As cannabis use becomes legal in more and more states in the US, both for recreational and medical purposes, it is becoming necessary for more research into the drug. Currently in the US, 20% of the population have access to legal recreational marijuana use and 60% have access to legal medical marijuana. Unfortunately, even with such widespread access to cannabis, research if the drug has been limited due to the DEA classifying it as a Schedule I drug in the 1970s. (Image courtesy of CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)Read More
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Did you know you can be considered a "pot-head" without ever touching, let alone smoking, marijuana? When early neuroscientists went looking for the mental hardware that allowed the body to respond to the active ingredient in the cannabis sativa plant (called THC), they found much more than they were bargaining for. They did in fact identify a perfectly-shaped receptor in the brain. Puzzled at why it would exist (surely the human body was not designed with cannabis-intake in mind?), they went on to discover that the body itself makes a cannabis-like substance, called an endocannabinoid, and that it is part of a complex system regulating appetite, pain, pleasure, and immunity. So, technically, your brain is already wired for pot, and your body produces it all by itself.
Debates over the legitimacy of medical marijuana as a pain medication or appetite enhancer have tended to point to a lack of scientific studies proving the key substance is safe and effective. Patients and doctors have not always waited for that hard evidence, instead working from an empirical position that saw positive results from the ingestion of cannabinoids, the active ingredients, that lead them to make their own treatment decisions. But serious bioscience research, especially in the fields of pharmacology, infectious disease, and neuroscience, is showing surprising results in laboratory studies on cannabinoids, and those findings go far beyond the pain and appetite benefits to actually short-circuiting disease in late-stage AIDS patients.