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Cannabis

Synonym: marijuana, weed, ganja, dope
German: Cannabis

1 Definition

Cannabis is a drug, which can be consumed in the form of food, drink or smoke and is part of the so-called 'soft drugs'. The word 'hashish' is derived from the Arab word for 'grass'. Cannabis falls into the Narcotics Law and as of 29th January 2004, cannabis has been reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug in the UK.

2 Ingredient

The actually active ingredient of the Cannabis-plant is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The THC-content of different parts of the plant (leaves, seeds, blossoms) or preparations of Cannabis (resins) can vary a lot.

3 Pharmacology

Cannabis and other Cannabinoids unfold their psychic effect via specific Cannabis-receptors in the CNS, which are part of the endogenous cannabinoid system.

4 Therapeutical possibilities

The usage of Cannabis in clinical practice is a matter of controversial debate. The physical and psychological potential of addiction is comparatively low. This makes this drug a remedy with a relatively low treatment risk. In the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and some states of the US Cannabis can be prescribed for particular indications and ordered in pharmacies with a prescription. Cannabis dilates the bronchi, is sedating and therefore can be used e. g. on asthmatics in form of oily-watery drops. But precisely this property is also the reason for the highly carcinogenic risk when smoking it. One gram of hashish contains about 50 times more tar than a gram of tobacco and by dilatation of the bronchi every tar particle is transported into the most remote parts of the lungs. It is therefore essential to dissuade patients from smoking this drug. By relaxing muscles it is also possible for instance to diminish cramps in patients with multiple sclerosis and soothe the pain resulting from these. A further indication in the area of Neurology is Tourette-Syndrome. The enormous increase in appetite by Cannabis leads with wasted patients with e. g. AIDS or cancer to weight gain and through this eventually to elongation of life exspectancy. And finally through relaxation and elongation of pain killer effects on opiate receptors the quantity and frequency of painkillers can be reduced.

5 Adverse effects

Adverse effects of Cannabis appear when taking an overdose and with long-term intake. A typical symptom of overdose are delusions with bouts of paranoia. Permanent abuse can incur an amotivational syndrome with listlessness and personality alterations. In addition to this there are descriptions of many cases of severe lung emphysema after longterm inhalation of smoke of Cannabis. A further serious problem of uncontrolled Cannabis consumption is the smoking of contaminated Cannabis which is being 'made heavier' by adding various cutting substances before selling it on the street by the drug dealer in order to maximise his benefits. As cutting substances one can find alongside with flour, sugar and sand increasingly lead. The smoking of this kind of contaminated Cannabis can lead not only to severe long term consequences but also to acute intoxication (e. g. lead poisoning). The debate on adverse effects of Cannabis is often ideologically biassed because there are only few randomised controlled studies which examine this aspect systematically.

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