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An Irish physician, William Brooke
O’Shaughnessy, is credited with introducing cannabis to Western medicine (1). O’Shaughnessy discovered cannabis
in the 1830’s while living abroad in India, where he conducted numerous
experiments investigating its medical utility (2). Noting in particular its analgesic
and anticonvulsant effects, he returned to England with a supply of cannabis in
1842, after which its use spread through Europe and the United States (3). In Britain itself, in 1928 in
accordance with the 1925 International Opium Convention, the United Kingdom
first prohibited cannabis as a drug, adding cannabis as an addendum to the
Dangerous Drugs Act 1920 (4,5).

At the turn of the 20th century the
Scandinavian maltose- and cannabis-based drink Maltos-cannabis was widely available
in Denmark and Norway (6). Promoted as “an excellent
lunch drink, especially for children and young people”, the product had
won a prize at the Exposition Internationale d’Anvers in 1894 (6). Today medical use of cannabis or
preparation containing THC as the active substance is legalized in Belgium,
Czech Republic, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Spain, and the UK.

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Chronic
pain conditions affect an increasing portion of the population worldwide (7,8). Due to a lack of
efficacy and frequent adverse affects of the standard therapies, the use of
medical cannabis (MC) has emerged in the past decade in a bottom-up fashion. Cannabis
comprises at least 66 known pharmacologically active cannabinoids, which act on
cannabinoid receptors located mostly in the brain and spinal cord (9,10). According to a 2005 survey
which was conducted by ABC News, USA Today and the Stanford University Medical
Center, half of American adults have suffered from pain in the previous couple
of weeks, 20% have rated their pain as “severe” and 6% (12 millions)
have treated their pain with cannabis (11). Similar rate of MC use
was also reported in a Canadian survey (12). The growing use of MC
has been suggested to be beneficial in multiple conditions, e.g. multiple
sclerosis spasticity, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson, epilepsy, cancer pain/nausea,
HIV/AIDS cachexia, inflammatory and psychiatric conditions (13-17).

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