Intended for healthcare professionals


Cannabis as medicine: time for the phoenix to rise?

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 04 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1034

The evidence suggests so

  1. Philip Robson, Senior clinical lecturer
  1. Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX

    Since 1971 British doctors have been barred from prescribing cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Many otherwise law abiding people have subsequently thought it worthwhile to expose themselves to the risk, inconvenience, and expense of obtaining illegally a drug they believe can ease symptoms inadequately controlled by conventional medicines. Patients have told me how effective cannabis can be in relieving aches and pains, numbing the symptoms of opiate withdrawal, improving sleep, reducing anxiety, and alleviating the vomiting, anorexia, and depression associated with AIDS related disorders. Anecdotes such as these are all very well, but is there any scientific evidence that cannabis has real therapeutic value?

    The BMA has addressed this question with an excellent report, which begins by reviewing the pharmacology.1 Only a few of the 60 or so chemicals unique to Cannabis sativa (cannabinoids) have so far been studied, the best known of which is the main psychoactive ingredient, δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Specific cannabinoid receptors in the brain and in spleen macrophages, and naturally …

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