How a Pain-relieving Flower Could Help Thousands
A renewed perspective on cannabis
Imagine having never heard the words “marijuana”, “pot”, or “cannabis” before. Imagine that some botanical explorer had just stumbled upon a new plant somewhere in Asia that the locals revered as a powerful medicine they had used for thousands of years, but it had never migrated anywhere else in the world. Now imagine if that newly discovered plant had all of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. What would the world’s reaction be today? Would we criminalize it and vilify those who used it, or would we openly study its benefits and prescribe it based on its medical merit?
“What are these medical benefits?”, you may ask. Well imagine that after our Indiana Jones of gardening heard about the powerful effects of this plant, and passed through a few booby traps and riddles to acquire it, he quickly brought it back to his laboratory for study. What would he find?
The plant, he would discover, would have remarkable pain-relieving effects on the human body when its flowers were either smoked or vapourized, eaten, or even when rubbed on the skin. He would discover that these effects are due to the essential oils of the plant.
After further research, he would see that each of these trichomes contain within them the essential oils of the plant, each one like a little bubble of oil on a stick. The stalk of these trichomes transports nutrients into the round head. Those nutrients are pushed up into the secretory cells at the base of the head, where chemicals like terpenes and carbolic acids combine and finally excrete cannabinoids and other oils into the trichome head.
The most prominent and potent of these cannabinoids is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), usually representing 10-30% of the flower’s dry weight. The second most prominent cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol), usually representing 0-2% of the flower’s dry weight.
He would soon discover that THC has a broad range of benefits, in addition to producing a euphoric “high,” he would discover that it can also slow down the pain-response in our brains, effectively reducing and preventing pain, as well as helping with nausea, appetite, mood, and sleep.
He would be astonished when first researching CBD, finding it to be of particular medical interest, offering potent anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and anti-spastic effects, among many others, all without producing any psychoactive or euphoric “high”. Because of these unique properties, the plant would be selectively cultivated to produce higher levels of cbd, ranging from 10-25% of the flower’s dry weight.
He would soon after discover that these cannabinoids affect our minds and bodies because of a system of chemical receptors in our bodies that he would name the endocannabinoid system (ES). This system would seem to control multiple functions throughout the body, including pain response, mood, memory, and appetite by producing its own chemicals that very closely resemble the cannabinoids in his newly discovered flower. He would realize that this system can be activated by these plant chemicals, and cause such powerful effects on the body, simply because they act like keys fitting into locks that our bodies have always had.
After making these remarkable discoveries, he would of course publish his findings, probably touting the flower as the beginning of a new era of chronic pain management. Had all of these discoveries somehow come about in our modern day, the implications this research would have on the current opioid epidemic would be newsworthy to say the least.
Stripped of the negative cultural baggage that cannabis has developed over the last century as an evil “gateway drug” that lowers ambition and ruins lives, and provided only with the scientific facts, would our approach to its medicinal use be different?
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, about 2,500 Canadians died of opioid-related overdoses in 2016. That amounts to about 7 deaths every day. Our medical community believed in drugs like Oxycontin, Morphine, Hydromorphone, and Percocet to name a few, but the intense addiction and severe death toll that these drugs have caused desperately needs to be addressed.
Cannabis has not caused a single overdose in all of human history. Despite that, cannabis has been classified in many Canadian medical communities as a “second-line treatment,” meaning it can only be prescribed when other drugs, including some of the opioids mentioned above, have not worked for a patient.
So when you come to your doctor with a serious back-pain, for instance, they are required to prescribe a demonstrably more dangerous drug than cannabis. This is not to say cannabis would work for everyone or would be as effective for some pain as these opioids are for some people. However, after counselling hundreds of people who have used cannabis to try and reduce or eliminate their opioid medications, and seeing the positive impact it has had for them, allowing them to manage their pain while still having an active lifestyle, the idea that cannabis is a second option does seem backwards.
So strip away the unreasonable fear over cannabis use that we all have become accustomed to. Adopt a renewed and objective perspective. Examine this powerful plant for the medicinal marvel that it is, and the idea that it could drastically change how our society treats chronic pain doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
Michael Murchison is a Cannabis Counsellor working out of Canadian Cannabis clinics throughout the GTA, offering free knowledge and guidance to hundreds of medical cannabis patients every day. Canvasrx.com, firstname.lastname@example.org