Bad research makes headlines

An August 2004 press release may have alarmed those who use pot to ward off seizures and spasms. The release, titled Marijuana Compound May Intensify Epileptic Seizures, was given extensive media coverage in Canada. It summarized the results of a study by Dr Michael Corcoran of the University of Saskatchewan.
Corcoran claimed that his study showed marijuana could increase the frequency and severity of certain kinds of seizures that originate in the prefrontal cortex, while admitting that it reduces the grand mal type. He reached his conclusion by dosing rats and then artificially inducing brain seizures by frying their brains with electrical currents.

What Corcoran didn’t reveal in his press release was that he wasn’t actually studying marijuana, he was using synthetic, injectable compounds designed to act on the same cellular receptors as THC.

Credible cannabinoid researchers would never confuse synthetic THC substitutes with marijuana, which contains THC, cannabidiol (CBD) and a host of other medically active and therapeutically intertwined biochemicals. Credible researchers would also be familiar with the work of Dr Paul Consroe of the University of Arizona, whose battery of tests throughout the 70’s and 80’s showed that extremely high doses of THC can indeed trigger convulsions, while CBD does the opposite, and when combined with THC has a net anticonvulsant effect for all seizure types.

Corcoran should have known that the world’s largest producer of synthetic THC, known by the brand name Marinol, warns that their product can cause seizures in “patients with existing seizure disorders.” Further, a variety of studies in peer-reviewed journals have shown that it is CBD which has anti-spasmodic and anti-convulsive effects.

Given the circumstances, can it be any coincidence that Corcoran’s cannabinoid research partner is Dr Xia Zhang, an associate professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan, whose focus is the highly dubious field of “marijuana withdrawal?”

To raise suspicions further, Corcoran’s study was funded by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, whose provincial strategy includes filling all 12 of the province’s regional health authorities with an army of addiction workers over the next 10 years.

Rather than tarnishing the reputation of whole marijuana with misleading studies using synthetic THC analogues, at Cannabis Culture we’d like to see more research into whole-plant cannabis extracts, and medicines that maximize the synergistic effects of cannabinoids working together.