Category Archives: marijuana

Medical Marijuana without the high? What a drag

marijuana4An Israeli firm, Tikun Olam, spent three years and millions of dollars developing a marijuana strain that is “highless.”  Seriously, what a drag.

Researchers say this marijuana strain—Avidekel they call it—can be used to ease the symptoms of some illnesses without getting patients high. (Can you imagine the informal trail amongst the growers?  Nope, I ‘m not feeling anything.  Good!)

Some may ask, “Why spend millions of dollars developing something that’s already a proven therapy?”  Tikun Olam’s head of development Zack Klein says, “Sometimes the high is not always what they [patients] need.  Sometimes it is an unwanted side effect.  For some of the people it’s not even pleasant.”  Personally, I can relate to this argument—some medicinal strains are very potent and can leave me disoriented for hours when I’d rather be able to function normally or focus on work but still get some pain relief.

The “highless” marijuana strain is able to work it’s magic—or lack-thereof—because it contains very low amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis.  Conversely, it has very high levels of Cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that is believed to give marijuana many of its palliative properties.  Klein said their marijuana strain contains 15.8 percent CBD and only traces of THC—possibly lower than one percent.

In Israel, medicinal use of marijuana was first permitted in 1993, and today it is used to treat more than 9,000 people suffering from diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and post traumatic stress disorder, according to Israel’s health ministry.

Other drug companies have recently shown interest in marketing cannabis as a medicine.  In the U.K., GW Pharmaceuticals recently began selling a marijuana mouth spray, and is currently seeking FDA approval so in can enter the U.S. market.

Honestly, I’m on the fence about this.  It’s a plus that the main stream medical marketplace is starting to become more accepting of cannabis treatments, but I can imagine the consumers would bear the brunt of the cost of Big Pharma’s expensive R&D and marketing.  What do you guys think?


Marijuana mouth spray seeks FDA approval for pain

sativex spaySativex, is a cannabinoid medicine for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms, cancer pain, and neuropathic pain developed by GW Pharmaceuticals.  Sativex could be approved in the U.S. as a treatment for pain relief in the next few years.

The British pharmaceutical company is currently testing the drug, which is delivered as a mouth spray, in clinical trials.  The company plans to seek FDA approval of the drug for the treatment of cancer pain when the trails conclude in 2014, according to myhealthnewsdaily.  Currently, Sativex is approved in the U.K., Spain, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand and Canada.

Sativex has a low risk for abuse, according to experts, because any “high” that a patient could receive is delayed compared to traditional smoking methods of marijuana ingestion on the street.  Cultural norms that take place in stoner circles may demand the smoking method.  Although some may consider this naive conjecture, the assumption is based on the low abuse rate of similar synthetic cannabinoids that have been on the market in the U.S. for several decades.

Sativex is the first marijuana-based drug to be made by extracting the compounds from the plant, rather than synthesizing them, which is the case in two other drugs, Marinol and Cesamet that were approved by the FDA in the 1980s.  These two drugs have had low rates of abuse in the past.

Patients can adjust the dose of Sativex to prevent it from entering the blood steam too rapidly, allowing them to experience symptom relief without the high, says GW Pharmaceuticals.  Furthermore, the drug is made up mostly of two ingredients: THC and another cannabinoid called CBD, the latter of which is known to meliorate some of the side effects of THC, such as the high that marijuana users feel.

Is Marijuana an effective treatment for Fibromyalgia?

weedAnyone who suffers from fibromyalgia syndrome knows that it’s painfully frustrating to treat.  Many of these folks resort to alternative therapy and some find medicinal marijuana to be a very effective way to ease many of the most persistent and virulent symptoms.

The June 21 edition of the journal Arthritis Care & Research includes a study that states about 10 percent of fibromyalgia patients use marijuana to relieve symptoms such as pain, fatigue and insomnia.  The article noted that traditional drug treatments for fibromyalgia have a low or partial efficacy which leads some patients to self medicate with marijuana, either legally or illegally depending on the state of residence.

I know the issue of medical marijuana is vast and complex due to its controversial nature, so I don’t wish to get into the politics here.  I am interested in determining whether people think it works or not.  And if so, what might be the risks and side effects.

The findings of the journal article raise several questions for me.  For example, the study revealed that marijuana use was associated with mental illness, opioid drug seeking behavior, and unemployment.  Now, having myself exhibited some of these things at one time or another during my lifetime, I believe any of these factors can cause any of the others.  The simplest case-in-point would be that chronic pain frequently causes clinical depression and vice versa.  Furthermore, depression can cause unemployment or drug seeking behavior and so on.  What do you think about this issue?

The study concluded by cautioning against the use of “illicit” drugs until more research is done (would this include medicinal marijuana or not since it it legal in 12 states or so?):  “While self-medicating with cannabinoids may provide some pain relief to fibromyalgia patients, we caution against general use of illicit drugs until health and psychosocial issues risks are confirmed.”  Clearly these are sophisticated experts but the researchers have probably never suffered from chronic pain, i.e., the complex relationship between depression and chronic pain is not noted or elaborated on.  Judging from their recommendations they seem to view these symptoms as compartmentalized factors albeit somewhat related.

In general, I would argue that marijuana does not cause mental illness simply because these test subjects would probably have not begun using had they not been seeking relief from chronic pain.  I believe that the depression they noted in subjects was caused by the chronic pain.  But that’s just conjecture based on personal experience coming from me.  What do you think?