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IACM-Bulletin of September 30, 2001


Science — Cannabis and THC improve bladder function in MS and spinal cord injury

Preliminary results of clinical research conducted in the UK and in Switzerland show that cannabis and THC are able to reduce hyperactivity of the bladder in patients with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury.

The Swiss study conducted at the REHAB in Basel under the guidance of Dr. Ulrike Hagenbach includes 15 patients with spastic spinal cord injury who received oral or rectal THC. Compared to placebo there was an improvement of some parameters of bladder activity, e.g. maximum capacity of the bladder (MCC, maximum cystometric capacity).

The British study conducted at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London under the guidance of Dr. Ciaran Brady and professor Clare Fowler includes patients with advanced multiple sclerosis and problems with bladder function who received a cannabis spray under the tongue. Early results of 10 evaluable patients have been presented to the Association of British Neurologists. Maximum capacity of the bladder increased and frequency of need to empty the bladder during day and night decreased.

Details of the research results will be presented at the upcoming conference of the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine on 26-27 October in Berlin (

(Sources: Press release of the British Medicinal Cannabis Research Foundation of 26 September 2001, abstracts of Ciaran Brady and Ulrike Hagenbach for the IACM Berlin conference)

News in brief

USA — Nevada

A program on the medical use of cannabis starts on 1 October. Qualified patients may grow up to seven cannabis plants and are registered in a confidential patient registry. Nevada is the ninth state of the USA to establish a medical marijuana program. Nevadans voted in 1998 and 2000 in favour of the medical use of marijuana. (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal of 31 August 2001)

Science — Multiple sclerosis

Researchers found changes in cannabinoid receptor binding in certain brain regions (striatum, cortex) of rats with experimental allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE). The EAE is an animal model of multiple sclerosis. These changes might be related to the alleviation of some motor signs observed after the treatment with cannabinoids in multiple sclerosis. (Source: Berrendero F, et al. Synapse 2001 Sep 1;41(3):195-202)

Science — Cancer

Palmitylethanolamide (PEA) enhances the anti-cancer effect of the endocannabinoid anandamide in human breast cancer cells, in part by inhibiting the expression of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). The FAAH is responsible for the degradation of anandamide. PEA also enhanced the anti-cancer effect of the cannabinoid receptor agonist HU-210. (Source: Di Marzo V, et al. Biochem J 2001 Aug 15;358(Pt 1):249-55)

UK — Activist arrested

A legalise cannabis activist had to appear before the court on 25 September. Colin Davies was arrested on 15 September after he attempted to open Britain's first cannabis cafe. The aim of the shop was to sell cannabis to recreational users at a higher price so people who used it for medical purposes could get it cheaper. He has to appear again before the court on 27 November. (Source: PA News of 15 and 25 September 2001).

UK — Drug market

The UK market for cannabis was about 1.58 billion pounds (about 2.33 billion US dollars) in 1998 according to research conducted for the government. The total street value of all illegal drugs in 1998 was estimated to be 6.61 billion pounds (about 9.75 billion US dollars) (Source: PA News of 21 September 2001).

Science — Withdrawal

There seems to be a reciprocal relationship between the cannabinoid and opioid system in dependence. THC was able to block some of the withdrawal symptoms in morphine dependent mice, and morphine was able to reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms in THC dependent mice. The mu-opioid receptor seems to be involved in THC dependence. (Source: Lichtman AH, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2001 Sep;298(3):1007-14)

USA — California

The city of San Diego is considering a plan to issue identity cards for approved users of medical marijuana. Until now San Francisco is the only large California city that issues medical such identity cards. (Source: Associated Press of 25 September 2001)