Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to a large group of legal professionals regarding the medical aspects of marijuana. I touched on the four, possibly five, positive attributes of medical marijuana namely, analgesia, anti-emesis, appetite stimulant, anti-oxidant, and, possibly, immune-supportive. Ironically however, my research turned up information that may make the upcoming referendum vote a moot point.
You see, thanks to my highly skilled colleagues in Israel, the active ingredient of marijuana, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, has been around since its discovery at the Weizman Institute in Haifa, Israel since 1964. Not long thereafter this discovery was used to produce a readily available pharmaceutical product known as Dronabinol, which is packaged as Marinol. This drug is the active ingredient in marijuana and has been used for some time now to help manage nausea and pain in cancer and HIV patients. It is also been successfully used as an appetite stimulant in the same group of patients.
So, what’s all the fuss about the medical marijuana referendum? Well one of the main issues is how the active ingredient gets delivered to the body. Proponents of medical marijuana claim that inhalation gets the product to the receptors more quickly and more effectively then the oral medication. Given the high publicity of this issue, several groups of researchers have attempted to investigate this claim.
Recently, a study at the University of Columbia attempted to determine whether one product was better than the other for reduction of pain. The researchers at Columbia put together a volunteer study (yes, must have been quite difficult to recruit volunteers! “You mean like dude you’re going to pay me to smoke pot?”) In the study, the researchers gave one group of participants oral THC and the other inhaled THC. The researchers then subjected the participants to the “cold pressor test” in which their hands were placed in warm water for three minutes and then immediately transferred to cold water where they were instructed to hold their hands in the water for as long as they could.
The results of the study suggested that the pain reduction of the oral medication lasted far longer, some six hours, versus the two hours of pain relief from the inhaled product. Further, the participants who ingested the product suffered fewer psychoses than those who inhaled the product. This would suggest that perhaps the oral medication might reduce the possibility of substance abuse.
In conclusion, it is interesting to note that oral medical marijuana has been legal throughout the United States for several decades. It will be interesting to see whether the product will now be expanded to potentially treat other groups of patients.