Cannabis has been
promoted in the United States over the last 20 years as a
means of relieving a wide range of conditions. It is said
to provide relief for chronic states of pain, loss of
appetite in the case of aids patients and cancer
sufferers, nausea and vomiting (as a result of
chemotherapy), asthma, glaucoma (increased internal
pressure on the eye) and for sufferers of multiple
sclerosis. Many users report that their symptoms
are relieved, and that smoking this substance confers a
feeling of well-being. As a result of referendum
decisions, doctors in ten US states can now prescribe
as a medicine.
questions remain unanswered:
Do we really
take into account the
produced by smoking parts of a dried plant
that contains hundreds of chemical substances, some of
which are classed as carcinogenic?
Should we not
wait until the active ingredient becomes available in a
pure form, for administration by tablet or as drops?
What about the
main question is: Does cannabis fulfil the strict
official guidelines on what constitutes an approved
“cannabis” and “mariuana”
refer to the dried, unfertilized female flowers and leaves
of the Indian hemp plant. The narcotic effect of the hemp
plant is obtained from the 60 cannabinoids that it
contains, particularly delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), its biological precursor cannabidiol
(CBD) and the THC decomposition product cannabinol(CBN).
These substances stimulate the cannabinoid
receptors in the
system of the
organism. The body’s on-board (endogenous) triggers for
these receptors are called endocannabinoids,
which play an important role in
the modulation of many neuronal processes.
receptors CB1 and CB2 were discovered only 15 years ago.
The human body possesses CB1
receptors dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline.
The endogenous substance that docks with these receptors
to make them effective is
anandamide. The role of anandamide receptor
systems in the human body continues to be unclear.
The largest number
of CB1 receptors, to which anandamide and THC attach
themselves, are found in the brain. CB1 receptors are
located above all in the frontal lobes (motivation, planning) and in the basal
ganglia and cerebellum (responsible for movement
coordination). In the limbic system, these receptors are
present above all in the hypothalamus (regulation of food
intake and body weight). Many of these receptors are also
present in the hippocampus (memory). Their relatively low
presence in the brain stem, from where the respiratory
system is controlled, explains why it is not possible to
die from an overdose of cannabinoids.
are distributed around most of the body’s organs, with
high concentrations in the spleen, the testicles and the
How the body absorbs cannabis
, or THC, can be taken in various
leads to fast absorption by the body, with an immediately
high plasma concentration. A particular disadvantage in
this respect is the inhalation into the lungs of three
times more tar than the equivalent in cigarettes.
The results of
smoking cannabis are somewhat comparable to those of
smoking. It can lead to lung
such as chronic bronchitis, phlegm,
shortness of breath and whooping cough, apart from colds,
inflammation of the lungs and lung cancer.
- Synthetic THC
in pill form, from an inhaler or as an oral spray:
In order to avoid absorption of medicine by smoking,
synthetic THC has been tested in pill form, and from an
inhaler or oral spray.
asynthetic THC, has
been approved in the USA as a prescription drug since
1985, as have Nabilone
in the UK and Dronabinol
in Germany. The drug can be used to combat the nausea
suffered by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and
for stimulating the appetite of fromaids. Studies show however that swallowed THC
results in widely fluctuating levels of bioavailability,
i.e. the amount of substance absorbed by the body cannot
be predicted, and varies from person to person.
A plant extract of
cannabis has recently become available in the UK as an
oral spray sold under the
Sativex brand name. The bioavailability of
Sativex is more constant than when the drug is delivered
in tablet form.
suppository form delivers
good bioavailability, constant plasma levels and thus
greater effectiveness. Suppositoriesprovide an
ideal method of delivery for patients suffering from
nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy. However,
no such preparation is yet available on the market.
As soon as
fat-soluble THC enters the body, it is taken up by fatty
tissue for temporary storage. Its half-life period in the
body (i.e. the time taken for half of the THC to be
eliminated) is approximately one week. A long half-life
period of this type makes dos
difficult, and brings with it a danger of accumulations of
the substance in the body, resulting in symptoms of
of new medicines
applied worldwide are, for good reason, very high when it
comes to the approval of new substances designed for
medical use. These norms are largely based on quality,safety and effectiveness.
development of constant forms of dosification covering the
latest known compound. Clinical trials cannot be carried
out without a constant form of dosification. All active
ingredients must be identified, and their chemical
properties must be known. The active ingredients must be
tested for purity. There are maximum permitted levels with
respect to impurities such as pesticides, bacteria and
fungi, fertilizers and their products of decomposition.
These tests must be recognied,
and it must be possible to replicate them in any
over 400 chemical substances, in quantities that vary with
the type of plant and method of cultivation. Many of these
400 substances are still unidentified. The concentrations
of THC and other cannabinoids can also vary. For these
reasons, it has to date not been possible to standardise
the active ingredients. Cannabis is often contaminated
with microbes, fungi, fertilizers and pesticides.
articles on cannabis or THC criticize the fact that
testing is carried out on substances of varying
composition. Some studies have been carried out with
cannabis, others with synthetic THC such as Marinol or
Nabilone, with cannabinol or with intramuscular injections
consequences of smoking cannabis are serious, as is the
danger of developing mental problems and addiction.
health: The main risk is of
damage to the lungs,as hundreds of carcinogenic
substances are inhaled. This results in an increased risk
of cancer of the respiratory organs and chronic lung
Cannabis in the
form of synthetic THC also has undesired effects on the
brain. This has resulted in such conditions as
attention deficit and loss of memory and perception, with
a negative effect on movement coordination. These
side-effects also exert a harmful influence on driver
behaviour and safety in the workplace. The long half-life
period supposes heightened risk for persons who work, for
example, with industrial or construction machinery, or in
chemical plants or power stations.
consequences of cannabis consumption include harm to
the hormone and immune systems.
health: The smoking of
cannabis can lead to general feeling of anxiety, loss of
motivation, panic attacks, persecution, psychotic symptoms and
the onset of schizophrenia. Cannabis use can lead both to
the onset of schizophrenia in persons so predisposed, or
to a worsening of the symptoms in persons already
suffering from this condition.
Withdrawal symptoms can include restlessness,
excitability, irritability, insomnia, nausea and
children of mothers who smoke cannabis during pregnancy
suffer from stunted growth and have learning difficulties
and behavioural problems, along with a ten-fold increased
risk of contracting leukaemia. This is in addition to the
problems that arise if parents are unable, as a result of
their drug consumption, to act as effective guardians and
of a substance is investigated accordingly in various
clinical-test phases. These clinical tests are a vital
prerequisite if a substance is to be approved for
phase I involves trials of
the substance on healthy test subjects in order to study
bodily absorption rates, bioavailability, half-life period
and the speed at which the substance is eliminated from
phase II is used to
investigate the effect on patients with different symptoms
and medical conditions in order to determine the most
In phase III,
large groups of subjects are tested in order to reveal any
statistically relevant factors. Control groups, which are
given only a placebo or generic standard medicine, are
also included in the testing process. The study must be
randomized and double-blind.
If all studies are
successful, i.e. if the substance’s therapeutic properties
are proven and there are no major problems with toxicity
or serious undesired side-effects, the active ingredient
is then recognised as a medicine and approved as such by
the corresponding health authorities.
not undergone these clinical-test phases, and has not been
recognised as a medicine by any public health authority.Therefore, its use is not harmless, it is possibly of
no benefit and it can be a health risk.