Medical Benefits of Marijuana Can Be Separated from Its Side Effects: Study

study published online on July 9th 2015 in the journal PLOS Biology has demonstrated how the medical benefits of marijuana can be separated from its unwanted side effects.

The recent findings revealed a separated pathway that can alone trigger the beneficial effects of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as a pain reliever for users without affecting their mood, perception or memory.

According to the study, THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in medical marijuana that has been shown to reduce tumour growth in cancer patients as supported by the previous researches conducted by the scientists at the University of East Anglia and University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

With the purpose of separating the medical benefits of marijuana from its side effects, the researchers focused on understanding the molecular mechanism of THC. Behavioral analysis was carried out on mice to determine how pathways in their brains operate with the treatment of THC. Researchers then controlled certain cell receptors – called the cannabinoid receptor and serotonin receptor…they found out that when a particular serotonin receptor (5HT2AR) was blocked, the mice manifested a reduced amnesic effect of THC – in other words, the animal’s memory was slightly impaired – while the effects in terms of pain relief were not altered.

Clinical Trials, Studies and Publications:

Cognitive Impairment Induced by Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol Occurs through Heteromers between Cannabinoid CB1 and Serotonin 5-HT2A Receptors

Painkiller Deaths Drop By 25% in Medical Marijuana States

Studies Show States with Medical Marijuana See Dramatic Decline in Opioid Related Deaths

“… the most recent study conducted by the RAND Corporation, researchers at UC Irvine evaluated the effect of states with medical marijuana laws and their overall influence on opioid related issues – addiction and death. The study was conducted by calculating the states treatment admissions for opioid-based addiction, then assessing their overall opioid related deaths on a statewide basis…findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkileers.”

The promising UC Irvine study mirrored a report published in October of 2014 in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine). The JAMA findings noted that between 1999 and 2010, states with medical marijuana lawsenjoyed a dramatic decline in their overall opioid related death rate; reducing it by a “lower mean” average of 24.8%.

According to data provided by the CDC in 2010, approximately 22,134 drug overdoses involved prescription pills; of which, opioid analgesics, like methadone, hydrocodone and oxycodone were linked to over 16,650 overdoses. Leaving little doubt to the principal role opioids play in America’s REAL drug problem … prescription pills.

States with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose rate

Clinical Trials, Studies and Publications:

Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers?

Legalization of Medical Marijuana and Incidence of Opioid Mortality

Centers for Disease Control Vital Signs: Opioid Painkiller Prescribing

Painkiller Deaths Drop By 25% in Medical Marijuana States

Medical Use of Marijuana by Patients Undergoing Cancer Chemotherapy or afflicted with AIDS

“Cancer chemotherapy can often prolong the patient’s life by several years. In some instances, a complete “cure” can be obtained. Unfortunately, these drugs also have severe side-effects, most notably nausea and vomiting. Patients sometimes find these effects so distressing they abandon chemotherapy entirely.

People with AIDS (Acquired Immune Disease) also experience these problems. Powerful anti-viral drugs such as AZT and the new protease inhibitors can induce severe nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal effects. Similarly, AIDS “wasting syndrome” can literally starve an individual to death.

Investigations with cannabis have revealed its ability to reduce (or eliminate) the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy while also providing an appetite stimulus. The benefits are thus twofold: 1) the patient is able to retain food and maintain body strength, and 2) he or she can tolerate the life-prolonging chemotherapy treatments.

At least eight published studies have confirmed the ability of cannabis and its psychoactive ingredient delta-9-THC to reduce nausea and vomiting. The first appeared in 1975 in The New England Journal of Medicine. It concluded, “THC is an effective anti-emetic for patients receiving cancer chemotherapy.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in February, 1980 listed 33 studies of cannabis and nausea and vomiting. Most of these experiments involve efforts to determine the proper dosage of THC and several are comparative studies with other standard anti-emetics.

In New Mexico, a state sponsored study has shown the cannabis cigarette to be 30% more effective than THC in relieving nausea and vomiting. Another study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), discovered that inhaled cannabis resulted in a 71% efficacy rate, as opposed to 44% with oral delta-9-THC. These controlled studies have been fortified by “anecdotal” accounts from individuals who have abandoned legal access to THC because they prefer marijuana obtained illegally. These patients report that smoking marijuana seems to bring an almost instantaneous relief.

This is not a new finding. As early as May 1978, researches at a symposium sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) concluded, “All in all, the cigarette may be the best means of administering the drug.”

In September 1988 the chief administrative law judge of the Drug Enforcement Administration ruled that marijuana has medical value in the treatment of side-effects caused by cancer chemotherapy. His decision was over-ruled by the administrator of the DEA and marijuana remains illegal for medical purposes.”

Cancer Bibliography


Cannabis in Medical Practice: A Legal, Historical and Pharmacological Overview of the Therapeutic Use of Marijuana, Mary Lynn Mathre, Ed., McFarland Press (1998).

Marijuana Medical Papers, Tod Mikuriya, M.D. (ed.) Medi-Comp Press, (1972).

Cannabinoids as Therapeutic Agents, Raphael Mechoulam (ed.) CRC Press, (1986).

Cancer Treatment & Marijuana Therapy, Robert C. Randall (ed.), Galen Press, (1990).

Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, Lester Grinspoon, M.D. and James B. Bakalar, Yale University Press, (1993).

Marijuana and AIDS: Pot, Politics & PWAs in America, Robert C. Randall, Galen Press, (1991).

Journal Articles

Cancer Treatment Reports, 566, 589-592 (1982).

“Cannabinoids for Nausea,” Lancet, January 31, 1981.

Carey, M.P., Burish, T.G., & Brenner, D.E., “Delta-9-THC in Cancer Chemotherapy: Research Problems and Issues,” Annals of Internal Medicine, 99, 106-114 (1983).

Chang, A.E. et al. “Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol as an Antiemetic in Cancer Patients Receiving High-dose Methotrexate,” Annals of Internal Medicine, 91, 819-824 (1979).

Frytek, S. & Moertel, C.G. “Management of Nausea and Vomiting in Cancer Patients,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 245:4, 393-396 (1981).

Harris, L., “Analgesic and Antitumor Potential of the Cannabinoids,” The Therapeutic Potential of Marijuana, Cohen & Stillman (eds.), 299-305 (1976).

Harris, L., Munson, A. & Carchman, R “Anti-tumor Properties of Cannabinoids,” The Pharmacology of Marihuana, Braude & Szara (eds.), 749-762 (1976).

Neidhart, J., Gagen, M., Wilson, H. & Young, D. “Comparative Trial of the Antiemetic Effects of THC and Haloperidol,” Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 21, 385-425 (1981).