A team from Hungary has conducted research into marijuana and established a link between the drug and asthma which could
help develop new treatments for respiratory-related illnesses.
Back in the mid-1970s US professor Donald P Taskin found that "recent studies demonstrated significant, acute
bronchodilation in healthy young men after they smoked marijuana".
Now research in Hungary, Italy and the US indicates that while some asthma sufferers are prone to coughing when exposed
to elements of the drug, others seem to be less affected by such irritation when lung muscles are tensed.
According to Dr Tamas Freund of the Institute of Experimental Medicine of Budapest, the knowledge gleaned from this
research could alter the way respiratory illnesses are treated.
"Colleagues at the University of California, Irvine, found that induced bronchular constriction was antagonized by
anandamide, a substance with the same properties as cannabinoids, a material found in marijuana.
"The contribution of my laboratory was to localize the molecules released by anandamide and its effect on nerve fibers
in order to ease the muscles, helping reduce the substance that constricts the muscles," he explained.
Marijuana is currently being examined for medical properties in the fields of asthma, stroke and cancer research, as
well as being utilized for pain relief and the control of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy treatment.
Freund and his staff of researchers have completed their part of the project, but say the day drugs utilizing their work
are widely available to help asthma sufferers is still some way off in the future.
"This is the basic research, more study is required before drugs can be made available," said Freund. At present the
research has involved animals, but in the US research is soon to be conducted on humans.
Danielle Piomelli, of the University of California, said, "We think that by targeting cannabinoid receptors in the upper
airways we can control coughs in a number of conditions."
For the moment, the Institute of Experimental Medicine is now continuing its work with marijuana based substances,
examining the link between learning and memory.
National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NZ Inc.
NZ Cannabis Inquiry submissions due by 7 Feb 2001
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