Medical cannabis treatments have proved highly effective at managing many of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Here, we take a look at which symptoms in particular are positively affected by use of cannabis or cannabis-based therapies.
Much is being made of the potential of cannabis to cure cancer, but the scientific community is far from reaching consensus on this. However, what is far more certain is cannabis’ ability to improve quality of life for cancer patients undergoing traditional treatments such as chemotherapy. Here, we look at how it can help.
The Federal Republic of Germany is the most populous EU member state, with over eighty million inhabitants. Just as with other central European countries, Germany has a long history of cannabis use; today, cannabis is widely used and readily available in most cities, although its cultivation, sale and use remain illegal.
In 1964 the Israeli Professor Raphael Mechoulam and his research group succeeded in isolating tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, for the very first time. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this extremely special moment in the history of cannabis. The celebration took place during the third edition of the UFCM iCare symposium in Strasbourg.
In the Kingdom of Bhutan, cannabis is so prolific that it is seen as a pest, and is fed to pigs rather than being used by humans for fibre or intoxicant purposes. Bhutan lacks a close connection with the plant. However, there is some evidence of traditional use, and use in modern times is increasing.
First described in 1960, the putative condition cannabis arteritis is thought to have affected approximately sixty individuals since then. The condition is said to affect long-term, heavy cannabis smokers by causing inflammation of the walls of the peripheral arteries, and has been implicated in cases of severe necrosis, some of which have required amputation of affected limbs.
The Republic of Azerbaijan lies on the boundary dividing Europe from Asia, and is a crucial part of the traditional trafficking route that each year sees thousands of tons of hashish and heroin transported from Afghanistan and Pakistan on to Europe and Russia. Azerbaijan also produces a small quantity of cannabis and opium.
Most growers give little thought to the roots of cannabis plants beyond ensuring that they are healthy and supplied with water, nutrients, oxygen and drainage—before discarding them at harvest time. But the roots have been used in folk medicine for millennia, and contain several compounds that may be of medicinal value.
Besides his wonderful story about the Green Prisoners Release Amsterdam and the Cannabis College (see part 1), Henk Poncin recently had his first personal experience with the medicinal benefits of cannabis. He is now using cannabis tea as a successful painkiller after undergoing major surgery, instead of a bag full of pharmaceutical pain killers.
Cannabis preparations have been repeatedly shown to alleviate the symptoms of chronic skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and the endocannabinoid system appears to play an important role in the regulation of various key processes involved in inflammation. Imbalance of the EC system may even be a major underlying cause.
The association between cannabis use and poor memory is age-old, and is so prevalent that it has been adopted as part of the standard stereotyping of cannabis users. Various studies have also indicated a connection—but could cannabis also help to improve memory in certain circumstances, such as in cases of brain injury.
Fibromyalgia is one of those disorders with an unknown cause but highly incapacitating symptoms. It is precisely because its etiopathogenesis (cause) is not known, plus the lack of specific effective treatment, that it has taken the medical community so long to recognise it as an illness. An observational study carried out in Barcelona was published recently, in which the perceived benefits of self-medication with cannabis were evaluated in a group of women with this condition.
Although there are a number of medical conditions for which the therapeutic properties of cannabis and its by-products are now unquestionable, there continue to be disorders or pathologies for which its benefits are not quite as clear. Similarly, even though for some psychiatric pathologies the risks associated with the use of cannabis are fairly well defined, for others, the risks are relatively unknown.
Cannabis use has been implicated in several cases of cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke, and may also exacerbate cardiovascular ill-health that can lead to stroke, in susceptible individuals. However, there is also strong evidence that there may be a potential for cannabinoid therapies to assist in post-stroke recovery.
Since the 1970s, the scientific community - prompted by frequent reports from patients opting for self-medication - has been able to focus its research on cannabinoids for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The number of studies conducted on the subject continues to be relatively low, despite recent renewed efforts in this direction owing to the frequency of cases reported by patients suffering from the disease.
The French have relatively harsh drug laws compared with neighbouring European countries. However, in recent years attention has been paid to the successful harm reduction policies many of these neighbours are implementing, and various reforms have been made. In January 2014, France legislated to allow medical cannabis.
Algeria is a major transit point for drugs, particularly hashish produced in Morocco and destined for Europe. It is not a major producer or consumer of illicit drugs, although it appears that both production and consumption is on the increase. As well as hashish arriving from Morocco, increasing amounts of cannabis (and cocaine from South America) are trafficked into Algeria from West Africa. The bulk of the contraband leaving Algeria is destined to travel by sea to Europe, although a small proportion is also smuggled overland to Middle Eastern destinations.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has a long history associated with cannabis use, and large swathes of the population continue to use cannabis in the traditional manner. However, the present regime has been severely clamping down on drug trafficking in recent years, in response to an increase in heroin and opium addiction rates.
GrassRoots: The Cannabis Revolution is a feature-length documentary that explores the world of medical cannabis consumers and activists. Spanning The USA, The Netherlands, Spain, USA and the UK; the new film from Dale Beaumont-Smith, director of 'vegas2venice', follows the trials and tribulations of a sub-culture trying to change the current cannabis laws in the United Kingdom.