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Cannabinoids in New York

The endocannabinoid system within the human body is a naturally forming system that regulates a wide variety of physiological processes, such as mood, memory, and appetite. When a deficiency or other defect occurs, it leads to disease, and subsequent symptoms wreak havoc on the body. Because of this, scientists view cannabinoids and cannabis’ chemical compounds as a viable means to relieve ailments.

When cannabis is taken, the cannabinoids immediately bind to the endocannabinoid receptors most commonly found in the brain and immune system. The effects on the human body differ based on the specific receptors to which they bind. CBN, or cannabinol, for instance, fastens specifically to CB-2 receptors. Because of their connection with the body, patients experience pain relief, pushing research toward creating tailored treatments to suit the individual needs of each patient.

Within the essential oils of plants and flowers lie terpenes and terpenoids. These are what give the varying strains of cannabis their distinct aromas, properties, and flavors. Unfortunately, the terpenes are often lost during the extraction process of cannabis oils.

While scientists estimate there to be over 80 cannabinoids and dozens of terpenes with unique effects, restrictions on research keep knowledge limited. This means that we can only list information gathered from available research and patient experiences. To advance our body of knowledge, we urge all patients to share with us their experiences.

What Are Cannabinoids and How Might They Be Useful Medically?

Cannabinoids are classified chemically as aromatic terpenoids. They are thought to provide some form of protection against herbivores and/or ultraviolet light for the cannabis plant. The most widely known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Cannabis plants also produce at least 100 other known types of cannabinoids, and scientists have synthesized additional synthetic cannabinoids in the laboratory.

Cannabinoids affect people because people naturally produce cannabinoid-like substances in their brains, called endocannabinoids. They play a natural role in regulating pain, pleasure, sensory perception, appetite, and other important neurological functions. Consuming cannabinoids affects these natural pathways. The exact effect depends on which cannabinoid or cocktail of cannabinoids is consumed.

Currently, THC and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two compounds being researched most intensively. THC is known to have psychoactive activity, and it also stimulates appetite and reduces nausea. It may decrease pain and inflammation. CBD has no psychoactive properties. It seems to be quite effective in relieving pain and inflammation and in controlling seizures. It may have other medical properties as well and is under intense investigation. Scientists are actively studying the use of cannabinoids to treat a variety of medical conditions, including cancer, autoimmune diseases, neuropathic pain, seizures, addiction, and psychiatric disorders.

Medical Applications

The cannabis plant has a long history of use for treating medical conditions. The plant is known to contain a number of natural chemicals (cannabinoids) that are thought to be useful for treating various illnesses and symptoms. In fact, two medications that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were originally derived from the marijuana plant. The term “medical cannabis” is used to refer to the use of the whole plant or crude extracts of the plant as medicine. A growing number of states (20 as of March 2014) have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Both pharmaceutical companies and marijuana growers are actively pursuing new products and new strains of plants that can utilize the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids while eliminating or minimizing harmful side effects of consuming traditional preparations of the cannabis plant.

What Medications Contain Cannabinoids?

As mentioned above, two cannabinoid drugs have been approved by the FDA so far. Dronabionol (Marinol) is a commercial preparation of THC. It has been approved to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and to treat extreme weight loss due to AIDS. The other FDA-approved drug is Nabilone (Cesamet), which contains a synthetic version of THC and has been approved for the same indications as Dronabionol.

Sativex, a drug that contains THC and CBD, has been approved for use in Europe and the UK to treat spasticity related to multiple sclerosis. It is currently being studied as a treatment for pain due to cancer.

A drug called Epidiolex, which contains mostly CBD, is in clinical trials to see if it can become FDA approved to treat certain kinds of childhood epilepsy. Many children with these types of epilepsy are already being treated with medical cannabis preparations derived from high-CBD types of cannabis plants. The availability of an FDA-approved drug with the same properties will improve the consistency of the treatment from batch to batch and will allow children living in states without access to legal medical cannabis to receive treatment.

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