The Press Got It Wrong
As you may have heard in the news, one person has recently died as a result of participating in a clinical drug trial in France. Somehow, that drug is being wrongly called a cannabis-like drug. The following is a letter to the editor in response to an article published by the Associated Press on January 18, 2016: http://news4sanantonio.com/news/health/volunteer-dies-in-test-of-marijuana-based-experimental-drug. The article is irresponsible coverage of a tragic situation.
Cannabis Medicine is Safe
Dear Mr. Gambert:
The story “Volunteer brain dead after test of marijuana-like experimental drug” published on-line Sunday, January 20, by your organization is sensational, mis-leading and tries to marginalize cannabis (the proper term for marijuana), which is a legitimate therapeutic agent. What has happened in this clinical trial is tragic yet, it has little to do with cannabis.
Through research to understand how components of the cannabis plant work in the human brain, it was discovered that the human body makes chemicals that mimic those in the cannabis plant. In the cannabis plant they are called cannabinoids. In the human body they are called endocannabinoids and are part of an innate harm reduction system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is directly involved in every major biological function in the body including, but not limited to, pain, inflammation, mood, and neuroprotection. In the ECS there are enzymes that prompt the production of the endocannabinoids and others that prompt the degradation of the same endocannabinoids.
Your article says that the drug that killed one and harmed at least five others, was a “marijuana-like experimental drug,” which isn’t true. The science-based website, Nature, reported on January 18, 2016, “the drug was an FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) inhibitor; FAAH is an enzyme produced in the brain and elsewhere in the body that breaks down neurotransmitters [better called neuromodulators] known as endocannabinoids. By blocking these enzymes, FAAH inhibitors cause endocannabinoids — which activate the same neural receptors as the active chemical in cannabis, and might have painkilling properties — to accumulate in the body.” To be clear, the drug they were testing is believed to be similar to enzymes produced in the human body that degrade endocannabinoids. FAAH is not in cannabis, nor is it similar to compounds produced in cannabis. It is uniquely produced in the human body. The inhibition of these enzymes, as the quote said, make it possible for the body’s cannabis-like compounds to activate a receptor in a way that provides a therapeutic benefit.
With that said, the mis-guided title for this article gives us an opportunity to discuss that the cannabis plant and it’s naturally derived components are tremendously well designed by mother nature. The use of whole-plant cannabis compounds provide a level of safety and efficacy unsurpassed by modern pharmaceuticals including Aspirin. Few cannabinoid receptors exist in the parts of the brain that control heart beat and breathing, unlike the case with opiates. It is for this reason that no deaths have been reported, as result of over consuming cannabis, in the 10,000 years (or more) of cannabis use by humans. Additionally, whole-plant cannabis and whole-plant cannabis medicines have an usually low toxicity profile, yet it is continuously overlooked as a viable medicine because of the social stigma associated with its use and its scientifically unfounded and unfortunate listing as a Schedule 1 substance, making it illegal. It is time we change the way we view the use of cannabis and see it as a legitimate, and safe therapeutic agent. All people should have safe access to cannabis! And, pharmaceutical companies would be well served to explore how whole-plant cannabis instead of cannabis-like compounds could be used to improve human health.
My Chronic Relief