Why is Cannabis Not Already on the Shelves for Treating Arthritis?

Few members of the medical community that have done their research will be able to deny pot’s ability to treat, and even prevent the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, the issue on the table is how to administer it. The medical establishment continuously delays the acceptance of cannabinoid drugs, without batting an eye when powerfully addictive opiates reach the market time and time again.

The anti-inflammatory effect of cannabis could have groundbreaking consequences in the world of drugs, but some researchers are currently beating around the bush to create medicines that take advantage of this without getting patients high. We don’t recall drug makers being concerned about the overwhelmingly addictive and psychoactive effects of opiate painkillers, so why the concern with getting a little stoned?

Cannabis has a long history of use for treating pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that causes painful inflammation of the joints. THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, targets the inflammation at its source by partially reducing the main driver in the body’s inflammatory response, tumor necrosis factor (TNF). One of the best-selling products of all time is a drug that also inhibits TNF, but at a much more powerful level.

Sativex, a whole-plant extract cannabis medicine designed and manufactured in England, “showed positive results in Phase II placebo-controlled trial in treating pain due to rheumatoid arthritis,” and though the side-effects were reported as minimal, that’s not quite good enough for policy-makers in the US. Some researchers in the United States are figuring ways to target cannabinoid receptors in the body (which mediate most of pot’s effects on the body and mind) in a way that does not get anyone high. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money are going into developing medicines that avoid marijuana’s “addictive” and “psychologically damaging” side effects; never mind opiate painkillers that not only cause powerful physical dependence, but also act as a gateway to intravenous heroin use.

The latest research suggests using a drug, called a fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) inhibitor, which causes the body to accumulate anandamide, the neurotransmitter the body uses to target its cannabinoid receptors. Since anandamide does not get you high, an FAAH inhibitor might, in theory, be the answer to the question of how to take advantage of the medicinal effects of cannabis without getting anyone stoned, but the evidence still isn’t quite there. Research done on rats using FAAH inhibitors shows that they may not work as well as THC (or other cannabinoid drugs) in reducing pain, and they might have unknown negative effects on the human body.

It’s time for medical researchers and policy-makers to get over the effects of cannabis and accept the plant’s medicinal properties for what they are, instead of trying to toy with the nation’s cannabinoid systems in a way nature did not intend us to.

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