The therapeutic potential of cannabis
Research of the cannabinoid system has many similarities with that of the opioid system. In both instances, studies into drug-producing plants led to the discovery of an endogenous control system with a central role in neurobiology. Few compounds have had as much positive press from patients as those of the cannabinoid system. While these claims are investigated in disorders such as multiple sclerosis spasticity and pain, basic research is discovering interesting members of this family of compounds that have previously unknown qualities, the most notable of which is the capacity for neuroprotection. Large randomised clinical trials of the better known compounds are in progress. Even if the results of these studies are not as positive as many expect them to be, that we are only just beginning to appreciate the huge therapeutic potential of this family of compounds is clear.
This review of marijuana’s potential for such neurological conditions as pain and spasticity notes: “Cannabinoids inhibit pain in virtually every experimental pain paradigm.” It also explains how cannabinoids protect nerve cells from damage and describes the drawbacks of administering cannabinoid medicines orally (e.g. Marinol).
a DB, GP, GG, and AJT are at the Institute of Neurology, University College London, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG
Correspondence: Prof Alan J Thompson, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK. Tel +44 (0) 207 837 3611 ext 4152; fax +44 (0) 207 813 6505
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