Adah Chung is a fact checker, writer, researcher, and occupational therapist.
Recreational use of marijuana, which contains THC, is now legal in 11 states. But the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of THC and it remains classified illegal under U.S. law. Still, people are experimenting with the drug more and more frequently by either smoking it, eating it, or vaping it.
What Is THC?
Recent research suggests that vaping THC oil, especially oil that contains vitamin E acetate, can be particularly harmful to your lungs. Vitamin E acetate, which is regularly added to THC when preparing it for use in e-cigarettes and vaping devices, is particularly harmful when it’s inhaled.
In fact, a study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that first-time and infrequent users of marijuana were more likely to experience adverse reactions from vaping THC oil. They indicated that these negative impacts were largely due to the enhanced delivery of the oil through vaping. The participants in the study also had more pronounced effects from the drug and experienced significant impacts to their motor skills and cognitive abilities.
Additionally, nearly 70 people have died so far from the disease and as vaping continues to grow in popularity, the number of deaths is likely to increase. What’s more, 82% of the people hospitalized reported using THC-containing products and 33% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products.
Not yet. In April the US Food and Drug Administration recommended the approval of a drug called Epidiolex for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Its active ingredient is cannabidiol, and final approval is due at the end of this month.
Are there any cannabis-based epilepsy drugs on the market?
That’s a complicated question. In the UK cannabidiol is legal. Cannabis plant extracts (known as hemp or CBD oils) are available in high-street stores but the THC content must be below 0.2 per cent. “THC is not psychoactive at this level,” says David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London. But cannabidiol is illegal in many other countries.
In the USA for example, cannabidiol is classed as a schedule 1 controlled substance, and can only be sold in states where cannabis use is legal.
Although there is some scientific evidence that THC has potential to control convulsions, its mind-altering effects mean that much of the focus has turned to cannabidiol – particularly for childhood epilepsies that conventional drugs fail to control.
Cannabis oil is extracted from the cannabis plant Cannabis sativa. The plants medicinal properties have been touted for more than 3,000 years. It was described in the ancient Eygyptian Ebers papyrus around 1550BC, and it was likely used as a medicine in China before that. Some varieties of the plant contain high levels of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the “high” that comes from smoking or eating cannabis leaves or resin. The plant’s other major chemical component is cannabidiol, which has no psychoactive effect. Both act on the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors which are involved in many processes such as memory, pain and appetite. The cannabis plant also contains more than 100 other different cannabinoid compounds at lower concentrations.
However, the tide may turn in favour of cannabidiol after a recent World Health Organisation review. This concluded that cannabidiol “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential” but “has been demonstrated as an effective treatment of epilepsy … and may be a useful treatment for a number of other medical conditions.”