1972,
a document containing research and reports from doctors and
institutions. In his studies he found that: "In light of such assets
as minimal toxicity, no buildup of tolerance, no physical dependence,
and minimal autonomic disturbance, immediate major clinical
reinvestigation of cannabis preparations is indicated in the
management of pain, chronic neurologic diseases, convulsive disorders,
migraine headache, anorexia, mental illness, and bacterial

In 2002, a report by Dr. Frank Henry Lucido medical cannabis was found
to have merit towards the treatment of nausea, vomiting, anorexia and
weight loss, and also to have "relatively well-confirmed" effects in
the treatment of spasticity and painful conditions (neurogenic pain,
movement disorders, asthma, glaucoma). Lucido's report also found that
medicinal marijuana could possible be used to treat allergies,
inflammation, infection, epilepsy, depression, bipolar disorders,
anxiety disorder, dependency and withdrawal; such cases had not been
as widely documented and were categorized as having a 'less confirmed

Adverse Effect

In April of 2006, the US FDA issued an advisory in which it stated,
"there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful."
This being said, the Missoula Chronic Clinical Cannabis Use Study
found that although "cannabis in chronic usage suggests some mild
pulmonary risk," there was no malignant deterioration observed. The
study also failed to find 'attributable neuropsychological [.]
deterioration, endocrine, hematological, or immunological sequelae.'
Their study took in patients between 1976 and 1992 issuing quality
controlled, low-grade medical marijuana between 11 and up to 27 years.

In 1972, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded
that although marijuana was not entirely safe, its dangers had been
grossly exaggerated. Their findings were confirmed in 1995 when the
Lancet, a UK medical journal, came to the consensus that "the smoking
of cannabis, even [on a] long-term [basis], is not harmful to health."

Alison Mack and Janet Joy released a book based on research from the
Institute of Medicine (IOM) entitled Marijuana as Medicine? In it,
they detail a 1997 study of the instances of marijuana smokers
developing cancer. In sixty-five thousand men and women between the
ages of 15 and 49, it was found that "no association was found between
marijuana use and any other types of cancer, including cancers
normally linked to tobacco smoking." Smoking the drug did appear to
cause an increase the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Mack and Joy did conclude that because smoking marijuana "certainly
pollutes the lungs [.] it makes sense to worry whether smoking
marijuana might prove equally harmful." One reason for the difference
between cancer development from tobacco and marijuana may be that "the
average marijuana smoker consumed three to four joints per day; the
tobacco users smoked an average of 20 cigarettes per day."

The IMO report that Mack and Joy were looking into was considered on
of the most groundbreaking studies ever created on marijuana use.
Released in March of 1999, it outlined the current uses for medical
marijuana and made recommendations for further study in several areas.
The report also set these conditions for short-term marijuana use by
patients with debilitating symptoms:

- -Failure of all approved medications to provide relief has been

- -The symptoms can reasonably be expected to be relieved by rapid-onset
cannabinoid drugs;

- -Such treatment is administered under medical supervision in a manner
that allows for assessment of treatment effectiveness, and;

- -Involves an oversight strategy comparable to an institutional review
board process that could provide guidance within 24 hours of a
submission by a physician to provide marijuana to a patient for a
specified use.

(From the IMO's report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base.)

It is interesting to note that-despite the IMO's report, which states
that medicinal marijuana has merit, and in specific cases, the medical
use of marijuana is an avenue worth exploring-in 2002, the US Drug
Enforcement Administration told the non-partisan information
organization that "the [IOM] study concluded that smoking
marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease
condition." is a nonprofit public charity that research
"complicated and important" issues and presents them in a balanced and
straightforward manner. They have been active since 1986.

In Comparison

Regardless of adverse effects, no one has been able to contest that
the medicinal proportions of marijuana are prevalent. Its use has
helped countless persons combat the adversities of illness. One of its
greatest medical qualities is that it is virtually impossible for
someone to overdose on marijuana. The amount of THC (the psychoactive
ingredient in marijuana) that is required for an overdose sits in a
ratio of 1 to 40 000, meaning that one would need to consume 40 000
times the amount that would be required to 'get you high' in order for
it to become lethal.

According to the Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and
Drug Abuse, "These doses would be comparable to a 154-pound human
smoking at one time almost three pounds (1.28 kg) of 1 % marihuana, or
250 000 times the usual smoked dose and over a million times the
minimal effective dose, assuming 50% destruction of the THC by
smoking." To compare, one would only need to consume around 7 000 mg
of acetaminophen (found in Tylenol and many other common pain
medications), or twenty-one regular strength acetaminophen tablets
(325 mg each), to cause an overdose. The chance of an overdose rises
when acetaminophen is combined with alcohol, and its use increases the
risk of liver damage. Acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute
liver failure in the US, accounting for 39 per cent of the total
number of cases. 
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