Medicinal Marijuana – A New Practice for the State of Illinois
Earlier this month a very first clinic of its kind for our state, officially opened it’s doors in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The Good Intentions Clinic is not dispensing marijuana at this time. They are enrolling patients and working on “establishing a relationship between doctors and patients” in prescribing marijuana for medical use. Since this concept is radically new for Illinois, laws are still in the pipelines, and marijuana cannot be dispensed out of clinics at this time. “There is a difference between a dispensary and a clinic. A dispensary is going to have to go through the Department Of Financial And Professional Regulations and those rules haven’t even been created yet by the department.”(1) There will a very strict licensing process in place, on whom can run a dispensary and which laws must be followed.
Once the legalities are set in stone, no pun intended, which affects does marijuana have? Which patients benefit from the proposed medicinal purposes of this controversial herb? Is it safe to use? Let’s take a look at perhaps the most famous leaf in the world.
The genus of plants called Cannabis contains two species Cannabis indica andCannabis sativa. Both of these species, produce cannabinoids, which are Cannabidiol (abbreviated CBD) and THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). The difference is Cannabis indica contains a lot more CBD compared to THC, where Cannabis sativa is the opposite, contains more THC than CBD. So why is it so important which specie contains which ingredient? Well, it turns out that these ingredients have entirely opposite affects on patients. The CBD has calming effects, while THC has more hyper effects. Cannabis indica is used more often as treatment at night time, it is known for its’ sedative or “stoned” effects. Medicinally, sativa is used during the day, since it is “associated with a cerebral high, and many patients experience stimulating effects.(2) Sativa can cause increase in appetite, but may also cause anxiety and paranoia. Some patients use combinations of both indica and sativa.(2)
Of course using Marijuana for medicinal purposes is a controversial topic, however if proven for sure to benefit, which health problems can it help with? Some of the most common health states are nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, muscle tension and spasms, pain, insomnia, and glaucoma.(3)
Nausea and Vomiting: According to the National Cancer Institute, “there are two cannabinoid containing drugs in tablet form, approved in the United States are available under the names dronabinol and nabilone.”(3) Both medications are approved by the FDA for the treatment nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, and are meant to use when standard treatment doesn’t work. There are a few trials have been conducted on inhaling marijuana for the same purpose, but more research has to be performed.
Stimulating Appetite: Many trials have shown that marijuana can stimulate appetite, and in Lamen’s terms this phenomenon is called “the munchies.” Obviously, the patients that have no appetite, can suffer from low weight and other health issues, hence this can be a way to raise appetite.
Muscle Tension and Spasms: Cannabis can act as a muscle relaxant. “In a 2004 study by the American Cancer Society, people with multiple sclerosis (MS) who used cannabis – in a liquid extract form containing THC and cannabidiol – experienced a decrease in muscle spasms and shaking.” According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “studies performed on severely disabled MS patients, an intake of THC produced a decrease in tremors and muscle stiffness.”(4)
Pain: Some research has shown that THC may provide better pain control when used in combination with other pain relivers, like opioids. Other studies have shown benefits of oral cannobinoids in pain due to cancer. There were studies that also had positive results administering canabis in a spray form to manage chronic pain in cancer patients (for whom opioids didn’t help). Patients with low and medium doses showed benefits when compared to placebo, but patients with high doses experienced adverse effects. In terms of inhaled marihuana, “various clinical trials have shown benefits of inhaled Cannabis compared with placebo in relieving neuropathic pain.”(3)
Insomnia: According to the National Cancer Institute, studies testing the effectiveness of cannabis showed that test subjects who inhaled marijuana had “improved mood, improved sense of well-being and less anxiety.” Additionally, patients who ingested a cannabis plant extract spray (administered under the tongue) reported more restful sleep.(4)
Glaucoma: Smoking marijuana may reduce pressure inside the eye in patients, known as intra-occular pressure, which is elevated with glaucoma. But, it can lessen blood flow to the optic nerve. “So far, it is not known if marijuana can improve the way the eye functions.”(5)
As far as side-effects, According to WebMD, using FDA approved tablets, such as Marinol, as instructed should be safe. The use of marijuana in general, can cause dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, dry or red eyes, heart and blood pressure problems, lung problems, impaired mental functioning, headache, dizziness, numbness, panic reactions, hallucinations, flashbacks, depression, and sexual problems.(5) As a herb in general at normal doses, its commonly said that people do not die from Marijuana overdose. Further research showd that it does not cause lung damage like smoking cigarettes.(2)
A Professor of Pshychiatry, Emeritus at Harvard Medical School, said “When cannabis regains its place in the US Pharmacopeia, a status it lost after the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, it will be seen as one of the safest drugs in that compendium.”(2)
At this time Medicinal Marijuana for inhalation is not dispensed in pharmacies and clinics in Illinois, but soon will be. This article is for informational purposes only, it is not meant to advise to use Marijuana for medical treatment. Rather, the purpose is to inform you of the possible reasons why a previously illegal substance, is becoming legal for medical treatment in our state. Kedvon pharmacy is your best source for the most up-to-date information on a variety of medical topics.
by: Vlada Korol PharmD