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Maine Voices: Marijuana safe and effective medication for many purposes | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

In Medical Marijuana on September 13, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Maine Voices: Marijuana safe and effective medication for many purposes

The human body already produces many similar substances to enable good health, so why not introduce one more?

HALLOWELL – Advocates of medical marijuana claim it is a safe and effective treatment for a wide variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, diabetes, depression, PTSD, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, nausea, Parkinson’s disease, PMS, wasting syndrome and many others.


Dustin Sulak, D.O., is a healing arts practitioner and teacher with a practice in Hallowell. He has lectured on integrative medicine, medical marijuana and the endocannabinoid system to clinicians and patients across the country.

How is this possible? How can one herb do so much, safely?

Our bodies have been wired to respond to this medicine since before we were born.

The story begins when you were a blastocyst, a tiny, hollow ball of cells, making your way to the wall of your mother’s uterus.

In order for you to properly attach to your mother, she had to have enough endocannabinoids in her uterine tissue, the endometrium. Luckily, she did.

Endocannabinoids are a class of compounds used all over the body for a variety of important physiological processes.

They get their name because they act similarly to the active substances in cannabis sativa, also known as marijuana.

Endocannabinoids helped direct the growth of your nerve cells when you were a fetus, and they continue to do so today.

When you were an infant, your mother (or a surrogate) provided her own cannabinoids to you via breast milk; without them, you would have had decreased appetite and may have starved to death.

Since then, your cannabinoid system has been regulating your brain, immune system, metabolism, hormones and a lot more.

Every physiological process in your body is in some way influenced or regulated by the cannabinoid system.

It is easy to understand why researchers around the world have directed their attention to this system, and why more than 16,000 scientific papers have been published on the topic in the last 20 years.

The cannabinoid system is a potential mechanism for body-mind integration and a powerful way to promote healing and balance within our physiology.

Strangely, most medical school curricula don’t even mention it once.

When I graduated from the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2008, I had been exposed to the cannabinoid system twice; both were brief slides in pharmacology lecture. We did not discuss cannabinoids at all in physiology or pathology.

The first slide was about Marinol, an FDA-approved synthetic version of THC, the most abundant cannabinoid found in marijuana. This drug is indicated for severe nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy.

My professor mentioned that it doesn’t work well for three reasons: It has a slow onset; it has an intensified version of marijuana’s side-effect profile including drowsiness, dizziness, euphoria and paranoia; and, of course, it’s hard to keep down a pill while vomiting.

Keep in mind, the FDA approved Marinol in 1985, while the DEA continues to classify marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance (one deemed to have no known medical uses and unsafe for research).

The second mention of cannabinoids was about an experimental, unapproved drug called Rimonabant, which blocks the cannabinoid receptors. It was designed to act as an “anti-munchies” drug used to treat obesity. When it was given to baby rats, they starved themselves to death. Adult rats develop tumors. Later, when it was given to humans, it caused suicide and depression, so the FDA decided not to approve it.

Unlike synthetic derivatives, marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances on the planet.

According to a 1995 review prepared for the World Health Organization, “There are no recorded cases of overdose fatalities attributed to cannabis, and the estimated lethal dose for humans extrapolated from animal studies is so high that it cannot be achieved by users.”

Furthermore, marijuana smoke has not been shown to cause lung cancer, and likely prevents several types of cancer through its documented anti-tumor and anti-oxidant properties.

Individuals at highest risk for adverse effects are those who do not benefit from the advice of a health care provider or experienced user. When the appropriate dosage, delivery system, and strain of cannabis are used, adverse effects are rare and mild.

Also, unlike synthetic derivatives, herbal marijuana contains over 100 different cannabinoids, including THC, which all work synergistically to produce better medicinal effects and fewer side effects.

Yet, despite a 5,000-year history of safe therapeutic use and a huge amount of published research, most doctors know little or nothing about medical marijuana.

This will change, in part because the public will demand it. As the current health care system continues to crumble under the weight of self-destructive expense and the reality of poor outcomes, we will demand safe, natural and inexpensive treatments that stimulate our bodies’ ability to self-heal and help our population improve its quality of life.

Medical marijuana is one such solution, and it can also improve the health of our local economy and agriculture.

via Maine Voices: Marijuana safe and effective medication for many purposes | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

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