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Ever since the legalization of medical cannabis in California, there have been a number of studies concerning the benefits medical marijuana can provide. In fact, you’d be surprised by how many times medical marijuana has been legalized in states across the United States. Yet, there’s a lot we still don’t know about the effects of cannabis.
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For a long time, marijuana was regarded as abnormal by the scientific community. This was not because the researchers thought so, but because the overwhelming majority of the funds went to studies that backed up this claim.
We’re changing our tune these days, with some academics and medical experts calling for a new standard in cannabis study. In fact, Dr. John Miller of Psychiatric Times points out several serious flaws in cannabis research that need to be addressed.
I’ll take you through the fundamentals of the essay here, with an emphasis on his ten recommendations for cannabis research.
Current Cannabis Research Has a Problem
One of the problems brought up by Dr. Miller is that cannabis isn’t a single substance. Cannabis is made up of approximately 500 components, including cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids, unlike every other drug research that concentrates on a single ingredient.
As a result, testing for cannabis but not the quantities of these various components indicates that the tests’ standardization is flawed.
Perhaps one strain has a higher THC:CBD ratio than another, which would definitely influence the results of a research. Perhaps there’s a higher concentration of myrcene, a monoterpene often seen in cannabis.
Scientists are aware of cannabis’ “net impact” or “entourage effect,” yet it is omitted from studies when testing the drug, resulting in erroneous data.
According to Dr. Miller:
“Intriguingly, the smells commonly associated with cannabis (skunk is a popular descriptor) are mainly attributable to the complex mix of terpenes, another component that hampers cannabis research. (Cannabinoids have no odor.) Terpenes have an important part in the biology of the cannabis plant, the synthesis of cannabinoids by the plant, and the characteristics of a specific strain of cannabis that help define its market value, according to a large body of research. Terpenes are also thought to have pharmacologic and pharmacokinetic impacts on the neuropsychopharmacology of various cannabis strains when consumed. 8,9”
The following excerpt is from an article published in Psychiatric Times that discusses how terpenes have a role in the pharmacodynamic effects of cannabis. To put it another way, you can’t research cannabis without looking at how it interacts with these “other” drugs.
As a result, the good doctor has compiled a lengthy list of recommendations for scientists to consider the next time they research the effects of cannabis.
We’ll go through each of the ideas in more detail below.
The Term “Cannabis” is Used
According to Dr. Miller, the term “cannabis” should not be used casually in medical literature since it is generic and encompasses a wide range of chemical combinations of different cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
This is most likely one of the first issues to be addressed in any contemporary study. We often hear that “cannabis” is to blame for X, Y, or Z, yet this is a broad generalization.
What properties of cannabis, apart than “dose,” are responsible? Could it be a mix of cannabinoids and how they interact with the body of the host?
All of the following questions are crucial, particularly if you’re attempting to create scientific procedures.
Research on a single strain
Future cannabis research, according to Dr. Miller, should focus on a single strain in each study, with each strain being evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively for physiologically active components.
Because each strain has its unique genetic sequences, it’s worth noting that “X Strain” aided in the treatment of “X ailment,” and that knowing the interactions of terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids is important.
This is how researchers discovered particular strains that have the potential to combat COVID-19.
Separate studies of several strains should be conducted.
If several strains are utilized in a clinical study, they should be evaluated (as mentioned in #2) and each strain should be compared to placebo as a distinct arm.
This is common practice in contemporary research, and it should be followed in all future investigations. It’s almost as if you’re taking separate medications if you’re going to use different strains. They are not to be grouped together.
More money is needed for discovery research.
Increased funding is required to properly describe the cannabis plant’s 500-plus molecular components, including their pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.
More money is needed for discovery research, which focuses on understanding the various molecular components of cannabis, since 95 percent of studies are financed to identify “what’s wrong” with cannabis.
The molecular facts of cannabis, particularly the antagonistic effects of THC and CBD, should be actively disseminated through a public education effort. Similar to alcohol warnings against drinking during pregnancy, the dangers of increased psychosis and cognitive impairment with excessive frequent use of THC in the developing brain should be mentioned.
This is something that should have been done from the beginning. We need a comprehensive teaching program that enables individuals to make informed judgments about their own activities and consumption habits.
If you can do it with alcohol, cigarettes, and almost every other substance, you should be able to do it with cannabis.
Cannabis, like alcohol and tobacco, should be regulated.
Cannabis should be legalized and controlled at the federal level in the same way that alcohol and tobacco products are.
The FDA should not regulate cannabis.
Because of its high variety of components and related unexpected pharmacological effects, cannabis should not be controlled by the FDA.
The FDA is just unprepared to deal with the complexities of cannabis. They are more akin to Big Pharma medicines and should thus be utilized for cannabis therapy using particular cannabinoid combinations. The whole facility is outside of the FDA’s jurisdiction.
Doctors should not prescribe cannabis.
Medical professionals should not prescribe cannabis. However, when new molecular components of cannabis are discovered and FDA clearance is obtained, those components should be administered properly.
After passing the tests, a cannabis medication should be classified as a cannabis-based medicine; nevertheless, physicians should not prescribe cannabis. Instead, they might suggest it like yoga or meditation, but physicians should not become involved until it’s a real medication that’s passed the testing.
Cannabinoids are still being researched.
Continued pharmacological research and development of cannabis components with medicinal advantages should be pursued. CBD is a good example of this.
There’s so much more to learn, it’s a pity it’s taking so long.
Cannabis Education Is Required For Physicians
Similar to how a practitioner would discuss alcohol or cigarette usage with their patients, medical practitioners should only address cannabis with their patients once they have gained competency in knowing the science and factual risks/benefits/adverse effects of cannabis.
A doctor’s knowledge of health does not imply that they are knowledgeable about cannabis and its effects on health. Many practitioners are guessing, and their advice should be taken with a grain of salt until the study is more standardized.
We already know that physicians are the gatekeepers, but this essay explains why there has to be a distinction made between “cannabis” and “cannabis medicine.”
At the end of the day, we’re on the brink of a paradigm change in cannabis research, and once the transition is complete and procedures are established, we’ll see a whole different face of medical cannabis.
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