While mainstream culture in Ireland has come to accept cannabis as not the dangerous and addictive substance of after school special legend, general public knowledge about the plant remains fairly low.
Cannabis is a complex plant, and decades of research have been able to pull back the curtains on fascinating mysteries behind its inner workings.
Here, we wanted to shed light on some things about cannabis that even an educated patient might not know!
Cannabis was available in pharmacies and was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP) until 1942; it was removed alongside over 200 other natural compounds like St. John’s wort and echinacea, which did not return to the USP until 2004.
Though cannabis has been used medicinally for thousands of years, it was not until the discovery of the CB1 receptor in 1988 that scientists could explain the plant’s various interactions with the human body. The CB2 receptor was found just four years later.
In the same way that opiates mimic endorphins that interact with opiate receptors, the cannabinoids found in cannabis mimic endocannabinoids produced by the body that interact with endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors. There are at least 113 of these cannabinoids and a minimum of 554 known compounds naturally produced by the cannabis plant.
The ECS is a sophisticated group of ligands, their receptors, and signaling pathways that are involved in regulating a variety of physiological processes including movement, mood, memory, appetite, and pain.
A lethal toxic overdose of cannabis has never been documented; unlike opiates, cannabis compounds do not depress respiration or heart function.
Patients’ preference for whole plant cannabis vs synthetic cannabinoid-based drugs is supported by scientific consensus regarding the therapeutic “entourage effect” created by interactions among various cannabinoids and terpenes.
The therapeutic use of cannabis is supported by over 30,000 published studies on the ECS and over 9,000 patient years of clinical trial data documenting successful use of cannabis for treating pain.
The neuroprotective qualities of cannabis present enormous potential in protecting the brain and central nervous system from the damage of disease or injury.
In the U.S. - states with medical cannabis programs have not experienced an increased rate of teen use of cannabis or an increased frequency of highway fatalities. These states have, however, seen a 25% reduction in opioid overdose deaths compared to states without medical cannabis laws.
Medical cannabis programs in the U.S. saved the Medicare Part D drug program more than $165 million in 2013 due to a decrease in prescription drug medications; savings could reach as much as $1.01 billion if medical cannabis was legal across the nation. Regulation in Ireland could bring 15,000 jobs and over €300,000,000 in tax revenue every year according to a report by Prof. Niall Nelligan.