The best-known potential medical uses of marijuana include pain relief for multiple sclerosis sufferers, as treatment for glaucoma, an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients and an anti-nausea agent for people on chemotherapy. In fact more than 190 conditions and illnesses have at some time shown potential for being treated with marihuana have been identified. We will be highlighting some of these uses in coming months, and various medical users will comment in our blogs.
Recent studies from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the University at Albany, State University of New York show vaporizing offers safe and effective delivery of cannabinoids.
The UCSF study, conducted by Dr. Donald Abrams and colleagues and published by the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics in May 2007 compared use of Storz & Bickel’s Volcano vaporizer (in which vapor is collected in a detachable plastic bag with a mouthpiece for inhalation) to smoking in 18 volunteers.
The subjects inhaled three different strengths of marijuana either as smoked cigarettes or vaporized using the Volcano vaporizer. The researchers then measured the volunteers’ plasma THC levels and the amount of expired carbon monoxide, which is considered a reliable marker for the unwanted combustion products contained in smoke.
The two methods produced similar THC levels, with vaporization producing somewhat higher levels, and were judged equally efficient for administration of cannabinoids.
The big difference was in expired carbon monoxide, with a sharp increase in carbon monoxide levels after smoking, while “little if any” increase was detected after vaporization. “This indicates little or no exposure to gaseous combustion toxins,” the researchers wrote. “Vaporization of marijuana does not result in exposure to combustion gases, and therefore is expected to be much safer than smoking marijuana cigarettes.”
The study at the University at Albany involved an Internet survey of nearly 7,000 marijuana users. Participants were asked to identify their primary method of using marijuana (joints, pipe, vaporizer, eating, etc.) and were asked six questions about respiratory symptoms. After adjusting for variables such as age and cigarette use, vaporizer users were 60% less likely than smokers to report respiratory symptoms such as cough, chest tightness or phlegm.