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THC: Impact, research and legal situation

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Cannabis, also known as hemp, grass, weed or marijuana, is consumed worldwide in many different forms and for many different purposes. While the second very well-known cannabinoid – cannabidiol (CBD) – is known for its medical, non-psychological effects according to Addiction Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), THC is mainly known as a substance that impairs consciousness.

Various effects due to THC
The psychoactive THC contained in hemp can temporarily impair memory and coordination and is responsible for getting “high”. Sometimes THC is also consumed to stimulate the appetite. In addition to its effects on consciousness, THC in controlled doses can also be used for medical purposes.

Scientific studies on THC
Due to the narcotics laws, research into the therapeutic applications of THC is limited. Below you will find a selection of preclinical studies in which the influence of THC on nausea, multiple sclerosis and pain relief was investigated:

A systematic review of the scientific literature conducted in 2001 showed that cannabinoids have been used effectively since 1985 for the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, called CINV. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the synthetic THC drug dronabinol for the treatment of CINV.

In June 2018, a paper on “Cannabinoids for the Treatment of MS Symptoms” was published, with the participating scientists concluding that there is “evidence of benefit in the treatment of spasticity and neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis”. However, the researchers emphasized that cannabis use carries the risk of adverse side effects.

The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management published a study on the effects of THC:CBD extracts and THC extracts in patients with “persistent cancer-related pain”. Patients were randomized and the results were compared with those of a placebo group. Overall, the THC:CBD extract group showed a significant reduction in measured pain – by 30%.

The medical use of cannabis in Switzerland
Cannabis has been classified as a narcotic in the Swiss narcotics law since 1951 because of its mind-altering effect. Nevertheless, in certain cases, drugs can be used for medical treatment. Cannabis drugs are cannabis-based narcotics with a standardized active ingredient content. Like all other commercially available drugs, they must meet the usual safety and quality criteria under drug law. For this reason, doctors in Switzerland are also allowed to prescribe cannabis-based drugs. Cannabis medicines are prescribed for chronic pain, spasticity and cramps as well as nausea and loss of appetite. In addition, cannabis medicines often relieve symptoms caused by cancer or the subsequent chemotherapy.

Research must prove effectiveness
Although the demand for cannabis drugs has increased significantly in recent years, research on their effectiveness is still in its infancy. Although there are numerous reports of successful treatments, there is insufficient scientific evidence of their effects. In Switzerland, there is a lack of clinical studies that clearly demonstrate the quality, safety and efficacy of cannabis drugs.

Legal status in Switzerland
Adults of legal age are currently being fined 100 Swiss francs for the use of cannabis products with a THC content of over 1%. Possession of up to 10 grams is considered a minor amount and is not punishable. In road traffic, however, zero tolerance applies. Children and young people under 18 years of age are judged according to the Youth Penalty Act. Products from hemp plants, which contain very small amounts of THC (less than 1%), can be legally sold and purchased. This includes CBD oils or hemp cigarettes.

You can find more information on the following websites:

Very briefly:
THC is the best known cannabinoid. In contrast to CBD it has a psychoactive effect and its use is generally prohibited in Switzerland. In exceptional cases, THC-containing drugs can be prescribed. To date, the efficacy of THC has not yet been scientifically proven and described, which is why there is still a lot of research to be done in this area.

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