The Medical Benefits of Cannabis
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Over the past twenty years, medical marijuana programs have expanded from just California to over half of the United States. Thirty-three states and D.C. have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis. Today, people are turning to cannabis as a source of relief more than ever before.
The concept of medical marijuana is far less polarizing today. Recent polls illustrate that approximately 90% of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis use for medical purposes.
Public opinion has changed mostly because of successful patient health stories and doctors embracing medical cannabis around the country. Patients and their caregivers have been the driving force behind the development of cannabinoids as medicine and changes to medical marijuana laws.
Unfortunately, federal legislation prevents scientific study and research. However, over 60 national and international health organizations officially recognize the potential medical benefits of cannabis. Many of them support granting patients immediate access to legal medical marijuana and, at the very least, encourage clinical research.
Despite a lack of research, there is extensive anecdotal evidence about the medical benefits of cannabis. More and more doctors are writing recommendations for cannabis to treat their patients. This illustrates the plant’s efficacy of easing disruptive, uncomfortable and in some cases, potentially fatal symptoms associated with a range of conditions. Without a doubt, cannabis can help improve the long term quality of life for many people.
Health Benefits of Cannabis
Whether you suffer from severe nausea or persistent muscle spasms, you may be eligible for a medical cannabis card in your state. Due to a lack of overall regulation, qualifying conditions for medical cannabis vary greatly from state to state.
In the United States, medical cannabis is most commonly used for chronic pain relief. Physicians are prescribing cannabis for patients living with neurodegenerative diseases due to the neuroprotective effects of certain cannabinoids, like THC. The antispasmodic properties of certain cannabinoids can be beneficial for those living with seizure disorders. Cannabis can also be used in palliative care for cancer patients. Fewer side effects make it a more tolerable form of treatment.
WHY IS CANNABIS EFFECTIVE FOR SO MANY CONDITIONS?
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the effects of medical cannabis. It is what makes cannabis a viable treatment for certain conditions. The endocannabinoid system coordinates multiple physiological processes, including motor functions, sleep, mood, and immune function. It helps regulate our emotions, memory, pain, pleasure and other physical sensations.
The ECS functions as a homeostatic regulator, meaning it maintains a consistent and healthy internal environment. This influences different organs to work and communicate properly with the brain. When you consume cannabis, the plant’s cannabinoids, most notably THC and CBD, activate the cannabinoid receptors located throughout your ECS. There are two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, found in the central nervous system and immune/peripheral nervous system respectively. Cannabis can work in harmony with the ECS to maintain optimal balance in the body.
I. CHRONIC AND NEUROPATHIC PAIN DISORDERS
Cannabis is an analgesic and has anti-inflammatory properties which can help patients living with chronic pain. A growing body of research suggests that patients with traumatic brain injuries can use cannabis as a tool in their pain management and overall treatment. It can also assist in easing neuropathic pain stemming from conditions like HIV.
Cannabis can be used as an alternative to commonly-prescribed medications. It is non-toxic; there is no recorded fatal overdose from cannabis in any medical literature.
II. PSYCHIATRIC AND NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS
Many people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder have reported positive effects while using cannabis. Certain strains of cannabis have anxiolytic effects which can reduce PTSD-related symptoms and improve overall well-being. THC has also been known to reduce REM sleep, the stage in which one’s most vivid dreams occur. Patients have found that higher THC content can reduce nightmares and help with insomnia associated with PTSD.
Studies show that cannabis can promote new cell growth while also exhibiting neuroprotective properties. This can help alleviate symptoms associated with neurodegenerative disorders, like ALS. Certain cannabinoids have anti-spasmodic effects which can support patients in coping with painful spasms, seizures, and lack of muscle control, especially those suffering from multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Some cannabinoids have also illustrated an ability to reduce cellular inflammation which is the leading cause of progression in Alzheimer’s disease.
III. GASTROINTESTINAL AND APPETITE DISORDERS
Physicians have used cannabis in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis have shown promise in helping patients cope with painful and uncomfortable symptoms. In some cases, cannabis could be an alternative to NSAIDs and narcotic medications for pain management related to gastrointestinal disorders.
Many cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy experience extreme nausea and vomiting. Cannabis is so effective at combatting these symptoms that synthetic variations of THC are often used to treat cancer patients. These synthetic variations are especially popular in places without access to medical cannabis. Like natural cannabis, dronabinol interacts with the CB1 receptor, causing it to release hunger-inducing hormones. Though the research is limited, some studies suggest that THC can even trigger the death of brain cancer cells.
THE TAKEAWAY: What Does Cannabis Help With?
Today, cannabis strains are bred to have varying levels and concentrations intended to achieve a specific pharmacologic effect. The powerful medicinal properties stem from the concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as their interaction with the human body.
Across the country, people are discovering that cannabis can ease certain symptoms and can help them feel better.
The medical benefits of cannabis are vast and versatile. The plant’s natural therapeutic properties make it an effective form of treatment for many different medical conditions. The effects of cannabis can vary from person to person. When used responsibly, the health benefits of cannabis can drastically improve a person’s short- and long-term quality of life.