We’ve all heard of medical marijuana at one point or another. Although many of us share the common belief that marijuana is just an illegal psychoactive substance that causes intoxicating effects, there is so much more to the marijuana story.
Marijuana, aside from its psychoactive compounds, carries many health benefits used for medical purposes. In fact, medical marijuana is used to treat a number of different health conditions.
So, perhaps you should get off your high horse and be more open-minded to what medical marijuana can do. Let’s take a look as to what makes medical marijuana “medical.”
What is Medical Marijuana?
Marijuana is derived from the cannabis plant. The cannabis (marijuana) plant (Cannabis Sativa) contains over 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids, all of which have different effects on the human body. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two main chemicals used in marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Medical marijuana is the same as recreational marijuana, though it’s taken for medical purposes. Medical marijuana is prescribed by a doctor to treat several different medical conditions, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Appetite loss
- Eating disorders (anorexia)
- Crohn’s disease
- Mental health issues (PTSD or schizophrenia)
- Epilepsy (seizure disorders)
- Extreme weight loss
- Muscle spasms
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Wasting syndrome (cachexia)
- And more
The greatest amount of evidentiary support proving the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana relates to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea & vomiting due to chemotherapy, and stiff muscles.
How Does Medical Marijuana Help?
Medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, is most commonly prescribed by doctors to help patients with pain management, muscle spasms, loss of appetite, nausea & vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and anorexia.
Medical marijuana has received a lot of attention for its beneficial properties in reducing symptoms associated with epilepsy. In studies, people have seen a dramatic drop in seizures after using medical marijuana. In fact, the FDA approved Epidiolex, which is derived from CBD, as a therapy for those with severe seizure disorders.
Has the FDA Approved Medical Marijuana?
More than half of the U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana. However, while many people are using marijuana for recreational purposes, the food and drug administration (FDA) has only approved it for treatment of Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, two rare forms of epilepsy.
As of today, the FDA has approved two cannabinoid medicines – dronabinol (Marinol), and nabilone (Cesamet) to treat nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.
Some side effects that have been reported from using medical marijuana in these forms include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Low blood pressure
- Fast heartbeat
- Poor coordination
- Dry mouth
- Paranoia & mood changes
Health Benefits of Medical Marijuana
There are numerous research studies examining the health benefits of medical marijuana. Roughly 70% of these studies were found inconclusive or neutral since the compounds found in marijuana affects people differently.
The health benefits of medical marijuana can be attributed to binding to the body’s endocannabinoid system. This has several effects, including:
- Promoting neuroplasticity
- Improving emotional & cognitive modulation (appetite, learning/motivation, digestion, and vascular function)
- Modulating the immune system
Studies On Medical Marijuana Research
There are many different studies on medical marijuana use. However, many of these studies are challenged and limited under FDA classification. A search of the National Institute of Health had funded roughly 165 cannabis-related studies and 327 studies related to marijuana.
Many of these studies are basic scientific investigations on how the endocannabinoid system of the brain is affected by marijuana use. The most promising areas of this research rely on the use of CBD for neuroprotection. In recent years, CBD oil has been used by doctors all over the world to treat people with neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease (PD).
There have also been studies on the addictive properties of THC. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that marijuana can be addictive and is considered to be a “gateway drug” to using other, more dangerous drugs. The higher the levels of THC that a person consumes can cause them to become more dependent over time.
The individual would need more and more of it to receive the same psychoactive effects. This can cause it to be much more difficult to discontinue the use of the substance.