All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for May 2003

How marijuana can help and sometimes hinder

May 3, 2003
May 23 2003
By Geoff Strong

Medical science has identified three main areas where marijuana may have use as a pharmaceutical drug: chronic pain relief, easing symptoms of multiple sclerosis and the eye disease glaucoma.

No one yet can remove the psycho-active reaction: patients still get stoned and can have a tendency to psychosis.

The effects are due to a large number of the brain's cannabinoid receptors. In discovering them, scientists have also discovered the body produces its own drugs similar in effect to cannabis. About three have been identified and dubbed "endo cannabinoids".

Monash University's Dr Dan Malone recently completed his PhD in the medical uses of cannabis. Now at the university's Department of Pharmacology, he said attempts had been made to develop drugs with the beneficial effects of cannabis but without the side-effects, but such drugs had proven less effective than cannabis.

Marijuana's main ingredient, Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, has been found to have therapeutic effects on nausea, vomiting and muscle spasm.

A study published in 2000 by the University of London found two other constituents in cannabis modulated the effect of THC. One, called cannabidiol, reduces the anxiety reaction that can be created by THC.

This study found a standardised extract of the pure herb was more beneficial in many treatments than the isolated components.

Dr Malone said one of the key side-effects proving difficult to deal with was psychosis, but he said the medical jury was still out on whether the drug causes schizophrenia or whether those "with a tendency to the disease are attracted to the drug".

As for glaucoma, Melbourne University's Dr Julien Rait says new drugs, in particular Lumigan, lower pressure on the eye more effectively without side-effects.

Copyright © 2003 The Age Company Ltd