Medical marijuana is a raw, unprocessed plant or its essential extracts that are used to treat illness symptoms among other conditions. While the US FDA hasn’t adopted or recognized the marijuana plant as medicine, it has approved two medications that have cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. This followed a series of scientific studies on cannabinoids, which are chemicals in marijuana. Ongoing research might lead to more medication.
Cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most studied compounds in marijuana. Each compound presents unique benefits. Many people who are diagnosed with cancer prefer CBD than THC for its incredible pain controlling properties. But those who feel nausea often opt for THC because it’s better at controlling nausea than CBD.
Here is all you need to know about medical marijuana:
Medical marijuana means using marijuana or its extracts for medical reasons. However, before you can be able to purchase medical marijuana legally, you’ll need to get a recommendation from a certified physician – online or offline. These physicians will review and verify your application before they issue your medical marijuana card. The online application is easier and convenient, as all you got to do is to find an online medical marijuana evaluation center and fill out the form provided on their site. You’ll get your recommendations within a few minutes. With this recommendation, you can obtain your medical marijuana from a club, dispensary or even grow it for your personal use.
About two decades ago, researchers discovered a brain’s system (endocannabinoid) that responds to 60 chemicals in cannabis. Endocannabinoid aids in a range of body functions, including digestive, heart, immune, endocrine, reproductive and nervous systems. These findings triggered interest in identifying specific chemicals from cannabis that could be directed to particular conditions. From that time, research has been ongoing, with some showing that compounds in cannabis can help address a range of conditions.
Medical marijuana products
They come in wide-ranging forms, including:
- Dried buds or leaves for smoking
- Edibles like candy, cookies, brownie, and mints
- Oils for vaporing or mixing into honey, tea or other food
- Creams and other topical products
- Tinctures or sprays that are used along the gum line or under the tongue
Sprays, oils, and tinctures are great options because they do not involve smoking and cannot result in weight gain. But still, people vary, and so does their needs, so the best form of medical marijuana will largely depend on who is using it.
Uses of medical marijuana
Medical marijuana does not treat cancer, but it can be used to ease pain and side-effects of treatment. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis may alleviate: anxiety, hot flashes, nausea/vomiting, pain, insomnia, loss of appetite. It’s also believed that medical marijuana can treat refractory epilepsy. A 2012 review of studies couldn’t find any information that tied marijuana to helping address epilepsy. However, the American Academy of Neurology presented a study in a meeting without placebo control in 2015 which revealed an average of 54% in seizures reduction among people who used CBD oil for 12 weeks.
According to studies, medical marijuana is being prescribed for conditions like cancer chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS wasting syndrome and pain. The American College of Physicians (ACP) supports the use of marijuana for these therapeutic uses:
- As an analgesic for cancer pain
- As a stimulant for appetite in HIV/AIDS syndrome
- As an antiemetic agent during chemotherapy
- As an antispasmodic agent neuromuscular disorders like spinal cord injury and sclerosis
- As an agent in lowering intraocular pressure in glaucoma (though the benefits can be matched to the available established drugs)
Implications for health-care providers
There’s an extensive agreement among caregivers towards the need to further medical education and studies around medical marijuana. Many healthcare providers feel unready to prescribe marijuana, let alone recommend another doctor who’s specialized in the field, and want official training regarding its medical uses. According to some surveys, doctors are getting information about medical marijuana from other caregivers and the media.
Medical marijuana and addition
Numerous researches suggest very minimal risk of addiction and very minimal toxicity of medical marijuana when used as prescribed in low dosage and short term. However, there have been concerns regarding addiction among heavy users and whether this amounts to marijuana abuse. Some studies indicate that CBD oil might help in the treatment of marijuana abuse or dependence.
Adverse effects and safety issues
The bigger part of the debate around the use of medical marijuana ties to its potentially harmful effects that include sedation, impaired memory, hypotension, reduced motor skills, dizziness, diminished cognitive ability and decreased reaction time. As stated earlier, marijuana comprises two primary constituents: THC and CBD. If you don’t want the high, you can go for CBD products. But most importantly, you’ll need to learn how to use medical marijuana safely and responsibly.
Medical cannabis is usually considered safe when utilized as prescribed in the short term. And although the herb can alter the mind, the effect is only short-lived. For instance, some study from the Marijuana Investigation for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program of Harvard surveyed a group of people who use medical marijuana to treat chronic pain, anxiety, sleep problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder and discovered that after three months of use, they didn’t display signs of diminishing cognitive function. On the contrary, their executive function skills – like time management and paying attention – actually improved.
Important things to note before trying medical marijuana
- Be sure to inform your physician about any supplements, vitamins, over-the-counter medicines and herbs that you are using (even medical marijuana).
- Medicare, Medicaid or insurance don’t cover medical marijuana. It may cost you an upward of $100 every month depending on a range of factors.
- CBD and THC are present at different levels and strains of marijuana. However, the two present different benefits, like THC may handle nausea better, while CBD may ease pain better.
- You may try out a range of medical marijuana before you find one that suits you.
RD Neha Kava
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