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  • Karen McPhail, RN, MSN

Common Questions Answered: The Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis

This weeks blog addresses some commonly asked questions addressed by, By Dipak Hemraj - Chief Research Officer at Leafwell.

July 1, 2020, possession of authorized medical cannabis products by those registered to participate in the state's program are provided explicit statutory legal protection in the state of Virginia.

In 2017, Virginia approved a regulatory program for the in-state production of extraction-based medical cannabis products by five providers initially, one per Health Service Area (HSA), who will grow, extract, dispense and deliver the products. These licensed providers​ are called “pharmaceutical processors” in the Code, and are simply vertically-integrated dispensaries, meaning everything from growth through dispensation is done on one site by one company. Leafwell is overseen by a variety of individuals with medical specialities including:

Dr. Steven Salzman

Medical Director, Adult Medicine

Dr. Steven Salzman has been a practicing trauma surgeon and trauma intensivist for over 20 years. He has gained unprecedented experience treating patients with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and complex pain syndromes. He has integral faculty involvement in resident and fellow education at hospitals where he is on staff and sits on a number of philanthropic and outreach boards.

Dr. George Gavrilos

Chief Pharmacy Officer

Dr. George Gavrilos is a practicing cardiac critical care pharmacist, specializing in mechanical circulatory support. He is adjunct faculty at schools of pharmacy in Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa, and currently serves as Director of Post-Graduate Year 1 Residency Training at the hospital where he is on staff. His particular cannabis-related research interests include the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties of cannabis and enzymatic drug-drug interactions.

Now on to today's blog:

Did you know seniors are the fastest-growing group of cannabis users in North America?

There could be many reasons for this, but one thing’s for sure: people are starting to see beyond the negative propaganda which has stigmatised marijuana, and have started to see the medical benefits of cannabis. 

In this article, Leafwell discusses 3 common cannabis myths, suggesting how the opposite to what many believe may actually be pharmacologically true, and illustrates how cannabis can provide therapeutic effects.

  1. Myth: Cannabis is a Gateway Drug

For years, many people thought that using cannabis would increase the likelihood of trying and getting addicted to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin. However, this is not true, and one 2012 study on recreational substance users from Japan showed that 83.2% did not start by using cannabis first.

In fact, the opposite may be the case, and cannabis could be an exit drug. A study from 2016 shows that states with a medical marijuana program see a fall in prescription medications, with reductions in the use of sedatives like benzodiazepines (e.g. diazepam/Valium, alprazolam/Xanax) and barbiturates (e.g. amobarbital/Amytal, secobarbital/Seconal), opioid-based painkillers (e.g. oxycodone/OxyContin, hydrocodone & paracetamol/Vicodin), and antidepressants (e.g. sertraline/Zoloft, fluoxetine/Prozac, Serafem).

Cannabis is a pharmacy in a plant. It contains a multitude of chemical compounds (up to 150 cannabinoids, 220 terpenes/terpenoids (smell), and 20 flavonoids (flavor)) that impact various receptor systems in the body.

Unlike most pharmaceutical drugs, cannabinoids can be used to target multiple receptors, rather than just one. This makes cannabis far safer, as there is much less chance of a negative drug-drug interaction, which can increase the chances of an overdose. 

1. Myth: Cannabis Impairs the Memory and Destroys Brain Cells

This is actually both true and not true. Whilst it is true that using high amounts of THC can negatively impact short-term memory, this effect is mostly seen in those who start using high-THC cannabis when they are young (under the age of 25). This is because the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is in overdrive when we are young, helping develop the brain.

However, when we get older, the ECS slows down. This can lead to a shortage in natural cannabinoid production (clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, CECD), which can lead to health problems like migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other treatment-resistant syndromes. The theory is that replacing naturally-occurring cannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG) can help ensure that the body produces enough cannabinoid receptors to capture the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) flooding the body.

THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids like cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabigerol (CBG) all have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could make them extremely useful for conditions that negatively affect the brain, like multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, cannabinoids can actually help grow brain cells (neurogenesis), and low doses of THC may actually improve memory in older people! For those worried about the impact of THC, CBD and pinene can help overcome its negative effects on short-term memory.

2. Myth: CBD is not Psychoactive:

It is a common misconception that CBD is the non-psychoactive part of cannabis. Now, it is true that CBD has antipsychotic properties and in many regards has the opposite effect THC has. 

However, CBD instructs opioid receptors to turn down the volume on pain signals, binds to serotonin receptors to improve mood, and modulates dopamine transmission, meaning that it definitely has a physiological effect. This means that CBD is psychoactive, but not necessarily in the same way that THC is.

Here’s how THC and CBD interact.

  • All THC, no CBD = Very psychoactive but short-lived psychoactive effects.

  • THC with some CBD = Psychoactive, but less so than just pure THC. CBD can actually extend the duration of cannabis’s effects in this instance, but dampens THC’s psychoactivity.

  • Equal THC and CBD = Can have some psychoactive effect, but tolerable. 

  • High CBD, little or no THC = No major psychoactive effect, excepting the physiological effects of CBD.

If you would like to learn more about the science behind cannabis and how it can perhaps be useful for you, then check out the Leafwell website.

Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.

Eldementals, LLC does not endorse any product or service provider. Blogs are for educational, information purposes only based reader inquires and do not directly represent the opinions of Eldementals, LLC.

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