Phone: 480-699-7400
Follow Us

Cannabis and Methadone

For thousands of years hemp, a source of cannabis, was a common element in the lives of people around the world. New World colonists and traders were able to cross the Atlantic Ocean, for example, because the hemp ropes and the sails of their ships resisted salt damage. The Jamestown settlers brought the hemp plant with them in 1611.

The healing properties of cannabis are nothing new. It was used medicinally by the Chinese, ancient Greeks and Romans, Egyptians, the Spanish – most of the world.[1] In America, cannabis appears to have been the primary non-alcoholic pain reliever used until aspirin took its place in 1897.[2]

But fast forward to the 20th century and hemp got caught up in the “war on drugs.” Cannabis became illegal to possess, thanks to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, despite the objections of the American Medical Association. It was subsequently given a Schedule 1 classification, meaning it was grouped with LSD, heroin, ecstasy and other drugs that “have a high potential for misuse” and “ have no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.”

Yet professionals and laypeople knew it was helpful. Cannabis gained renewed interest in the medical arena about the 1970s, especially because of testimonials from cancer and AIDS patients who reported significant relief.

In September 1988, after two years of extensive public hearings, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young ruled in favor of moving cannabis to a Schedule II classification. He said:

“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.

“The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safely under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for [the] DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”

Young’s ruling was rejected by the DEA Administrator for political reasons.

Yet voters in many states began taking matters into their own hands. By 2016 a majority of states had legalized medical cannabis; Arizona legalized it in 2010. Then with the passage of the Farm Bill in December 2018, growing hemp became legal again. Section 12619 of the Farm Bill  removed hemp-derived products containing no more than 0.3 percent THC from Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act. The 2018 Farm Bill called for states to devise policies to license and regulate hemp growing.

Interesting factoids about hemp:[3],[4]

  • The word ‘canvas’ is Dutch for cannabis. For thousands of years, ships’ sails and rope were made from hemp.
  • Rembrandt’s, Van Gogh’s, Gainsborough’s, as well as most early canvas paintings, were principally painted on hemp linen.
  • Thomas Jefferson urged farmers to replace tobacco with hemp, calling hemp a necessity.
  • The first Bibles, maps, charts, Betsy Ross flags, and the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were made from hemp.
  • Hemp is one of the fastest growing biomasses known to man, requiring little in the way of pesticides and no herbicides. The dense shock of leaves, 8 to 12 feet above the ground, chokes out weeds. The long roots penetrate and break the soil to leave it in perfect condition for the next year’s crop. It is a very environmentally friendly crop.
  • In 1916, the U.S. Government predicted that by the 1940s all paper would come from hemp and that no more trees would need to be cut down. Government studies reported that 1 acre of hemp equaled 4.1 acres of trees.
  • The hemp paper-making process requires no dioxin-producing chlorine bleach and uses 75% to 85% less sulphur-based acid. Hemp paper is also highly suitable for recycling and can be recycled up to 7 or 8 times, compared with 3 times for wood pulp paper.
  • The term “marijuana” was a slang term used in Mexico decades ago where “weed” was cheaper than alcohol. Cannabis and hemp were essentially renamed marijuana during the U.S. “war on drugs.”

 

In a perfect world, people would use the term “marijuana” when speaking of the recreational variety (pot), and “cannabis” when speaking of the medical variety, but the term “marijuana” is often applied to both.

What is the medicinal difference between cannabis, hemp, and marijuana? To put it simply:

Cannabis is a term that encompasses both hemp and marijuana. According to U.S. law, hemp is the tall stalks, the stems, and sterilized seeds of the plant cannabis sativa which has a THC content of 0.3 or less. Marijuana is the leaves, flowers, and viable seeds of the plant cannabis sativa which has a THC content between 15% and 40%.

More than 80 cannabinoids have been identified in the cannabis plant, but the primary two are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is responsible for the euphoric high among recreational users, and CBD (cannabidiol) which is also sought after for its medical benefits. Over time, marijuana plants have been bred to have higher THC levels. Hemp grown for medicinal purposes is high in CBD, with only trace amounts of THC.

CBD and THC act on different pathways of the body; CBD is non-psychoactive because it does not act on the same receptors as THC. Studies suggest that CBD and THC work together synergistically in producing medical benefits. Both CBD and THC have been found to have no risk of lethal overdose.

Cannabinoids

There are three types of cannabinoids known to scientists today: endocannabinoids (found within the human body), phytocannabinoids (found in the cannabis plant), and synthetic cannabinoids (created in a lab).

The body’s endocannabinoid system regulates homeostasis, a word that describes our general state of well-being achieved when all systems are pretty much in balance. The endocannabinoid system impacts sleep, appetite, hormone regulation, mood, and pain and immune system responses. Cannabinoids act as modulators constantly working to fine-tune these systems. Hence the expression that “we are wired for cannabis.”

We have receptors for it all throughout our body.  All mammals have an endocannabinoid system made up of millions of cannabinoid receptor sites. THC acts mostly on the CB1 receptors located primarily throughout the brain and central nervous system. CBD acts mostly on the CB2 receptors located primarily in the gut/immune system.

It used to be that we ingested cannabinoids on a regular basis. Hemp plants grew, animals ate them, and we in turn ate the animals. But when hemp was banned, cannabinoids were no longer available to us through the diet.

Supplementing an impaired body system with plant cannabinoids often corrects dysfunction, and we see improvement in the associated conditions. This is why cannabis has been found to be very helpful in so many medical conditions. As researcher Dr. Richard Melamede of the University of Colorado likes to say, “Free radicals are the friction of life. Endocannabinoids are the oil of life.”

Cancer

The state of California was the first to legalize medical cannabis (in 1996) for the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”[5]

The state of Arizona legalized its use for Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), cachexia or wasting syndrome, cancer, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seizures, severe and chronic pain, severe or persistent muscle spasms (including Multiple Sclerosis), and severe nausea.

Dr. Mark Sircus  summarizes the benefits to cancer patients:[6]

Relief from the side effects of cancer chemotherapy is a widely accepted medical use of marijuana in the United States. The American Cancer Society is one of dozens of national and international health organizations that have voiced support for further research on the medical use of cannabis in cancer chemotherapy treatments.

Over 20 major studies have shown that cannabinoids actually fight cancer cells. In fact, it’s been shown that cannabinoids arrest cancer growth of many different forms of cancer, including brain, melanoma, and breast cancer.

There’s even growing evidence that cannabinoids cause direct anti-tumor activity.

For example, a Harvard Study published in 2007[7], found that the active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread. THC, they reported, inhibits EGF-induced growth and migration in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expressing non-small cell lung cancer cell lines. Lung cancers that over-express EGFR are usually highly aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy.[8]

Several studies[9] found that CBD inhibits the invasion and metastasis by aggressive cancer cells. CBD turned off the expression of an important pro-metastatic gene, Id1, in breast and brain cancer cells in culture and in animal models.

We are also seeing that cannabis is a good alternative to addictive opioids for pain management. Peer-reviewed studies in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine[10],[11] found significant drops in opioid prescribing in U.S. states that had relaxed their cannabis laws.

It is doubtful in the foreseeable future that cannabis will get to the human trial stages, even if Federal laws legalized it tomorrow. It is unethical for a doctor to ask a patient to refuse what the pharmaceutical industry deems “proven” drug treatments in lieu of “unproven” plant extracts.

Medical cannabis is used primarily as an adjunct to other cancer therapies.

METHADONE

Although the doctors at Dayspring can write prescriptions for morphine and Vicodin to control significant pain, we prefer methadone. Methadone changes the way your brain and nervous system respond to pain so that you feel relief.

It has a remarkable degree of low side effects. News headlines would suggest methadone is only used to treat opioid addiction; however, methadone has been rising in popularity for its use in pain management because of its safety and effectiveness.

As an added bonus, methadone also appears to slow the growth of cancer tumors.[12] Methadone acts via the µ-kappa-endorphin receptors and they are tumorstatic receptors.

Claudia Friesen, a chemist at Ulm University, made groundbreaking discoveries about methadone’s effects on cancer cells.  Among Friesen’s published findings:[13]

  • The binding of methadone to opioid receptors on cancer cells induces apoptosis, i.e., programmed cell death.
  • The binding of methadone to an opioid receptor leads to the activation of inhibitory G-proteins. These inhibit the enzyme adenylate cyclase, which in turn leads to the downregulation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). This improves the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs in treating cancer.
  • When methadone binds to opioid receptors, cancer cells not only take up greater amounts of the anti-cancer drug than without methadone, the amount of the drug that moves out of the cell is reduced.
  • The anti-cancer drug used leads to an increase in the number of opioid receptors that are expressed on the cancer cell surface, with the result that more methadone can bind. Thus, methadone and the anti-cancer drug mutually increase their cytotoxic potential.

 

To read more about her research, click here.

A final thought from Dr. Dickens:  God put everything here for a time, in a place, and in varying amounts. We should show wisdom and self-control in the application of everything.

 


[1] Touw M. The Religious and Medicinal Uses of Cannabis in China, India, Tibet. J of Psychoactive Drugs. Vol. 13(1) Jan-Mar, 198

[2] “History of Cannabis.” BBC News. 2 November 2001.

[3] https://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/06/21/brief-history-cannabis-hemp-prohibition   Accessed November 2018

[4] https://www.wakingtimes.com/2012/06/05/its-hemp-history-week/  Accessed November 2018

[5] https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/sourcefiles/california-proposition-215.pdf  Accessed December 2018.

[6] Sircus M. Medical Marijuana. IMVA Publications, 2014

[7] Preet A, Ramesh Ganju R, Groopman J. Δ-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol inhibits growth and metastasis of lung cancer. Cancer Research: Experimental and Molecular Therapeutics. May 2007, Volume 67, Issue 9 Supplement

[8] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070417193338.htm  Accessed December 2018.

[9] McAlister S, Soroceanu L, Desprez PY. The antitumor activity of plant-derived non-psychoactive cannabinoids. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2015 Jun; 10(2): 255–267.

[10] Bradford AC, David Bradford DW et al. Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(5):667-672.

[11] Bachhuber MA, Saloner B et al. Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010. JAMA Intern Med. Oct 2014;174(10):1668-1673.

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=low+dose+naltrexone+cancer  Accessed December 2018.

[13] Methadone-the Last Step to Becoming An Anti-cancer Drug

Top