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IACM-Bulletin of September 2, 2001


Science — Cannabis less effective against vomiting than serotonin antagonists

In an experimental study with 13 healthy volunteers smoked cannabis was effective in reducing nausea and vomiting, but the 5-HT3 (serotonin) antagonist ondansetron was significantly more effective.

The study at the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Chicago examined the antiemetic effect of smoked marijuana cigarettes containing 8.4 and 16.9 mg THC compared to 8 mg ondansetron. Nausea and emesis were induced by syrup of ipecac. Marijuana significantly reduced ratings of nausea and slightly reduced the incidence of vomiting compared to placebo. Ondansetron completely eliminated the emetic effects of ipecac.

These findings support and extend previous results, indicating that smoked marijuana reduces feelings of nausea and also reduces emesis. However, its effects were evaluated to be modest relative to the highly potent antiemetic drug ondansetron.

Ipecac (or: ipecacuanha) is a plant extract which when swallowed causes vomiting usually in 15-20 minutes. It is used in medicine after poisoning to eliminate the poison from the stomach.

(Source: Soderpalm AH, et al. Antiemetic efficacy of smoked marijuana. Subjective and behavioral effects on nausea induced by syrup of ipecac. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2001 Jul;69(3-4):343-350)

News in brief

Science — Two surveys

The German ACM in co-operation with the Institute for Oncological and Immunological Research in Berlin is conducting a survey on the medical use of cannabis and dronabinol. The questionnaire is available in German only.

Dr. Ethan Russo is conducting a survey on the medical use of cannabis in migraine/headache. The questionnaire is available in English only.

The questionnaires are available at:

Science — Hyperalgesia

Cannabinoids attenuated hyperalgesia evoked by intraplantar injection of capsaicin in rats through spinal and peripheral mechanisms. The study shows that cannabinoids possess antihyperalgesic properties at doses that alone do not produce analgesia. (Source: Johanek LM, et al. Pain 2001 Sep;93(3):303-315)

USA — New DEA chief

The new chief of the US drug control agency DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), Asa Hutchinson, said on 20 August he would strive to enforce the prohibition of the medical use of cannabis. Speaking to reporters on his first official day on the job, he said that the scientific and medical organisations have thus far determined there is no legitimate medical use for marijuana. (Sources: Associated Press of 20 and 21 August 2001)

USA — Increased support for legalization

According to a poll by USA Today, CNN and Gallup support for legalizing marijuana is at its highest level since polls included this question in 1969. The poll found that 34% favoured legalizing marijuana use while 62% were opposed. Support for legalization was highest among 18- to 49-year-olds and people in the West. Opposition was greatest among the elderly. Parents with children under 18 had similar views as others. (Source: USA Today of 23 August 2001)

USA — Nevada

A state-run medical marijuana program allowing patients to grow and use the drug will begin on 1 October after unanimous approval of regulations by the responsible authorities on 30 August. Under the state law, patients with a corresponding approval can grow small amounts of the drug in their homes for personal use. (Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal of 31 August 2001)

Argentina — Cortese on medical use

Lorenzo Cortese, chief of the drug control agency, is open for the medical use of cannabis. "If there is a scientific consensus on the beneficial effects of the use of marijuana in terminal patients, there is no doubt that this would impel legalization," he said. He added that this issue should be treated similar to the medical use of opiates, but said that so far the results of studies into the therapeutic effectiveness of cannabis were not definite. (Source: La Nación of 27 August 2001)

USA — Hawaii

So far, more than 200 patients are allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes. Over a year ago, the medical use of cannabis was legalized in Hawaii. But the Hawaii Medical Association is opposed to prescribing cannabis, because physicians who recommend medical marijuana could be subject to criminal prosecution by federal authorities. (Source: U-WIRE via COMTEX of 28 August 2001)