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Biomedical Research Health and Disease

Medicinal Cannabis

This article concludes the history, uses of medicinal cannabis and some misconceptions in cannabis in general.

Introduction

Cannabis, also known as weed, is a type of marijuana. Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis are three plants in this category that exhibit mood-altering and hallucinogenic properties (Kayser, 2017). People use cannabis for relaxing purposes; yet, several countries have enacted legislation making cannabis illegal since it is deemed a narcotic. In the United States, however, marijuana is legalised for medical and economic reasons, such as treating chronic diseases and increasing work prospects. The significance of cannabis to current health care will be discussed in this article, as well as whether or not cannabis should be legalised globally

Structure

There are many misconceptions about CBD and THC. They both impact mood, but THC’s effects are more severe than CBD’s since THC gets you high. They share the same chemical formula, as indicated in the image below, therefore they are isomers, but the atom configurations differ. THC is prohibited in many places throughout the world because it generates a high, whereas CBD is utilised by healthcare professionals to treat anxiety, depression, and other conditions.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two main psychotropic substances found in cannabis products, as illustrated below:

(Atakan, 2012)

These drugs have a negative impact on the neurological system. As these molecules have a structure that is quite similar to another brain chemical, some receptors in the nervous system may mistake them for other regular brain chemicals. They bind to cannabinoid receptors on neurons, which are part of the endocannabinoid system (“How does marijuana work,” 2020), which employs cannabinoid neurotransmitters to send and receive messages. Overall, they have an effect on the hippocampus of the brain, affecting the person’s ability to build new memories and control their emotions, as well as their ability to learn and accomplish activities. It also affects the cerebellum and basal ganglia, which are parts of the brain that control gesture, balance, and posture (“How does marijuana,” 2020). As a result, cannabis users will appear to have a slower response.

History

Shen Nung, the inventor of Chinese medicine, first recorded cannabis in his pharmacopoeia in around 500 BC. Cannabis was first cultivated in Central Asia or the west of China. Cannabis has also been documented in Indian, Assyrian, Greek, and Roman literature. Cannabis was described in this literature as having the ability to treat depression, asthma, and pain. 

CBD had then been introduced to the western world, offering medical benefits such as mood enhancers and the prevention of convulsions in children. In a 1936 film, it was discovered that CBD is a highly addictive chemical that causes mental disease and violence. Marijuana has recently gained widespread acceptance as a treatment for patients suffering from mental illnesses, and CBD has been approved for medical usage in most parts of the world (“History of cannabis”). While studying in India in the 1930s, an Irish doctor named Sir Willian Brooke O’Shaughnessy discovered that cannabis can help with stomach pain. Then, people started to notice the effects of THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, which led to a lot of debate on CBD. 

Medicinal Uses

As previously mentioned, CBD has pain-relieving and antipsychotic properties. It also has the ability to alleviate cancer symptoms, protect nerve cells, and aid the heart.

In terms of pain relief, CBD inhibits the activation of endocannabinoid receptors, blocking them from accepting endocannabinoids and so preventing the regulation of sleep, appetite, pain, and the immune system. Some of these painkillers operate best when combined with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. CBD was studied to see if it could help with the symptoms of fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes widespread discomfort. The study looked at 2701 people with fibromyalgia and found that using CBD helped them feel better (Kubala, 2021).

CBD oil can also aid with anxiety, insomnia, and PTSD in terms of mental health. They assist the body to metabolise serotonin by targeting 5-HT1A, a serotonin receptor, so that serotonin levels rise and a person’s mood is lifted (Leasca, 2019). CBD can lessen anxiety during a test, according to a study involving 57 males who consumed CBD 90 minutes before the test (Leasca, 2019).

CBD oil has been demonstrated in certain studies to shrink cancer tumour size and improve heart failure symptoms, but current trials are not well-designed and the data is insufficient. A woman in the United Kingdom was diagnosed with a 41mm tumour, but she refused chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Regular CT scans every 3-6 months revealed that the tumour was diminishing, and she confessed that she had been taking CBD oil (“Daily usage of Cannabidiol,” 2021). In another study, nine healthy males were given 600mg of CBD oil before participating in a stress test that raised blood pressure. It was discovered that these males had a lower increase in blood pressure, implying that CBD can help to lower blood pressure (Kubala, 2021).

Criticism Around the World

Medicinal cannabis is generally accepted in many nations throughout the world, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Poland, and others. Canada, the United States (certain states), and South Africa are among the countries that have legalised recreational marijuana, while others, such as China, Japan, and Indonesia, still consider it illegal. 

Cannabis is regarded as less hazardous than strong amounts of alcohol, and countries that make it legal strengthen control over crime and the cannabis trade while also allowing cannabis to be more widely accessible for medicinal uses. Companies must have a licence to sell cannabis in the United States, and it is also taxed in states that have legalised it, such as Washington, which has a 37 per cent excise tax on those sales.

Cannabis is now classified as a Class C narcotic in nations that have legalised it, such as in the United Kingdom, so that maximum punishments for supply can be reduced and policy can be focused on more serious offences. Medicinal cannabis, on the other hand, has been demonstrated to provide medical benefits, such as pain relief, as previously indicated. As a result, private doctors in the United Kingdom who are registered with the General Medical Council are permitted to prescribe medical cannabis if other treatments have failed.

Some countries have legalised cannabis to make it easier for authorities to assess and control the substance; nonetheless, this could lead to issues such as widespread usage of the drug and harmful repercussions such as violence and mental illness. In general, medicinal cannabis is beneficial in the treatment of patients and the alleviation of pain. If it is carefully handled, it will be helpful to society.

Mary Ho Yan Mak, Youth Medical Journal 2022

References

Healthline. 2020. What Is Cannabis? Facts About Its Components, Effects, and Hazards. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-cannabis&gt; [Accessed 16 April 2022].

nhs.uk. 2022. Medical cannabis (cannabis oil). [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/medical-cannabis/&gt; [Accessed 16 April 2022].

National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2020. How does marijuana produce its effects? | National Institute on Drug Abuse. [online] Available at: <https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/how-does-marijuana-produce-its-effects&gt; [Accessed 16 April 2022].

The University of Sydney. 2022. History of cannabis. [online] Available at: <https://www.sydney.edu.au/lambert/medicinal-cannabis/history-of-cannabis.html#:~:text=The%20use%20of%20cannabis%20originated,father%20of%20Chinese%20medicine)%20pharmacopoeia.> [Accessed 16 April 2022].

Women’s Health, Leasca. 2019. Wait, Can CBD Legit Help With Anxiety?. [online] Available at: <https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a26826400/cbd-and-anxiety/&gt; [Accessed 16 April 2022].

Bmj.com. 2021. Daily use of cannabidiol (‘CBD’) oil may be linked to lung cancer regression | BMJ. [online] Available at: <https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/daily-use-of-cannabidiol-cbd-oil-may-be-linked-to-lung-cancer-regression/&gt; [Accessed 16 April 2022].

Science Direct, Kayser. 2017. Cannabaceae. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/cannabaceae/&gt; [Accessed 16 April 2022].

By Mary Ho Yan Mak

Hello, my name is Mary, and I am from Hong Kong. I am now in year 12 in the UK and intend to pursue a career in medicine. I'm primarily interested in paediatrics, but I'd like to learn about a variety of medical areas to broaden my medical knowledge and experience.

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