Venom from a snake’s fangs is so specialized to human and animal systems that it causes severe pain, blood clotting or thinning and even paralysis. The small chains of amino acids that make up the snake’s tonic all have a specific target within the victim that causes a reaction, allowing the snake to escape, or eat their prey.
The irony in all of this is potent poisons from snakes, scorpions and even plants have been used to save lives.
It’s the specificity of each compound within the poison that makes them so useful to science, and limiting the doses allows researchers and clinicians to ensure the desired effect happens fast.
However, these highly specific medications are not limited to poisons — there are still many useful, naturally occurring compounds that can be found in other plants and bacteria, such as Marijuana.
According to an article in The Scientist, marijuana contains cannabinoids that bind to receptors in the human body’s nervous, endocrine, gastrointestinal, immune and cardiovascular systems. Essentially, the cannabinoids that are found in marijuana can be used to control almost the entire human body.
Marijuana is a difficult plant to study because the American government classifies the plant as a “schedule one drug” that has the potential to be abused and has no accepted medical use.
Because of current legislation researchers have taken extra steps to grow and purify compounds found in cannabis for medical and scientific use. Funding is available for marijuana research, however it is harder to get. Approval times can take up to a year to process before the researcher can even begin working to prove or disprove a hypothesis.
Dr. Louis J. Papa is a primary care physician interviewed on the popular medical television show Second Opinion. Papa believes that if there is a treatment, or at least something to take the edge off painful conditions such as MS, it should be used — even if it isn’t yet legal.
“… It’s difficult to study it. You have to have a specific situation to study it being a schedule one drug, it says there’s no benefit to it—which is crazy, I mean, we’re allowed to use radiation and arsenic, but there’s no benefit to marijuana,” he said.
Creating novel drugs already takeS longer than 15 years from discovering a potential treatment to clinical trials and eventually prescription medication.
At the same time, researchers in Britain have created medications using purified marijuana that are accessible to the public. One drug, called Sativex is an oral spray used to treat the effects of MS spasticity was first made accessible to the public in 2010, and is now available in 24 countries according to The Scientist.
It took Britain 25 years to make the clinical gains that they did, and America is not all that far behind. Both Canada and America have marijuana research centers, and funding is available (albeit limited) to scientists pursuing this new area of study.
At this point, the studies vary in their ability to come up with any concrete answers, with hardly any two studies coming up with common findings. But that shouldn’t be discouraging. Not all studies carry the same weight, but the more people begin to explore the affects and the uses of marijuana and its compounds, the more we see it being discussed.
The research will never move as fast as we want it to, but that’s a sign of strong research for a healthy community.