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When considering any sort of medicinal substance it is important to make sure that it is safe to use as well as effective in treating the patient. The first aspect to look at when determining the overalls safety of a substance is it’s level of risk of overdose. A system called LD50 is determines the lethal dose of a substance for 50% of the population. Using this system, the lethal dose estimate for cannabis has been found to be consumption of 1,500 pounds of cannabis in fifteen minutes or less, a feat that is literally impossible to accomplish by any patient. As a result, researchers have concluded that cannabis is one of the safest substances in the field of medical products.
Short term effects of consuming cannabis include: coughing, dry-mouth, feelings of euphoria (commonly referred to as feeling “high”), blurred vision, increased appetite, red-eyes, anxiety, and sedation. With short-term effects, especially concerning psychoactive effects, continued use of cannabis has been shown to dramatically reduce their intensity. These effects are also easily contained through dose management.
The aforementioned effects are felt almost instantly after smoking or vaporizing cannabis. When cannabis is ingested these effects may take up to an hour to be felt and can persist for periods from one to four hours.
Due to cannabis being a schedule I drug the federal restrictions on the substance have led to little to no research being done on the long-term effects of cannabis use in humans. That being said there have been done studies using cannabis to combat cancer cells in animals and the National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA) recently modified a statement on medical cannabis to stating that, “recent animal studies have been shown that marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others.”
Research on the long-term effects of cannabis has shown, albeit with mixed results, beneficial influence on the body’s immune system. Special receptors within the human body, part of the endocannabinoid system which is found in humans and all mammals, have been shown to work in perfect harmony with cannabinoids found in marijuana. In 2012 a published study showed that cannabinoids strengthen the function of the immune system. The study also showed that the activation of these receptors in the endocannabinoid system had antiviral effects and it was hypothesized that cannabinoids had a strong enough influence to inhibit the spread of disease throughout the body. Other studies showed the potential of cannabinoids to allow users to more readily heal and fight off infection.
Due to CSA scheduling of cannabis as a Schedule I substance which, by definition, means that cannabis has no medical uses, the research regarding the medical efficacy of cannabis has been significantly hindered. Research intending to show positive results of cannabis use is hardly ever approved. Despite these roadblocks some revealing facts of the substance have been uncovered. For example, 85 cannabinoids that appear naturally in the plant have been shown to be capable of interacting synergistically with the human endocannabinoid system. more than 200 terpentenes, molecules responsible for the aroma of cannabis which function in a similar manner to cannabinoids, also play a part in this synergistic interaction with the endocannabinoid system. However, this area figuring the the efficacy of cannabis in largely unknown due to a lack of federally funded research.
In 1991 the International Cannabinoid Research Society was founded with the intent of studying the effective nature of cannabis in medicinal use. In 2000, the International Assosciation for Cannabis in Medicine was established to promote clinical research into cannabis-based therapy. in 2001, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research was put in place at the University of California San Diego specifically to focus on studies on cannabis as a medicine. In 2010 this group published a report of more than a dozen trials, many of which were given the “go-ahead” buy the FDA. These reports showed that cannabis is effective in many cases specifically for alleviating pain, concluding that the substance is more effective than many mainstream pharmaceuticals and medical therapy processes.