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Health Benefits of Cannabis


January 2014

Uruguay’s legalisation of cannabis brings the drug’s health benefits back into the spotlight.

A lot of us were young in the “swinging sixties”. This was the time of flower power and drugs -  everyone had heard of marijuana or cannabis and many sectors of the population as well as a number of high profile celebrities were enthusiastic about its benefits.

The drug, a combination of shredded leaves, stems and flower buds from the cannabis sativa plant, is usually smoked and can give psychological effects within quite a short time as the chemical THC is absorbed into the blood. The effects can be unpredictable, but generally gives a feeling of relaxation or well being and also can create a temporary break with reality.

Its effect is unpredictable and very much depends on the individual. In some cases even small amounts of cannabis can impair thinking, memory and learning for weeks after. In some cases it can cause severe anxiety and paranoia.

At the moment it is categorised as a Class B drug in the UK and it is illegal to possess, grow or distribute cannabis in the UK (there are certain licences under which it can be grown for specific purposes).

Now, the South American country of Uruguay is becoming the first nation in the world to legalise the production and sale of cannabis. The new law will control all aspects,  ie only six plants can be grown at home; advertising is forbidden; buyers have to be over 18 and tourists are excluded (so no point rushing there on the earliest plane!). But nevertheless makes it now legal to use the drug.

Many other countries have also been campaigning to legalise cannabis, and not just because everyone wants to get high for the fun of it.  There is serious evidence that cannabis can also be used in a really positive way to help certain health problems. The therapeutic use of this plant has been known for centuries - there are reports that as far back as 2700 BC China’s mystical emperor Shen Neng was prescribing marijuana tea for the treatment of malaria, rheumatism, gout and poor memory.

Quite a lot of research has been done on cannabis and this does seem to show that the drug can be a valuable aid for certain conditions. Pain relief is one, where cannabis can especially help in counteracting pain from nerve damage; some patients have been known to declare that it is the only drug that can really help them. Other areas where it is said to have benefit include movement disorders and diseases such as multiple sclerosis, spasticity, nausea and even glaucoma.  Certainly cannabis can be a good appetite stimulant and emerging research indicates it could be useful in dementia, and also offer some protection against a range of other problems.

At the moment there is one cannabis based medicine licensed for medical prescription here in the UK. It is Sativex and is occasionally prescribed to treat the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

One big setback in the use of cannabis for medical purposes is its potential for damaging side effects. A new study from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in America suggests that the use of medical marijuana could be broadened if patients concurrently take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen to counteract side effects.

But the debate goes on, there are some experts who are horrified by the legalisation of the drug in Uruguay and believe it has the potential to cause major long term health problems.

There is a lot of information available on the internet about cannabis but, as always, it is imperative that you check the source.

http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/cannabis-use-and-abuse

http://www.politics.co.uk/reference/cannabis-medicinal-use

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/08August/Pages/cannabis-and-chronic-nerve-pain.aspx



 

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