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Summary of medical uses

Cannabis contains over 200 chemical compounds, several of which may have a beneficial, or harmful, effect either working alone, or in concert with other compounds.

Recent research has established a neurochemical mechanism for the action of cannabis, based on a 'cannabis receptor' and an endogenous ligand known as 'anandamide'. The mode of action appears to be the modulation of the responses to incoming stimuli mediated by a 'second messenger' system. The body"s natural cannabinoids may be used to "turn up or down the body"s pain thresholds. There is also increasing evidence of anti-inflammatory activity of cannabidiol (CBD). At least two types of cannabinoid receptors have been found, not only in the brain and nervous system, but also in peripheral tissues such as the skin and gut. The endocannabinoids are clearly important in mediating a number of bodily functions and physiological processes, with new research papers published at a rate of one a day.

There is also a substantial body of research, much of it historical and/or anecdotal, but supported by a number of laboratory studies on animal models, to demonstrate increased tolerance of pain from administration of cannabis or individual, cannabinoids, including THC. Other studies have shown a temporary decrease in intraocular pressure in Glaucoma patients, a reduction in brain-cell death following strokes, relief from muscle spasms in MS, reduced seizure frequency and intensity in epilepsy, stimulation of appetite in AIDS and anorexia, bronchodilation in asthma, relief from the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, alcohol or opiate withdrawal, and a variety of other medical uses.

Although the scientific evidence is equivocal, more users report "relaxation" as an effect of cannabis use than any other "benefit". American studies using THC or smoked marijuana may produce effects different to those found with cannabis resin (containing higher levels of cannabidiol) smoked with tobacco. In addition, na"ve users are more likely to report anxiety and/or panic than habitual users of the drug. The effects of cannabis on different individuals are too inconsistent for the drug to have a widespread application as a prescribed anxiolytic, however many individuals "self-medicate" to cope with stress from the work or home environment.

The BMA recommended that THC and/or other cannabinoids be made available for prescription and research for patients with intractable pain. The House of Lords Science & Technology Select Committee recommended that doctors should be allowed to prescribe cannabis for medical use, and that a prescription should form a defence against prosecution for cannabis offences. The Government have rejected these recommendations

For our House of Lords Addendum - click here.



Multiple Sclerosis Society

25 Effie Road, London SW6 lEE

Tel: (0171) 610 7171 Fax: (0171) 736 9861

website - http://www.mssociety.org.uk


Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

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Tel 0171-735-9141

website - http://www.rpsgb.org.uk

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