Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The NIH On Cannabis

In an earlier article I discussed the official government position on marijuana (i.e., it’s not medicine). According to the DEA, their position is in part based on studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since the NIH studies that I’ve been able to find don’t really support the government’s position, I thought I’d review one of those recent, major NIH studies on medical marijuana myself and see what they really have to say on the subject. This study, The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy, was published in Pharmacological Reviews in 2006 and summarizes recent findings on the medical uses of the various compounds found in marijuana. For fun, let’s compare and contrast the findings of this NIH study with the research cited by the DEA.

First, the official position of the DEA, as discussed in one of my previous pieces, is about as straight forward as you can get: the best available science tells them that marijuana has no medicinal value.

Now let’s take a look at what was actually found in numerous recent studies, as reviewed in the article cited above. The main conclusion of this review is likewise very unambiguous: the family of chemical compounds found in marijuana can be used to treat a wide variety of diseases and pathological conditions. Curious how the DEA fails to acknowledge the hundreds of studies reviewed in the NIH article, isn’t it? Could it be because much of that research was conducted outside the U.S.A.? Possibly. Of course that sort of research is frowned upon here, but that's beside the point. Could it be that it contradicts the official position of the government? Probably. But I think another reason they neglect to mention this overwhelming evidence is simply the fact that it exists. When you’re trying to scare people, the existence of facts can tend to confuse the issue. Any facts, pro or con, make it more difficult to maintain a mindless, irrational fear. Kind of like the Wizard of Oz. Once you know what’s behind the curtain, the wizard isn’t nearly as scary. Just knowing there’s something behind the curtain is enough to tell you that things probably aren’t what they seem. Your government would prefer you didn’t even know about the curtain.

And just so you don’t think I’m exaggerating, below is a summary of some of the medical uses of marijuana-based compounds discussed in the NIH article. You know, the ones the DEA says don't exist. There’s a lot more in the article, but I think this will give you a pretty good idea of what medical marijuana researchers really think.

Physiological Effect

Treatment Applications

control of appetite and energy metabolism

cancer and AIDS patients, as well as anorexia

relief of pain and inflammation

a wide variety of conditions

protection from neurotoxicity and neurotrauma

traumatic brain and spinal cord injury, stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few

control of mental disorders

schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression

regulation of sleep


regulation of addictive disorders

alcohol, cocaine, or opiate addiction

cardiovascular and respiratory effect

hypertension, atherosclerosis, and asthma

visual system effects

eye disorders such as glaucoma and retinopathy

inhibition of malignant tumor growth

several different types of cancer

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