How Medical Marijuana Can Help Better Your Life
Ever since its legalization on a state level, medical marijuana has become a popular treatment choice among sufferers of a wide range of medical conditions. Today, it is claimed to have a positive effect on 21 different disorders and illnesses, afflicting people on neurological, physiological, and mental levels.
How Medical Marijuana Can Help Better Your Life
Medical marijuana seems to help with such neurological disorders as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some reports describe medical marijuana’s benefits for a list of physiological disorders, associated with inflammation and chronic pain. Such disorders include fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Certain formulations of medical marijuana are prescribed for patients with viral conditions such as AIDS, HIV, and hepatitis C to help ease their symptoms. Although it is still unclear, marijuana might also be beneficial for genetic disorders like sickle cell anemia.
Some researchers even go as far as looking into marijuana’s protective qualities for the human brain. As counterintuitive as it might seem, marijuana might slow down the aging processes within our brains. Even cancer made it on the list of illnesses that marijuana can potentially help treat.
At this time, clinical studies to prove marijuana’s ability to cure any of the above conditions are insufficient and inconclusive. Medical community and researchers avoid making any claims until they get more evidence from properly controlled studies. However, epidemiological research and studies on animals demonstrate medical marijuana’s ability to alleviate symptoms of various medical conditions, with the best results shown for chronic pain and inflammatory type of conditions.
Medical Marijuana Without Psychoactive Effects
Although marijuana consumption is typically associated with psychoactive effects, many varieties of medical marijuana formulations come without mind-altering properties. How any particular marijuana product affects your body and mind will depend on the purity and ratio of its active ingredients. To understand the concept behind marijuana without the “high,” we need to dive into some basic biology and chemistry of the plant.
Marijuana and Cannabinoids
A marijuana plant, also known as Cannabis sativa or hemp, contains more than 500 various chemicals, out of which 100 are active components called cannabinoids. This type of cannabinoids is called phytocannabinoids, meaning that they are of a plant origin.
Cannabinoids are also produced by the human body. These cannabinoids are known as endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are special neurotransmitters that compose the endocannabinoid (ECS) system of the human organism. Working through neural pathways, the ECS helps our bodies preserve the homeostasis (internal balance) and is responsible for regulating digestion, appetite, sleep, mood, temperature, memory, and other important physiological functions.
CBD ― Medical Marijuana Without Getting High
The two most researched cannabinoids that are now used in medicine for their therapeutic properties are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC comes from a resin that marijuana leaves and buds produce. THC is what gives marijuana its psychoactive properties and is responsible for the “high” that marijuana users experience.
CBD, on another hand, has almost none of the mind-altering properties but is claimed to have many medicinal qualities. As a phytocannabinoid, CBD mimics the effects of endocannabinoids and helps regulate the central nervous system. Patients use CBD for pain management, insomnia, anxiety, epilepsy, and many other conditions. Depending on the form that it comes in (for example, capsules, tinctures, sprays, concentrates, topicals, and tapes), CBD can be consumed internally as a supplement and externally through topical application.
The Advantage of Pure Marijuana Extracts
Before they are used in medicinal formulations, both CBD and THC are extracted from the plant and thoroughly purified. Consumption of these purified forms of cannabinoids is considered to have much stronger and more defined therapeutic effects compared to using the whole plant. The hemp plant comes with hundreds of unknown compounds, with concentrations varying from plant to plant. This is the reason why researchers also prefer working with pure CBD and THC extracts over the whole plant. By isolating the active ingredients, they can create formulations with precise ratios and eliminate various unexpected reactions to all other components present in the plant.
Medical MarijuanaWith Depression null
Although marijuana is commonly consumed to relieve stress, depression, and anxiety, the research that looks at marijuana’s effects on those conditions is hard to come by.
The Role of Cannabinoids in Relieving Depression
In some studies, CBD has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression. Although the researchers are not sure it could cure the condition, CBD has been linked to the improvement of the symptoms. The effect of symptom relief is likely due to the ability of phytocannabinoids to modulate the function of endocannabinoids, which regulate mood, sleep, appetite, and pain sensation ― all of the functions that tend to be disrupted during depression. In other words, marijuana could help depression sufferers to feel better mentally by improving their physiological health indicators.
Cannabinoids seem to also affect the brain chemistry of the subjects. They enhance the function of serotonin receptors, thus strengthening the effects of serotonin ― an important neurotransmitter that lowers stress levels and improves a person’s sense of well-being, mood, appetite, and the overall feeling of happiness.
Cannabinoids Therapy ― Less Is More
A recent study at Washington State University made some curious discoveries about the effects of different marijuana amounts and ratios of CBD and THC on individuals’ mental state. The subjects claimed suppression of the symptoms of depression after only a single puff of marijuana. The variety of marijuana used for the test had high concentrations of CBD and low amounts of THC. During another round of testing, after 10 or more puffs of marijuana that was high in CBD and THC, individuals felt a reduction in stress levels. Yet in another test, two puffs, regardless of CBD and THC levels, were enough to reduce anxiety.
The results of the study are quite promising for the treatment of depression and anxiety. They also show that the most benefit came from the smallest doses and over a short period of time, proving that less is truly more when it comes to marijuana therapy. Not only did the benefits decrease with higher doses, but the symptoms also seemed to worsen when marijuana was consumed over a long period of time.
Medical Marijuana Without THC for Anxiety and Depression
Although the research on the topic of medical marijuana for treatment of anxiety is limited and quite confusing, marijuana in the form of CBD oil has become quite popular among anxiety sufferers. According to the Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2018, nearly 62 percent of CBD users used CBD for some type of medical condition, with anxiety, depression, and pain being the most common.
According to the Neurotherapeutics journal, CBD is helpful in relieving severe symptoms of various types of anxiety disorders, including social and generalized anxiety disorders. However, the effects of CBD are not thoroughly understood.
A study in Frontiers in Pharmacology found that the CBD effect on anxiety depends on the administered dose, with 300 mg being the optimal amount. Amounts lower or higher than 300 mg did not produce the same positive outcomes.
Is CBD Suitable for Everyone?
The results with CBD treatment vary greatly. Different individuals tend to react differently to treatment with marijuana formulations: while some patients feel relief in their anxiety symptoms, others experience worsening of their symptoms. Researchers suspect that the difference in the effects of marijuana on anxiety sufferers is, first of all, due to the complexity of this mental disorder. At the same time, each patient’s personality and unique brain chemistry are among the determining factors in how they will respond to psychiatric medication. At this point, it is impossible to predict who will benefit from medical marijuana and who will not. As with many medications for mental disorders, it’s a trial and error process, until new, solid data on specific and predictable marijuana effects becomes available.
Medical Marijuana With Seizures and Epilepsy
The situation with marijuana’s benefits for epilepsy and seizures might be even more complicated and controversial than its use for any other maladies. Since these medical conditions could be debilitating and are a lot more serious, the lack of solid data about marijuana’s effects on these specific conditions is felt much stronger. While medical professionals work on making it easier for their patients to deal with their illnesses, they are also cautious with any measures that could potentially make matters worse.
In 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CBD oral solution EPIDIOLEX® for treatment of seizures in children suffering from two rare and severe forms of epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome). EPIDIOLEX® is pharmaceutical grade CBD oil and is the first medication for Dravet syndrome that the FDA approved.
Professional Opinion on Medical Marijuana With Epilepsy
However, regardless of the release of the FDA-approved drugs, the evidence is still scarce and comes mostly from anecdotal reports and poorly controlled studies. Thus, epilepsy specialists are still wary of prescribing medical marijuana for their patients due to the complexity of this medical condition, where each patient presents a unique case and requires a customized treatment protocol. On top of this, the long-term effects of marijuana consumption on epileptics are still unknown. Although many epilepsy doctors are open to trying various options to improve the quality of lives for their patients, they typically recommend exploring traditional epilepsy treatments first and administering marijuana medications only after rigorous testing that might rule out some unwarranted reactions.
Medical Marijuana With Cancer
When it comes to using medical marijuana for cancer patients, the evidence is insufficient, according to the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, animal studies show that certain components in marijuana plant are capable of not only hindering the growth of cancer cells but also killing cancer cells. In mice experiments, THC increased the efficacy of radiation on cancer cells.
While more research is needed to prove whether marijuana can cure cancer, it is quite successful as an adjunct therapy for cancer treatment. Added to cancer treatment protocols, it helps reduce the symptoms of nausea that cancer patients often experience during chemotherapy. For example, dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®) are the two medications that the FDA approved to prevent nausea and stimulate appetite during cancer treatment. Both of the formulas are based on THC. Although THC is the main component associated with mind-altering properties of the hemp plant, it can also have medicinal qualities in some formulations.
Other Common Uses of Medical Marijuana
In the United States, medical marijuana is most commonly used for conditions with chronic pain. As a pain reliever, it has been used for such conditions as endometriosis and fibromyalgia. It is considered a safer alternative to opiate pain medications because it is less addictive and has a lower risk of overdose. Medical marijuana might be a great option for patients who cannot take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin due to kidney or gastrointestinal problems.
Medical marijuana is particularly successful at alleviating neuropathic pain, common for conditions such as multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury. These patients have very few options to help with their symptoms. The commonly prescribed Lyrica, Neurontin, and opiate drugs all come with strong sedative effects, which interfere with patients’ daily lives. Medical marijuana, on another hand, allows patients to engage in their everyday activities without the feeling of grogginess or mental fuzziness. Marijuana is considered a great muscle relaxant and is even claimed to reduce Parkinson’s disease tremors.
The debate about marijuana legalization and its medicinal properties has been going on for decades now. Due to the controversy about the use of marijuana, many doctors default on the safer side and avoid the topic altogether. Although medical marijuana is now legal in 33 statesmany patients are still apprehensive about starting the conversation about medical marijuana with their physicians fearing judgment and scornful attitudes. While marijuana is still perceived as a recreational drug, medical formulations based on its pure extracts are potent medications with different therapeutic properties. These products combine pharmaceutical-grade ingredients in high concentrations and should be treated with caution like any other medication and used as indicated.