The ice bucket challenge has raised a lot of awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), but could we be looking for the best treatment in the wrong places? Marijuana could very well be the solution for ALS sufferers.
Although government regulations have made cannabis (especially THC) research difficult, there have been two human studies conducted in regards to cannabis and ALS patients. According to Americans for Safe Access:
“One of the studies, was a pilot study investigating the safety and tolerability of THC in ALS patients (Gelinas/ABood 2002). This clinical study confirmed symptomatic benefits for appetite, insomnia, and spasticity. The seconds research study was conducted as an anonymous survey in 80 countries, 131 surveys were completed, and the mean age 54. Participants reported that Cannabis helped provide relief from drooling, speech and swallowing difficulty, appetite loss, weakness, shortness of breath, spasticity, depression, and pain (Amtmann D 2004). In animals with ALS, THC administered either before or after the onset of the disease delayed motor impairment and prolonged survival. Furthermore, THC potently reduced oxidative and excite-toxic damage in spinal cord cultures in vitro (Raman et al. 2004). The protective effects of cannabinoids and their anti-spastic effects in MS are well known (Carter 2001). Furthermore, cannabinoid receptors are up-regulated in human tissue during disease progression, making them an abundant target for treatment.”
While benefits from cannabis have plenty of anecdotal evidence to back it up, preliminary research suggests THC could be a safe alternative to slowing down the progress of ALS. Here’s to hoping more research can be done on the subject so ALS patients have better means of access to medical marijuana.
New research from Washington State University shows that women’s higher estrogen levels make them more susceptible to the effects of THC. The study was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence and was funded primarily from a grant by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Female rats were shown to be at least 30% more susceptible to the effects of THC than males, according to research done by psychology professor Rebecca Craft. The effects of THC include pain relief and heightened mood. Unfortunately, this sensitivity could put women at higher risk for side effects like anxiety.
Strangely enough, male rats were shown to develop “munchies” easier than females. One of the main medicinal uses of THC is to increase appetite in cancer patients… so one would reasonably suspect that if women are more sensitive to THC, they would also get hungrier. Appetite stimulation is the only effect of THC that was shown to affect males more than females.
Of course, this is only one study done on lab rats, so it would be unwise to recommend lower THC for women just yet. It does offer interesting insight to how cannabis could affect different genders.
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On August 25th, JAMA Internal Medicine published a study that theorized that patients in medical marijuana states may use cannabis over pain medication, or at least use enough to reduce the amount of prescription opiates taken. This makes sense, considering patients in these states have an alternative to pain meds, and are therefore less likely to take enough to overdose.
Not everyone agrees that medical marijuana is the cause for the decrease, however. Dr. Andrew Kolodny has said that the correlation between medical marijuana and a decrease in painkiller ODs is flimsy, considering “You don’t have primary care doctors in these states [prescribing] marijuana instead of Vicodin.” He argued that cannabis is not as readily prescribed for pain management as, say, appetite stimulation for cancer and AIDS patients.
Regardless, medical marijuana is a significantly safer method of managing pain than prescription narcotics. No one has ever died from “overdosing” on cannabis, whereas 46 people die of RX opiate overdose daily in the U.S. There is nothing in marijuana that is chemically addictive, yet patients often develop addictions or tolerances to prescription drugs, forcing them to take dangerous amounts. Best of all, marijuana is an all-natural plant grown from the earth and has been around for thousands of years, whereas pills are manufactured in a lab and often have dangerous side-effects.
Despite the vast majority of Florida voters supporting legalization of medical marijuana, conservative drug war veterans are always looking for new ways to invoke fear–and their latest attempt is their most ridiculous yet.
A graphic posted on “No on 2″s Facebook page shows a couple with a photoshopped package marked “marijuana cookies” in the man’s back pocket, with an arrow pointing to it and text above asking “Will the new face of ‘Date Rape’ look like a cookie?” It makes the bold (and false) assumption that legal edibles will be used as a tool for date rape.
Never mind that date rapists use much more discreet methods of intoxicating victims, never mind that rapists will do the deed with or without edibles being legalized, and never mind the simple fact that edibles don’t work that way; No on 2 would rather patients remain in pain and addicted to pharmaceuticals because they are frightened of a hypothetical situation that will never happen.
Thankfully, Floridians have seen past the smoke of this Reefer Madness. The ad was met with a great deal of ridicule and disapproval. It’s good to see patients and citizens not falling for these scare tactics.
Signs point to “unlikely,” although marijuana may mirror the alcohol industry as recreational legalization spreads.
Marijuana in recreational form might always be a small industry compared to booze and “big tobacco”, but it’s impossible to deny that it’s growing and attracting a lot of investors. While tobacco relies on a large number of moderate users to bring in profits, marijuana caters to a smaller number of heavy users–“cannabis connoisseurs,” as they like to call themselves. These users buy large amounts of marijuana (typically strains with high THC content) and supplement the flower with expensive glassware, fancy lighters, and other such high-end tools the average user would not bother investing in. Some have even moved past flower altogether and now consume “dabs” (concentrated forms of trichomes like wax, hash, and kief). These power users are the boon for the burgeoning recreational cannabis industry.
As of right now, only medical marijuana is legal in California. A discussion of profits and revenue is still a bit early for this state, not to mention that use in the forms that “cannabis connoisseurs” prefer are not widely offered here. Collectives that specialize in dabs and concentrates raise suspicion from law enforcement as a place that might not be operating under the law, as they are typically not used for medicinal purposes.
This pattern is similar to the alcohol industry, which depends on people who drink regularly as opposed to light social drinkers who only buy one bottle of wine here and there. It will be interesting to observe the patterns of recreational cannabis retail as more data is collected from Colorado and Washington, especially with legalization in CA possibly on the horizon in 2016.
When the Compassionate Use Act (California Prop 215) was first passed in 1996, medical cannabis was approved for only select conditions–notably those inflicted by cancer and AIDS, like lack of appetite, nausea, and pain relief. As more research becomes available and as marijuana’s medicinal uses become more known, the list of illnesses relieved by cannabis use has grown exponentially to include PTSD, Crohn’s Disease, epileptic seizures, back pain, and more. Unfortunately, some states do not recognize all of these new conditions as valid reasons to obtain a medical marijuana recommendation, denying thousands of potential patients access to legal medical marijuana.
Washington D.C. recently passed new legislation that challenges this idea.
Last Thursday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed in the Medical Marijuana Expansion Emergency Amendment Act of 2014. This emergency legislation removes the list of conditions that must be met to acquire a medical marijuana prescription and increases the cultivation plant limit from 95 to 500. This places the power of medical cannabis recommendations squarely in the hands of medical professionals instead of politicians and lawmakers.
This legislation is a much-needed light at the end of the tunnel, considering many states have recently been passing highly restrictive medical marijuana laws that only allow certain kinds of medicine to be used or certain kinds of patients access. The most prominent example of restrictive medical marijuana legalization is CBD-only legislation, which has become popular in conservative states.