Saturday, July 4, 1998 Published at 11:34 GMT 12:34 UK
Dope hope for stroke victims
Scientists not recommending smoking cannabis
Extracts from cannabis could help reduce brain damage in stroke victims, according to new research.
American scientists say they have found that several of the chemicals in cannabis or marijuana help to prevent damage to brain tissue.
But the scientists at the US National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, are not recomending smoking dope after a stroke.
The report is likely to lead to increased pressure to make marijuana and its derivatives more widely available for use on prescription.
Preventing cell damage
But recent research has shown that most of the damage to the brain after a stroke is caused not directly by lack of oxygen but by the release of destructive oxidising agents which break down cells as if they were being burnt.
The Maryland team have shown that this type of damage can be largely prevented by chemicals known as cannabinoids which are found in marijuana.
Dr Aidan Hampson of the NIMH said: "We have found that cannaboids are very powerful anti-oxidants. In fact they appear to be more powerful than vitamin C or vitamin E."
What is not clear is whether smoking marijuana will release enough of the cannaboids to do any good.
Instead scientists hope to use synthetic cannabinoids to reduce brain damage after strokes, and possibly to slow up the progress of Alzheimers disease and Parkinsons disease as well.
It is likely that patients would take the drug using an inhaler of the type used by asthma sufferers.