Cannabis and Health

Ever since cannabis was made illegal in the first half of the twentieth century, politicians have been trying to convince us that it's a killer drug that ruins people's lives, threatens law and order and leads its users on to harder drugs. Ephidrina says this is a load of bollocks. People who use cannabis sensibly can do so quite safely and with very little threat to their health. In fact, with the exception of coffee, Ephidrina reckons that cannabis is about the safest recreational drug there is.

The only "hard drug" cannabis leads its users into is tobacco. On its own, cannabis is non-toxic and non-addictive. By mixing their cannabis with tobacco, tokers risk addiction to nicotine, which we know to be highly poisonous and lethally habit-forming. But since most dope smokers are habituated to tobacco, and other smoking devices are not easily available, they are constantly exposing themselves to these dangers.

Because most people mix tobacco with their cannabis, and suffer many of the health problems associated with cigarette-smoking, evidence that smoking dope may cause throat cancer has for many years been overlooked. However, Ephidrina argues that because hardly anyone smokes dope at the same rate as most people smoke tobacco, the risk to the average pot-smoker is probably quite low. But if you're really worried, it can be reduced by using a water pipe, and eliminated completely by eating.

The clearest danger cannabis presents is psychological. Almost everyone has experienced pot-related paranoia at one time or another, and some people deal with it, and some don't. If you're a natural neurotic, or even just a little insecure, chances are you'll cope with it badly. For an unlucky few, it can lead to real mental health problems.

Miracle Medicine?

There are 60 chemical compounds present in cannabis resin. As with most medicinal herbs, the effect on the user is a result of the action of these chemicals in combination, and not necessarily attributable to any one individually. The main active ingredients are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and both of these compounds have been shown to have therapeutic potential. They seem to account for most of the plant's medicinal properties, but we still know very little about how all the different compounds work together.

In spite of this, cannabis has been used as a medicine all over the globe for over four thousand years. So, even though modern science has yet to uncover its mysteries, we know a great deal about what it can do for us therapeutically. Although it doesn't cure anything, cannabis resin in its natural form is very useful for relieving a wide variety of symptoms.

It's best known to smokers as a wonderfully soothing and effective painkiller. As such, it's much more powerful than many modern remedies because of its powerful anti-inflammatory action and its abilty to attenuate muscle spasms. It can also relieve nausea and stimulate the appetite. These properties make it very useful for treating the chronically ill, in particular people with cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis. It's very effective in treating respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema, because it clears the air passages and helps the transfer of oxygen in the lungs. Regular cannabis use is known to stop the advancement of glaucoma, and it is estimated that it could help up to sixty percent of people with epilepsy.

Although THC is generally considered to be the more potent medicine, CBD is a useful agent in its own right. Not only that, it interacts with THC to block the latter's sometimes disturbing psychological effects. For this reason, patients often find natural cannabis resin more effective than synthetic THC alone. In India, where the plant's medicinal qualities have been widely exploited, cannabis strains have the highest ratio of CBD to THC to be found in nature.

In the Netherlands, it's possible to get cannabis on prescription. But in most other countries, governments are reluctant to legalize medical use because they claim it's untested and potentially dangerous. Again, Ephidrina says this is a pile of crap. We've been using this stuff to help us cope with illness for thousands of years. and we know how to use it safely. There is the potential problem that a natural herb is basically a non-standard product, and different weeds contain the active ingredients in different quantities. But modern growing techniques mean that therapists and their patients can, with the proper guidance, adopt a "suck it and see" approach, trying out different plants and preparations, and finding which one works best for them.

In Britain, the government is under increasing pressure from groups such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society to legalize medical marijuana, which, they say, is by far the most effective method of pain relief available to them. These people are not criminals. They don't even particularly want to get high. They're just very, very ill, and wanting access to a safe, discrete, benign herb which helps relieve their symptoms. Government officials should stop dragging their feet, forget about the interests of the pharmaceutical corporations, and do the decent thing. Whatever they think about the morality of recreational drug use, they should at least do that much.

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