Top Notch Toys June 2017



M ost of you know me only by this column. A few more know me by my Salukis and a few more know me by my books. Very few know me by my training or profession. My training is in psychology—but not the touchy-feely, “tell me about your childhood” type that we “scientists” snubbed. My training is in the synapse, neurotransmitter, genetic and other biological bases of behavior. At some point I realized the part of research I liked best was writing, whether it was the grant proposals or the resulting articles. And on the side I enjoyed translating scientific findings about dogs to readers in various dog magazines. Somehow this morphed into writing dog books and articles full- time, and I’ve since published 35 books, hundreds of magazine articles and may- be thousands of website articles. I try to be careful what I write about and who I write for. So when I found myself writing dis- ease profiles for a site that eschewed the virtues of cannabinoids for all sorts of pet health woes I was not happy. As a science writer I have an obligation to examine topics I write about critically. And here they were claiming they had something that could soothe pain, calm nerves, fight infections, quell nausea and speed bone healing. What next, cure cancer? Well, sort of. Remember, I’m a synapse and chemoreceptor sort

rather than an aura and crystal healing sort. I’m highly skeptical of alternative medicines—especially when they make widespread claims. Of course, I haven’t been living in a cave. I knew about the legalization of medical marijuana and about its success with certain problems, most notably glaucoma and some cases of epilepsy. But I knew I’d have to know more than that before I could continue. I found instance after instance of cannabis being used to treat disorder after disorder through history, going back as far as 2900 BC in China. But tell- ing me something contains both “yin and yang” is not particularly convincing to the scientist in me. The ancient Egyp- tians used it and the Romans as well. But the Romans also cut their dogs’ tails off to prevent rabies. (This does not work, by the way). Indian medicine made use of cannabis 1000 years ago to quicken the mind, give strength and agility, achieve spiritual freedom and higher consciousness, lower fevers, stimulate appetite, improve digestion and relieve headaches. My personal high school experiments with cannabis would tend to disagree with these results, espe- cially the part where it “quickened the mind,” although “stimulate appetite” I could attest to. But then the claims get even more grandiose: leprosy, earaches, edema, gout, joint cramps, pain, migraines, vomiting, hemorrhage, diarrhea,

anorexia, depression, arthritis, men- strual cramps, headaches, insomnia, neuralgia, convulsions and opium addiction—all claimed to be treatable with cannabis. It was beginning to sound like “Dr. Feelgood’s Magic Elixir” for whatever ails you. Then I found out that many of the cannabis products didn’t even contain THC! Every kid in junior high school kid knows THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. These people would put a snake oil medicine man to shame with their audacity! Snake oil minus the snake oil? I determined I had stumbled upon the perfect fodder for an expose. It would almost be too easy. I would be famous. Visions of television appear- ances danced through my head. So I started investigating more, collecting notes, compiling evidence—and all my expose plans were thwarted. Because little by little, I realized it wasn’t the subject matter that was lacking—it was my education in it. It turns out there is a robust research body of cannabinoid science, one that explains how it works, why it works on so many seemingly unrelated disor- ders and what the other cannabinoids besides THC can do. No, I’m still not convinced enough that I’d throw out my prescriptions, but I am convinced enough that I’d add cannabinoids to my treatment arsenal when the situation calls for it. This is a big step for me; I am not a person with a cabinet full of herbal supplements and don’t look for a single homeopathic tincture in my belongings. I’m even skeptical of acu- puncture and chiropractic medicine, although I’ve given each a try. That was $50 down the drain. Each time they didn’t work on me or my dogs. My evidence consisted of two main areas: 1) How do cannabinoids work? and 2) What evidence is there that they


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