CANNABIS CULTURE – With a complicated plant, you get some really interesting side-benefits. Some of these might just well surprise you, and you may just well want to get yourself a medical marijuana card after reading about these.Exit from Addictions
For many years, cannabis was seen as the “gateway drug”. People start off with the “soft drugs” like cannabis/marijuana, and then move onto “harder” stuff like heroin and cocaine. There might even be a few anecdotal, “just-so” stories that explains how someone’s friend/family member started out using cannabis, and then moved onto using other substances.
Now, whilst I don’t wish to be completely dismissive of such an attitude, it must be sad that the gateway theory when it comes to cannabis is complete bunkum. In fact, cannabis could be seen as an “exit drug” rather than an “entry drug”. There’s plenty of evidence from the US and beyond showing that cannabis legalization lowers heroin use. States that have a medical marijuana programme tend to see a reduction in opioid overdoses. Some have even predicted a dent in alcohol consumption.
So, the idea of cannabis leading onto harder drugs is not only possibly nonsense, but in fact it could be the complete opposite: cannabis leads to a reduction in overall hard drug use? But why? Well, there could be a several reasons, both social and biological …
- Those looking to buy cannabis no longer have to come in contact with the black market, meaning they no longer get other drugs “pushed” onto them.
- The “everyone was lying to me” effect. Overblown horror stories about cannabis may lead to people thinking that what they’ve been told about other drugs is also wrong. This could lead to them trying harder drugs where they might not have originally.
- There are people with serious conditions who are in pain and who use prescription opioids. When these are tapered off and stopped, the pain is still there (even if it’s “phantom pain”), and they may look for pain relief in illicit substances. This suggests that prescription opioids are the gateway to hard drug use.
- There are good scientific reasons why cannabis could work in place of opioids – mu-opioid receptors could be involved in the stimulus rewarding effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), meaning that cannabis could help control pain and affect the body’s opioid receptors via the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Relief from Asthma
Now, smoking any substance, cannabis included, is probably not best for your breathing in general and can lead to various chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPDs). However, this doesn’t mean cannabinoids in aren’t useful for asthma. Granted, an asthmatic should avoid smoking, but nowadays there’s vaporizers, sprays, tinctures and edibles.
So, how does cannabis help for asthma? Asthma is essentially chronic inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by allergies or pollutants. Cannabidiol (CBD) is an anti-inflammatory, and activating the cannabinoid receptor agonist CP55, 940, CB2 receptor antagonist SR144528 (SR), and CB1 receptor agonist AM 251 (AM) may prevent antigen-induced asthma. THC may also be a bronchodilator, meaning that it can “open up” the airways in asthmatic patients. This suggests that both CB1 and CB2 receptors may play a role in protecting the lungs.
Fight Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs
Superbugs like MRSA represent a new challenge for humanity. They are resistant to antibiotics currently in use, and unnecessary usage of antibiotics and antivirals has made the problem worse. There are now drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis, staph infections and gonorrhea, amongst other diseases and infections. This could prove to be a major problem in the future.
Scientists have been looking to nature’s own antimicrobials to look for a solution to this problem. Honey, garlic and ginger have all been touted. Now, cannabis has been, too. Of particular interest is the terpene pinene, where alpha- and beta- pinene has been shown to act synergistically with the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (a powerful antibiotic only used when safer ones don’t work) to inhibit MRSA infection.
This is because pinene inhibits phospholipase and esterase (enzymes that hydrolize phospholipids found on cell membranes into fatty acids) activity, thereby preventing the further spread of infection. Furthermore, as cannabis works on CB2 receptors and therefore plays a role in immune response, there could be a number of “targeted” antibiotics, antivirals and other antimicrobials that could be developed from a mixture of the cannabinoids and terpenoids found in cannabis.
Weight Loss & Diabetes
Even though marijuana use is often associated with the munchies and snacking, users are found to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than average. This could be because marijuana lowers insulin levels, decreases insulin resistance and controls blood-glucose levels in the blood. Yes, this means that cannabis can both help stimulate the appetite whilst at the same time helping control weight and blood-sugar levels!
The cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) – which is often found in strains that hail from the equator (e.g. African genetics such as Durban Poison) – may ameliorate insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, diabetes patients are prone to getting neuropathic pain as exposure to high amounts of glucose damages nerves. Cannabis could very well be one highly effective medication for controlling neuropathic pain.
Healing Broken Bones
Healing broken bones is a big part of being an orthopaedic surgeon. Sadly, the main drugs prescribed for the pain that arises from broken bones are opioids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Now, we all know about the dangers of such drugs and how cannabis could reduce or replace their need in anything but the most acute or painful of circumstances, but there are other advantages to using cannabis instead.
Cannabis, and in particular cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids, represent a “multi-pronged” painkiller for many scientists and doctors. Rather than needing several pills in order to beat different aspects of pain (physical, emotional, mental/psychological and spiritual), cannabis may help treat all of them at once, in a far safer manner. This means less chance of negative drug interaction as well.
What many people don’t know is that cannabis can not only help beat pain, but actively heal from it as well. Cannabis, and especially CBD, may help prevent bone loss. Polymorphisms in the gene CN2R are said to be responsible for conditions like postmenopausal osteoporosis. CB2 receptors are also found in osteoblasts and osteoclasts (cells that make bones). CBD, being a CB2 receptor agonist, can therefore potentially trigger bone growth and help us heal from broken bones.
There are plenty of other amazing things cannabis could do for us, medically-speaking. Cannabis may help us grow new brain cells as we get older (neurogenesis), improve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and potentially even be used as a treatment for autism and sensory processing disorders. The fact is, we are finding new potential uses with cannabis on an almost daily basis – the only problem is getting the government to see it and allow doctors and scientists to research it.
When you look into the science behind cannabis, the surprises aren’t necessarily all that surprising. “Cannabis is an amazing, unique and versatile plant with many potential uses,” is all anyone with any scientific bent can say when looking at this plant. After all, there aren’t many substances out there that have only a theoretical chance of overdose when taken on its own. There aren’t many plants that reproduce in the way cannabis does (i.e. both sexually and asexually). And there definitely aren’t many – if any – plants with the range of cannabinoids cannabis has.