Samuel Allentuck, MD
The functions of the body organs and systems were studied in the manner common to hospital practice according to the methods and with the equipment in use at Welfare Hospital. The study was designed to show not only the effects of varying doses of marihuana but also whether subjects who had long been users of the drug gave evidence of organic damage. The tests were made before the drug was administered, during its action, and often in the after period.
The heart and circulation, blood composition, kidney, liver and gastro-intestinal function, and basal metabolism received special consideration.
The most consistent effect of marihuana observed in this division of the study was an increase in pulse rate which began shortly after the taking of the drug, reached a peak in about two hours, and gradually disappeared. In-a few instances a temporary sinus tachycardia or sinus bradycardia was noted, but except for these there were no abnormalities in rhythm. The increase in pulse rate was usually accompanied by a rise in blood pressure.
There was in general an increase in the blood sugar level and in the basal metabolic rate, quite marked in some subjects, but in the majority the levels reached did not exceed the high normal limits.
An increase in the frequency of urination was often observed.
There was, however, no appreciable increase in the total amount of urine passed during the drug action.
Hunger and an increase in appetite, particularly for sweets, was noted in the majority of the subjects, and the taking of candy or sweetened drinks brought down a "too high" effect of the drug.
Nausea and vomiting occurred in a number of instances, diarrhea only during psychotic episodes.
On the other hand, the blood showed no changes in cell count, hemoglobin per cent, or the urea nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus figures. The figures for the circulation rate and vital capacity and the results of the phenolsulfonphthalein test for kidney infection and the bromsulfalein test for liver function were not different from those of the control period. The electrocardiograms showed no abnormalties which could be attributed to a direct action on the heart. In the few observations on gastric motility and secretion no evidence of marihuana action on these functions was obtained.
The positive results observed, increase in pulse rate and blood pressure, increase in blood sugar and metabolic rate, urge to urinate, increased appetite, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea, were not intensified by an increase in dosage, for they could occur in an equal degree after the administration of any of the effective doses within the range used. All the effects described are known to be expressions of forms of cerebral excitation, the impulses from this being transmitted through the autonomic system. The alterations in the functions of the organs studied come from the effects of the drug on the central nervous system and are proportional to these effects. A direct action on the organs themselves was not seen.