Medical marijuana (or Cannabis) uses the marijuana plant or chemicals in it to treat diseases or conditions. It is strictly cultivated with specific strains grown to help people with different conditions.
The Cannabis species has been used for its medicinal qualities for thousands of years; only since the 1940s has the plant not been widely available for medicinal use. An increasing number of modern day jurisdictions are making it possible to once again obtain the botanical for medicinal use.
The marijuana plant contains more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Each one has a different effect on the body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main chemicals used for medicinal qualities.
Medical marijuana is used to treat a number of difference conditions, including:
A pre-clinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins. These proteins are thought to be a key contributor in the progression of Alzheimer’s.
The purpose of the study was to investigate the potential therapeutic qualities of THC with respect to slowing or halting these key contributors of Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers discovered THC directly interacted with the key proteins involved with disease progression, and was effective in lowering these protein levels in a dose-dependent manner at low concentrations.
For cancer patients, cannabis has a number of benefits, particularly in the management of symptoms related to chemotherapy. Studies show that cannabis is useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia and depression. A recently published systematic review looked at a number of different studies, three of which observed patients with cancer pain. Results showed an improvement in pain measures when patients were exposed to rations of inhaled cannabis.
The use of cannabis to treat epilepsy and other neurological conditions has been studied for a number of years. In June 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, an oral solution derived from marijuana for the treatment of two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. This medicine uses CDB, a chemical component of marijuana that does not cause intoxication or euphoria. Results of these studies showed that the addition of CBD to a traditional seizure medication decreased the frequency of seizures significantly in children and adults with these rare types of epilepsy, Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
Although medical marijuana has some proven advantages, there have been some reported side effects of using the plant, especially when taken for recreational use.
Short term side effects include:
Long term side effects include:
*The effect is strongly associated with initial marijuana use early in adolescence
New legislation regarding the use of medical marijuana is constantly being evaluated. To stay up-to-date with the most recent laws, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures.
To stay up-to-date with the most recent laws, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures.