Fox News: Are You Cannabis Deficient?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 23, 2010

    For several years I have postulated that marijuana is not, in the strict sense of the word, an intoxicant.

    As I wrote in the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, 2009), the word ‘intoxicant’ is derived from the Latin noun toxicum (poison). It’s an appropriate term for alcohol, as ethanol (the psychoactive ingredient in booze) in moderate to high doses is toxic (read: poisonous) to healthy cells and organs.

    Of course, booze is hardly the only commonly ingested intoxicant. Take the over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol). According to the Merck online medical library, acetaminophen poisoning and overdose is “common,” and can result in gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract) “within hours” and hepatotoxicity (liver damage) “within one to three days after ingestion.” In fact, less than one year ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for tougher standards and warnings governing the drug’s use because “recent studies indicate that unintentional and intentional overdoses leading to severe hepatotoxicity continue to occur.”

    By contrast, the therapeutically active components in marijuana — the cannabinoids — appear to be remarkably non-toxic to healthy cells and organs. Further, they mimic compounds our bodies naturally produce — so-called endocannabinoids — that are pivotal for maintaining proper health and homeostasis.

    In fact, in recent years scientists have discovered that the production of endocannabinoids (and their interaction with the cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body) play a key role in the regulation of proper appetite, anxiety control, blood pressure, bone mass, reproduction, and motor coordination, among other biological functions.

    Just how important is this system in maintaining our health? Here’s a clue: In studies of mice genetically bred to lack a proper endocannabinoid system the most common result is premature death.

    Armed with these findings, a handful of scientists have speculated that the root cause of certain disease conditions — including migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other functional conditions alleviated by clinical cannabis — may be an underlying endocannabinoid deficiency.

    Now, much to my pleasant surprise, Fox News Health columnist Chris Kilham has weighed in on this important theory.

    Are You Cannabis Deficient?
    via Fox News

    If the idea of having a marijuana deficiency sounds laughable to you, a growing body of science points at exactly such a possibility.

    … [Endocannabinoids] also play a role in proper appetite, feelings of pleasure and well-being, and memory. Interestingly, cannabis also affects these same functions. Cannabis has been used successfully to treat migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and glaucoma. So here is the seventy-four thousand dollar question. Does cannabis simply relieve these diseases to varying degrees, or is cannabis actually a medical replacement in cases of deficient [endocannabinoids]?

    The idea of clinical cannabinoid deficiency opens the door to cannabis consumption as an effective medical approach to relief of various types of pain, restoration of appetite in cases in which appetite is compromised, improved visual health in cases of glaucoma, and improved sense of well being among patients suffering from a broad variety of mood disorders. As state and local laws mutate and change in favor of greater tolerance, perhaps cannabis will find it’s proper place in the home medicine chest.

    Perhaps. Or maybe at the very least society will stop misclassifying cannabis as a ‘toxic’ substance when its more appropriate role would appear to be that of a supplement.

    109 responses to “Fox News: Are You Cannabis Deficient?”

    1. Helen says:

      Are you kidding? Seriously? OMG you people are truly too high to realize how ridiculous you are!!! Now you’re claiming marijuana is a health supplement??? I hope people don’t buy the snake oil you are selling.

      [Paul Armentano responds: Helen, did you even read the commentary, the study by Ethan Russo, or the Fox News link? Apparently not.

      ‘Supplement’ — defined as ‘something that compensates for a deficiency or constitutes an addition’

      According to the theory postulated in the above links and most recently reported by Fox News, the definition would seem appropriate. Certainly more so than classifying cannabis and all of its constituents as Schedule I controlled substances lacking any medical efficacy, as they are presently classified today.]

    2. Roger Roberts says:

      This is very accurate. Marijuana helps me control my depression better than Celexa (which I still take daily), but the pot is actually restoring my sense of well being . I also have herniated discs, and have found relief from the pain by smoking pot.

      I have been waiting since 1966 for our marijuana laws to change!

    3. Ben says:

      Look, I’m as pro-pot and anti-drugwar as anyone. But claiming it’s not an intoxicant is a very bad idea as far as public perception goes. Arguing the latin root of the word is semantic at best. At worst, it makes you sound ridiculous.

      From the dictionary:
      Intoxicate: To stupefy or excite by the action of a chemical substance such as alcohol.

      I think that marijuana intoxicates, just as do any of the other myriad legal drugs in the US. Intoxicant does NOT imply toxicity, despite the common roots of the two words.

      [Paul Armentano responds: Nobody is trying to imply that THC doesn’t temporarily alter mood; though it is worth noting that a myriad of cannabinoids that have been shown to possess therapeutic properties — such as CBD, CBN, etc. — are not euphoric. That said, the focus of the commentary is on toxicity issues. Your modern day definition of the word intoxicant is correct, as is my premise that the root origin of the word comes from poison.


      Nevertheless, for clarity I’ve edited the final sentence to try and better draw this distinction.]

    4. Glenn says:

      I really appreciate this information. Thank you for the word study that has set me straight on mj not being an “intoxicant.” Also thanks for the information on how the body uses endocannabinoids. Great work, great article.

    5. Logan Fettinger says:

      I have IBS and cannibis is the only medicine that works for me. Being in Indiana i will probally never see medical cannibis

    6. Joel F says:

      I saw this article not too long ago.
      It just goes to prove what we’ve been saying all this time. Hopefully a lot of people will pick up on this. This is a good excuse to raise public awareness on the issue

    7. Freedom says:

      What would people think if it is found that cannabis promote a healthier you and extend life , then , what would people think of our leaders and government , you know , the ones that have demonized cannabis and any one using it. That they have done this for greed, power , money , control , ignorance. Boy I bet that doesnt sit well with our leaders.

    8. Manford Mantis says:

      Cannabis is a mild anesthetic. Perhaps we’ve all had a case of the Mojaves…much like anyone gets after an operation.

    9. Rick says:

      Happy 4:20, people.

    10. Rick says:

      Darn time difference