Ever since cannabis was legalized for recreational and medicinal use back in 2018, the internet has been flooded with questions regarding the drugs’ usefulness, effects, and usefulness.
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Unfortunately, we have also seen an influx of new and innovative products, and more online dispensaries than anyone could have ever predicted.
This has resulted in a lot of misinformation as well. As a result, today people don’t know who, or what they can rely on.
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Today, in this blog, we will be answering an extremely important question, and one with which lawmakers have been struggling with for decades: Is Cannabis a Narcotic?
While the short answer is no, the science of it is a bit more complicated than that. Let’s take a deeper look at narcotics, their history, and their medicinal usefulness and compare it all to cannabis.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
What are Narcotics?
Also known as “opioids”, the term “narcotics” comes from the Greek word “ναρκῶ narkō”, which literally means stupor or to make numb. This term was originally used to describe the variety of medical substances which were used to dull sensations and relieve pain.
Today, however, the word narcotics is extremely misused. Many people use it to define all drugs, but in actuality, it refers to opium, opium derivatives and all their semi-synthetic substitutes used in medicine today.
Which is why many professional healthcare workers, researchers and lawmakers use the term opioid instead, which is much clearer in its meaning and references. Common examples of narcotic or opioid drugs include heroin and orthopedic, pharmaceutical drugs like OxyContin, morphine, methadone, codeine and fentanyl.
But where do narcotics come from? And what is their primary purpose?
Let’s take a look at their rich and controversial history.
Where do Narcotics come from?
The best known opioids are called compounds called opiates, and nearly all natural opiates are found in or derived from opium. Opium itself is withdrawn as the dried, milky juice of the seed pods found in the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). In fact, there are more than 20 different alkaloids and active compounds found in opium, and perhaps the most famous and useful one amongst them is morphine, which is one of the strongest pain relief medicines in use today.
While natural opiates are found in the poppy flower, semi-synthetic and synthetic opiates are made in a lab either from natural opiates or other chemicals. These include heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone.
It may seem surprising to read this, but Narcotic drugs are among the first psychoactive drugs to be used (and abused) by humanity. Historic records of opioid use for medicinal purposes can be found in Homer’s Odyssey, which marks opioid use as old as 9th century BC. Historians believe that extracts from the opium poppy were smoked, eaten, and even drunk (as laudanum, a rough mixture of opium and wine) to relieve pain and induce feelings of happiness and euphoria.
In more contemporary times, the pharmacology active components of opium were only discovered and isolated during the early 1800s. The first was morphine, and it was found by a young German pharmacist by the name of F.W.A. Sertürner, in around 1804. This was then used to create a much milder narcotic, called codeine.
Then in the 1850s, the hypodermic needle, more commonly known as the syringe or injection, was invented, opening up many new possibilities. Because after all, effects of morphine and other drugs produce stronger and effective results when injected than through oral consumption.
Unfortunately, the widespread availability of morphine injections led to the start of what we today call the opioid epidemic.
This resulted in some of the first laws being implemented to restrict and control the use of opioids, especially after heroin was discovered in 1898, and it turned out to be 5 to 10 times more powerful and addictive than morphine. This also led to the search and discovery of synthetic substitutes like methadone, and levorphanol.
What do Narcotics do?
The main, therapeutic purpose of Narcotics is quite simply pain management, which is why they are often called narcotic analgesics. However, narcotics like morphine and heroin are much stronger than your normal pain relief medications, and were intended for more severe forms of pain which include getting shot or broken bones.
However, a side effect of narcotics is that the drugs can often result in feelings of pure bliss and euphoria, which have led to widespread misuse and abuse of the opioid based drugs.
So, is cannabis a narcotic?
Now that we know what narcotics are and what they are used for, the answer to our original question becomes much clearer. Cannabis is not a narcotic, simply because of the fact that it is a plant itself, and not a derivation of the infamous, opium poppy.
At the same time, it is also that addictive or dangerous a drug. In fact, on the second of December 2020, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule IV drugs under the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. For those of our readers who do not know, Schedule IV drugs are, as per the UN’s system, the most dangerous and addictive drugs in the whole world.
This vote was truly historic, as not only does it prove that cannabis is not a life threatening, addictive drug, but also paves the way towards legalization in many other countries as well.
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