Marijuana as Medicine Marijuana as medicine has been studied for many years. In some cultures, it is already used as medicine, and it stems back from many generations. There are many good uses for marijuana to be used as medicine which will be discussed in following paragraphs. The problem is that in order to be used in America as medicine, marijuana must be legalized. Marijuana has a long history of medical use. It is one of the oldest living plants and, in ancient times, was used as various forms of medicine through ingestion of the plant. The first recorded use of marijuana as medicine was in China. It was reported in Pen Tsþoo Ching in first or second century A.D. It reported that ma-fe-san(boiled hemp compound) was used as an anesthetic for surgical patients. Ma fen (the fruit of hemp) had many uses such as clearing blood and cooling temperature, relieving fluxes, undoing rheumatism, and discharging pus for patients. China is not the only country to use the drug in early times. It was introduced to southeast Asia around sixteenth century A.D. Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam are reported to have current uses of marijuana as medicine. In Cambodia, they have an enormous list of uses, but to name a few are: to treat malaria, to relieve asthma and calm the nerves, regulate the function of the heart, and treats paralysis. In Thailand, it is used in folk medicine as well as in the official medical reports. In folk medicine, the people sun dry the leaves and boil them to treat migraines, and dizzy spells. It is also taken as a relaxant before bedtime. In Vietnam, it has many uses. Cannabis is used to alleviate loss of memory, eliminate blood loss, and to treat gynecological problems. As you can see, there are many different uses for marijuana as medicine. It is impossible to explore all the uses of the drug, but we will look at a few in detail now. One question is the effectiveness of THC to reduce nausea in chemotherapy patients. Because cancer is on the rise, there are more and more people using chemotherapy as treatment in America. Right now, there are many different types of chemotherapy drugs, and they all have the same side effects. Some are: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dyspepsia, heart burn, and ulceration. These are only the gastrointestinal effects. There are hair effects, skin effects, and muscle and nerve effects to these drugs. Drugs administered to treat the side effects of nausea, and vomiting are mostly ineffective. However, there are reports that state that THC, taken in a capsule or in a cigarette, does reduce nausea and vomiting. The controversy is that some patients experienced hallucinations while taking the drug. The hallucinations were experienced perhaps because too much of the drug was taken at one time. The question that is brought up is How much is an effective dose? First, the way the drug is taken varies on the individual. Some people react differently to all kinds of drugs taken orally. After deciding on how the patient should orally take the drug, the person administering the drug must keep in mind other considerations. First, the drug must be given early enough to prevent anticipatory vomiting. This is a well known phenomenon in cancer patients. That is chemotherapy patients expect to vomit and in anticipation of it, they begin vomiting before the treatment even begins. Another consideration of administering the drug is blood concentration level. The amount of the drug must raise the concentration of the drug in the blood to more than 10.0 ng./ml. On the other hand, it must be at a lower blood concentration level than that which will initiate severe mood alteration. Lastly, it must be given often enough to maintain the concentration level until the threat of vomiting has passed. The second question raised by critics is the age of the patient. In some studies, it was found that people over the age of 60, had such severe mood alterations that they dropped out of the study. This may have been because the amount of the drug taken was too great. Other studies have proved that taking THC with other nausea reducing drugs prove to work with the older patients. Overall, THC in marijuana is accepted by many doctors and scientists to be effective for reducing or stopping vomiting in chemotherapy patients. Another potential medical use of marijuana is to control spasm and spasticity. Spasms and spasticity are usually caused by stroke, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis. It is also caused by spinal cord damage from automobile accidents, athletic injuries, violence, and combat. Spasms affect over one million Americans. Sometimes, muscles can become permanently contracted if the spasms are chronic. As of now, there is no effective surgery or medicine to treat spasms. Neurosurgery does not eliminate spasticity. Drugs for spasms are not that effective and usually have many side effects. For these reasons marijuana should be studied more because it proving to be very effective with few or no side effects. In order to be effective, marijuana must be taken daily. It seems to be the most effective three hours after dosage, and last for five hours. However, a question is raised about taking marijuana. One is about tolerance to the drug. Some critic contend that after taken for a period of time, the person may become tolerant to the drug, and reduce effectiveness. This is true for a lot of pain relieving drugs. A person can not rule out marijuana on that question alone, and it has not been proven that a person will develop tolerance. These two examples are just a few. Marijuana must be studied and tested more to prove effectiveness, but it is not because it is not legal. Doctors and scientists donþt want to study a drug that they could never use. Another reason it is not studied a lot is because the potency of the plant varies so much that it is too hard to standardize a dose. Also, marijuana can not be patented since it is illegal so there is not incentive to study it. There are many uses for marijuana, and many are unexplored. Actually, some are explored in depth because of interest, and others are left behind. There are probably many other uses that have not been found because of the lack of experimentation on the drug as a whole. If the drug is legalized, there will be much more research done on the drug, and hopefully the drug will begin to be approved for use.
Effects of Marijuana
The dominant fear about marijuana has been that its effects were somehow similar to the dangerously addictive effects of opiates such as morphine and heroin. Scientists feared that , like opiates, it had an extremely high potential for abuse and addiction. Despite widespread decriminalization of marijuana in the United States in the 1970’s, this concern has remained the basis for federal law and policies regarding the use and study of marijuana. But the discovery of THC receptor sites in the brain refutes that thinking and may force scientists to re-evaluate their positions.
The 1988 discovery of the THC receptor site in the brain was the pivotal event which led to the legalization of marijuana. The receptor breakthrough occurred in 1988 at the St. Louis University Medical School where Allyn Howlett, William Devane, and their associates identified and characterized a cannabinoid receptor in a rat brain. Receptors are binding sites for chemicals in the brain, chemicals that instruct brain cells to start, stop, or otherwise regulate various brain and body functions. Before this discovery, no one knew for sure just how the psychoactive chemical in marijuana workes on the brain. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, researchers made tremendous strides in understanding how the brain works by using receptor sites as switches which respond to various chemicals by regulating brain and body functions. The chemicals which trigger receptors are known as neurotransmitters. The brain’s neurotransmitters are known as endogenous ligands. In many instances, drugs mimic these natural chemicals working in the brain. Scientists are just now confirming their determinations as to which endogenous ligands work on the cannabinoid receptors. It is likely that the neurotransmitter which naturally triggers cannabinoid receptors is one known as anandamide.
Many important brain functions which affect human behavior involve the neurotransmitter dopamine. Serious drugs of abuse such as heroin and cocaine, interfere
with the brain’s use of dopamine in manners that can seriously alter an individual’s behavior. A drug’s ability to affect the neural systems related to dopamine production has now become the defining characteristic of drugs with serious abuse potential.
The discovery of a previously unknown system of cannabinoid neural transmitters is profound. While century-old questions such as why marijuana is nontoxic are finally being answered, new fascinating questions are emerging. In the words of Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam, the man who first isolated the structure of THC, “Why do we have cannabinoid receptors?