Clinical Trial Investigating Cannabinoid Based Painkiller Takes Tragic Turn

“Cannabinoid Based Painkiller” Unrelated to Cannabis Kills 1, Hospitalizes 5

A clinical trial gone wrong in France has left one person dead and five more in the hospital after testing a cannabinoid based drug. You can read the full article here (published Friday, January 15th).

This study, when more closely examined, reveals this was actually a human engineered drug that happens to act on certain endocannabinoid receptors in the brain. By no means did it involve the marijuana plant itself. The endocannabinoid system is one of the most receptor dense systems in the human brain and, due to lack of research funding (ironic right?), it is a very poorly understood one. Cannabinoids are a type of natural (endogenous) chemical the brain releases called a neurotransmitter.

These chemicals act on their respective receptors, the “cannabinoid” receptors (commonly described with a lock and key metaphor to capture the relationship between neurotransmitter and receptor). This article refers to a study where we created a drug ourselves (not the way nature put it there, for sure). We made it so that it unlocks only certain doors in the cannabinoid system in the brain, but we don’t even understand this system because we haven’t funded marijuana research.

Perhaps you remember this, the dangers of synthetic marijuana, from my podcast Mary Jane Madness: An Objective Examination of Medical MarijuanaWell, we full and well knew the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids before the production of this drug, yet it was produced anyway. I know of someone who I will not mention by name but used to produce and sell this synthetic marijuana and they said the process involves getting another plant that is not cannabis and applying a powdered synthetic drug called JWH-018 to the plant, which he/she claimed was incredibly addictive, far more than cannabis could ever be they said. Unfortunately, this individual and their business partner ended up getting very addicted to the drug and just started abusing the powder itself. He/she claimed the effects were much stronger than weed/cannabis and that it was more akin to LSD. However, with it being marketed as “fake weed”, people tend to believe it is actually safer, if not equally as safe as cannabis. However, as our guest on the show, Adrian Martinez, had mentioned, he saw several cases in the ER, where he works as a technician, of patients coming in seriously injured due to “fake weed”. Several overdoes have also been reported. The fact we “dupe” consumers by taking a powdered, synthetic chemical and apply it to a plant and then call it “fake weed” or “synthetic weed” is appalling and an affront to nature. Companies making fake weed are profiting off the generally agreed upon safety of the cannabis plant by using its name and calling itself “fake weed”. It is this type of synthetic cannabinoid production coupled with false marketing that has to stop and it’s up to us to push our government to do something about this. Getting back to our initial article, this pharmaceutical company did in effect create their own “fake weed” in a laboratory, or rather, a drug acting on certain cannabinoid receptors in the brain in a way other than natural cannabis does, but is purported to have been developed due to the beneficial effects of the cannabinoid system and medical marijuana. See the issue here? Why not just use cannabis then? Something we know that interacts safely with that receptor/neurotransmitter system in the brain instead of trying to create our own cannabinoid based drug and failing to take proper safety measures into effect thus leading to the initial brain death and ultimate expiration of this patient.

The following study, Cannabinoid receptors in the human brain: a detailed anatomical and quantitative autoradiographic study in the fetal, neonatal and adult human brainstudied the anatomical distribution of cannabinoid receptors in the human brain in one fetal (33 wk), two neonatal (3-6 mo.) and eight adult (21-81 yr) and found ” The allocortex contained very high concentrations of cannabinoid receptor binding sites in the dentate gyrus, Ammons’s horn and subiculum of the hippocampal formation; high concentrations of receptors were also present in the entorhinal cortex and amygdaloid complex. Cannabinoid receptor binding sites were also present throughout all regions of the neocortex, where they showed a marked variation in density between the primary, secondary and associational cortical regions: the greatest densities of receptors were present in the associational cortical regions of the frontal and limbic lobes, with moderate densities in the secondary sensory and motor cortical regions, and with the lowest densities of receptors in the primary sensory and motor cortical regions…” (Glass et al., 1997). 


That’s a lot of possible permutations of ways the natural cannabis sativa plant can interact with our bodies and brains. Since we haven’t funded cannabis research however, the doors (or receptors) these cannabinoids unlock and their resulting signal transduction pathways are still largely a mystery to us. Would you throw a key down a hallway full of doors, hoping it unlocks a door, if you can’t even see down that hallway? Why would you try to recreate a human engineered drug that acts upon it? This is a blunder on behalf of the pharmaceutical company that engineered this drug. Proper safety protocols should have been in place to advise against the creation of a drug that acts on an area of the brain we are unfamiliar with.

Well, we at feel like the people should have the right to know the truth about science. Spread the good word: you have the right to be informed. The article initially written by the Independent included the phrase “cannabis based painkiller,” leading people to believe that the cannabis plant itself could be harmful and cause such damage. The Independent must have suffered a lot of heat for that statement because they have since revised their wording to explicitly state that the drug did not contain cannabis.

It is exactly this type of material we need to watch out for, everybody. Biolitics is aimed at providing you, the end-user, with the truth of the matter. 

The truth of the matter is that marijuana was not responsible for this disaster. It was, instead, the fault of the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the faulty drug. and websites like it are damaging the name of medical marijuana when they fail to accurately report an incident like they did yesterday, failing to mention it was a drug acting on cannabinoid receptors, and not cannabis itself. Such egregious errors by the pharmaceutical industry is impacting popular opinion on the topic of cannabis legalization. In order to try to create safer cannabinoid based drugs, we need to first fund cannabis research and study its endogenous affects on the brain. No one said that the cannabinoid pathway wasn’t dangerous, just that when you consume marijuana the way it traditionally has been (plucking the buds off the plant and smoking, eating, vaporizing, etc…the natural plant itself) that it isn’t going to cause Brain Death. It is very dangerous that big pharma is playing around with human lives this way. This is a call to action to force them to stop. Fund adequate research and employ proper testing protocols before trying to create a potentially profitable drug that no one has invented before. Perhaps the reason it hasn’t been invented is the aforementioned one above. Either way, it was an irresponsible move on the part of the company that made the cannabinoid based drug, as well as the fault of all others complicit in its production. We at Biolitics regret the tragedy, and our heart and well wishes go out to the victims and their families that have suffered at the hands of this ignorant pharmaceutical company.

You have the right to be informed. Exercise it. Fight Ignorance.


Brought to You by:

Gaurav Dubey (M.S. Biotechnology)

Founder & Executive Producer of Biolitics 

Updated on: January 19th, 2016

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