HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Doctor
Pubdate: Wed, 13 Dec 2006
Source: Suburban, The  (CN QU)
Copyright: 2006 The Suburban
Author: Lucille Hagege


One day, when he was in a Jamaican hospital doing  graduate research 
on chronic pain, Dr. Mark Ware  noticed that some of his patients 
were coping with  their pain much more easily than others.

Intrigued, he asked an old Rastafarian his secret.

"It's the herb, Doc," replied the man.

That's when the doctor found his vocation.

Ware is now a leading authority on the medical uses of  cannabis and 
works at the McGill University Health  Centre Pain Clinic.

But in order for his medical research to continue, he  says the 
public and the media need to stop confusing  the therapeutic use of 
cannabis with recreational use.

During a public lecture at the Montreal General  Hospital last 
Wednesday, Ware pointed to a photograph  that recently accompanied an 
articleA in the press  about medicinal cannabis. The picture showed 
an elderly  man wearing sunglasses emblazoned with bright green 
marihuana leaves.

"The patients who come to my office don't look like  this," said 
Ware. "They're ill people who are trying to  live happier lives."

"Marijuana engenders powerful emotions in people, but I  urge them to 
take a step back and consider what the  possibilities are for pain treatment"

Cannabis shows promise as a medication for a range of  symptoms 
associated with chronic diseases such as  HIV/AIDS, multiple 
sclerosis, and chronic nerve injury  pain, he said.

"Every month, new research is published from around the  world 
suggesting that cannabinoids [chemical compounds,  such as THC, found 
in marijuana] play a role in  physiological processes like pain, 
appetite,  inflammation and movement," Ware said.

"We now know there is a system of cannabinoids in our  bodies working 
all the time to control these processes,  and this system may be an 
appropriate target for new  therapies," he continued.

While cannabis is by no means a full-proof cure for  pain, Ware says 
it can make small improvements on a  patients' condition.

A "Pain is hard to live with and hard to treat, and  studies show 
cannabinoids have some effect," he said.  "It's just another option 
we have, it's just another  piece of equipment in our toolbox."

As with most drugs, however, cannabis will not work in  the same way 
for everyone and the careful monitoring by  a physician is required.

Cannabis is also not without danger. While it does not  cause 
madness, as popular lore once claimed, it is  linked to higher 
incidence of psychosis and  schizophrenia in early users and 
individuals with a prior history of psychotic disorders. More 
research is  still needed to determine whether there is truly 
a  cause and effect relationship.

A recent study on patients who had never smoked  cigarettes has also 
proved that there is no link  between cannabis and cancer, said Ware. 
In fact, a  study on animals has showed that there might even be 
anti-cancer agents in THC.

After the talk, a long line of people who either live  with severe 
pain, or have relatives who do, shared  their stories with Ware and 
showed visible interest in  his research, giving evidence that pain 
treatment is a  daily concern for many Quebecers.

As of September 2006, 1,492 Canadians were authorized  to possess 
dried marihuana, including 154 Quebecers,  while as of last year, 
4,500 Quebecers were listed for  treatment at pain centres.

On July 30, 2001, Health Canada granted access to  marijuana for 
medical use to those who are suffering  from grave and debilitating 
illnesses, although  unlawful possession is still a criminal offence. 
Holders of an authorization to possess can obtain  marihuana from 
three possible sources: they can apply  for access to purchase dried 
marijuana from Health  Canada; they can grow their own supply; or 
they can  designate someone else to grow it for them.

Ware's research program on cannabis is supported by  Canadian and 
Quebec funding agencies, such as the CIHR  and FRSQ. He has advised 
the Canadian Government on  medical marijuana access regulations, and 
has consulted  for pharmaceutical companies on clinical development 
of new cannabinoid therapies.

A Ware's lecture was the third and final segment of a  series that 
took place at the Montreal General.  Entitled "From microscope to 
stethoscope," the free  public lecture series invited MUHC scientists 
to share  their research with the public and debunk some of 
the  myths that surround it.

In the first two lectures, Dr. David Colman explored  the role of 
serendipity in medical research while Dr.  Brian Ward looked at how 
new immunologic ideas can help  fight pandemics diseases like HIV or 
the avian bird  flu.

To apply for the authorization to possess marijuana, an  application 
must be submitted in writing to Health  Canada along with a 
declaration of support from a  medical practitioner. Application 
forms and guidelines  are available online or by calling Health 
Canada at 1-866-337-7705.
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