There’s one major but rarely discussed reason medical marijuana is struggling to find a foothold in mainstream medicine: How do patients make sure they don’t get too high? While this isn’t a big deal for the average stoner, figuring out how to administer an accurate, precise dose of THC is crucial if pot advocates are going to convince medical weed skeptics to get on board. Good thing, then, that the world’s first weed “inhaler” is about to hit the mass market.
The weed inhaler, which is a vape-like device that precisely controls how much of the drug’s active ingredient is released, will be officially be jointly distributed by Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Syqe Medical, two of the country’s leading pharma companies, the Times of Israel reported today. The device, marketed as the Syqe (pronounced like “psyche”) Inhaler, has already been used in one Israel hospital for over a year, allowing doctors to prescribe and deliver hits of THC as part of a standard medical marijuana treatment regimen, which is itself the first of its kind worldwide. The inhaler has already been approved by the country’s Health Ministry, and its creators are hoping American doctors will follow suit.
The device presents a compelling reason to do so. In an interview with Bloomberg in 2014, Dr. Elon Eisenberg of Israel’s Rambam Institute of Pain, who led trials testing the inhaler’s effectiveness, said that doctors “were reluctant to prescribe cannabis as is, as cigarettes, because of the stigma … I think from now on, once approved, everybody is going to look at it as a medicine as opposed to a substance that people use.” In the same way administering drugs in pill form allows doctors to carefully monitor their dosage, the inhaler, unlike a regular vape, helps physicians ensure their patients aren’t getting too little — or, more crucially, too much — of weed’s active ingredients. The point of medical marijuana, after all, isn’t to get high but to get well.
The inhaler, crucially, uses pure, unadulterated medical bud in the same form as that you would find inside your average joint. Users pack a cartridge full of pot, and as they breathe it in, an extremely sensitive sensor cuts off the aerosol flow when the prescribed amount of THC has been released.
The clinical trials on the inhaler appear to have only measured THC, but it’s likely that the device will be adapted for other cannabinoids as well. When it comes to medical marijuana, it’s important to remember that THC, with its psychoactive effects, isn’t always as important as other cannabinoids such as CBD, which has been shown to have protective effects on the brain and may prevent Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia as well as mitigate pain.
It’s not clear yet when the Syqe will hit American markets, but investors are clearly excited about its potential: American cigarette and tobacco giant Philip Morris, the Times of Israel reports, has invested $20 million — a substantial proportion of the $33 million Syqe has raised so far.