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Could e-cigarettes be a safer way to take medical marijuana? 'Cannavaping' has the same effects 'without the harm of smoking'

Cannabinoids - chemicals from the plant which are said to have a range of benefits - were extracted with butane gas to make concentrated hash oil in an e-liquid for the study
  • Study found devices were alternative way of administering pain relief drug
  • Cannabinoids taken from plant were extracted to make hash oil liquid
  • Analysis of vaping samples found fewer toxic contaminants inhaled
  • Scientists found low risk of it being popular with recreational smokers

E-cigarettes or vaporisers can produce the health boost of cannabis without getting users high, according to new research.

Scientists say the battery charged devices may provide an alternative method of administering the drug to relieve pain, while avoiding the harmful effects of smoking.

In the study, cannabinoids - chemicals from the plant which are said to have a range of benefits - were extracted with butane gas to make concentrated hash oil in an e-liquid.

An analysis of samples of the gases generated from three e-cigs suggested the method - dubbed 'cannavaping' - avoids inhaling significant amounts of toxic contaminants.

These include VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and carbonyls which are released during the burning of regular marijuana cigarettes.

The study published in Scientific Reports said cannabis is increasingly being used as a therapy in western countries, but the combustion and inhalation of spliffs is generally considered inappropriate.

Marijuana can be prescribed for medical reasons in the UK, along with 17 other European countries.

It is said to help relieve multiple sclerosis, and has even been shown to slow down cancer, Parkinson's disease and dementia.

But Dr Vincent Varlet, of the University Centre of Legal Medicine, Lausanne, said: 'The combustion and inhalation of cannabis cigarettes is generally considered an inappropriate method for the therapeutic administration of cannabis.

'Safer and healthier alternatives for consuming cannabis have been proposed to minimise the risks associated with the inhalation of toxic pyrolytic by products.
'Vaporisation conducted at less than combustion temperatures is one of the best recommended alternative methods to cannabis smoking.

'A vaporiser heats the cannabis plant material at a moderate temperature, causing the active cannabinoids to evaporate into an aerosol that contains far fewer harmful components.'

His researchers also believe illegal 'cannavaping' of hash oil presents a low risk of becoming popular among cannabis smokers.

Its poor solubility would prevent the manufacture of liquid refills with the high concentrations preferred by most recreational users.

Dr Varlet said: 'Concerning misuse of 'cannavaping', the high number of puffs required to induce minimal psychoactive effects could be considered a rebuttal to 'cannavapers' who wish to experience the same effects as real cannabis cigarettes with e-cigarette.

'In our opinion and according to other scientists, recreational 'cannavaping' remains possible with e-cigarettes. However, its poor efficiency makes the risk of observing a new recreational cannavaping trend unlikely.'

He added: 'Therefore, the likelihood of misuse of cannavaping seems to be very limited, whereas therapeutic applications of cannavaping have undeniable benefits over other administration routes, with the controlled dosage of cannabinoids - enriched liquid refills.'

The researchers also note as just one type of e-cigarette was assessed other devices, brands and e-liquids may produce different cannabinoids and levels of carbonyls and VOCs.

The first legal cannnabis vaporiser MediPen went on sale in the UK last year. Its creators say the device contains a very respectable dose of Cannabidiol, an active ingredient in the cannabis plant with a vast array of positive benefits and health uses.

The pen, which contains coconut oil, eliminates the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that gets people high.

Professor David Nutt, head of the Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said he thought it was a good idea.

'This is an interesting paper and I think it's a great idea, but this would be illegal in the UK currently,' he said.

But Dr Michael Bloomfield, clinical lecturer in psychiatry, at University College London, said he head concerns regarding the high levels of the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

'Whilst vaping cannabis substances, called cannabinoids, does indeed remove the harmful effects of tobacco smoke, my concerns about vaping cannabis would be around the use of flavoured cannabis e-cigarettes.

'They could be more popular amongst younger people, who appear most at risk of some of the potential harms associated with heavy and long-term use of cannabis during adolescence.

'What's more there is evidence to suggest that consuming cannabis whilst pregnant may have lasting effects on the unborn child, so I would be also be concerned about pregnant women using long-term high dose THC, although further research is needed.

'I think branding cannabis use through an electronic cigarette as 'therapeutic cannavaping' is worrying.'

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by DAILYMAIL
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