A Brief History:
Medical marijuana (MMJ) has eased both mental and physical pains across 4 continents for over 5 millennia. Europeans in the Victorian era valued its benefit for rheumatic and menstrual pains, and by 1850 it was included in the official pharmacy guide called the “U.S. Pharmacopeia” (To this day, the USP is referenced in over 140 countries as the standard of quality for medicines and dietary supplements). Throughout the 19th century, the USP cited MMJ for the treatment of numerous afflictions including “neuralgia, … dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, … gout, convulsive disorders” and more (1).
An interesting shift occurred during the Great War Years. While some states were outlawing marijuana along with the more troublesome opium, the US Department of Agriculture finally succeeded in growing domestic cannabis that met USP’s standards of quality. Hence, our economy supported its own supply and demand, just as our imports from India were derailed by WW1 logistics. In 1925, the League of Nations recognized MMJ as a narcotic and in 1928 the UK added it to their “Dangerous Drugs List”. While marijuana became more tightly regulated, Eli Lily and Parke-Davis continued to enjoy successful sales of their extracts as an “analgesic, antispasmodic and sedative”. The controversy over MMJ heightened throughout the 1930’s, pitting the American Medical Association against the newly formed Narcotics Bureau. With the passage of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, prescribing and purchasing MMJ became unduly burdensome for both doctor and patient. Consumers were propitiously introduced to new medicines such as aspirin, morphine and other opiates. In 1942, marijuana was officially dropped from the USP (1).
Modern Medical Conditions:
Opioid pain medications still harbor strong addictive properties, as they did 100 years ago during the opium epidemic. Hence, in 2015, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mandated stricter guidelines for opioid prescribing. Yet, painful conditions such as rheumatism, cancer, and multiple sclerosis are increasingly common. What are physicians and patients to do? Re-enter MMJ.
Under Arizona statutes, medical marijuana may be recommended for the following conditions: Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer, Glaucoma, Hepatitis C, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Further qualifications include any condition or treatment of a condition that causes: Cachexia or wasting syndrome, Severe and chronic pain, Severe nausea, Seizures, Severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis (MS). How can MMJ help with these conditions?
MMJ binds with specific cannabinoid receptors in our body creating similar effects as our own endorphins. These are chemical signals from our brain that provide sensations of joy, exhilaration, or calmness, depending on the strain used. Cannabinoids and endorphins also lower blood pressure and reduce pain signals to the brain. This is why MMJ is helpful for glaucoma and has been documented for this purpose since 1700 BC in Egypt. The analgesic properties of MMJ, like its synthetic opioid counterparts, make it useful for chronic pain which may accompany MS, cancer, or rheumatic conditions. Unlike synthetic opioids, however, MMJ has few side effects and a low toxicity profile. Interestingly, MMJ was found to be a useful adjunct therapy for people on dangerous levels of opioids by allowing them to reduce their dose of opioids while achieving greater pain relief. This has been confirmed in double-blind placebo-controlled trials involving debilitating and refractory pain from cancer (3). Finally, MMJ opposes the stress hormones (e.g. adrenaline), thus calming the nervous system. This makes MMJ particularly useful for Alzheimer’s induced agitation, PTSD, and the anxiety associated with those conditions (2). For more information about MMJ, please call Dr. Livengood for a free 10 minute consultation 480-495-0007.
Don’t miss part 1 of this series HERE.
(1) http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.timeline.php?timelineID=000026 retrieved 2/19/17
(2) Schechter, Jason, PhD “History and Uses of Cannabis.” AzNMA Medical Marijuana Conference, 4 October 2014, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Tempe, AZ
(3) https://american-safe-access.s3.amazonaws.com/criticalreviewweb.pdf, retrieved 2/20/17