While every state has laws dictating the use of medical marijuana, more than two-thirds of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized it for medical treatments and more are considering bills to do the same. Yet while many people are using marijuana, the FDA has only approved it for the treatment of two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Nowadays, there are several methods for consuming cannabis:
- Oil (most common)
- Oro-mucosal sprays
The products can come from different origins, such as:
- Derived from the plant, e.g. a cannabis plant extract
- Made synthetically in a lab
- There are three main forms of medicinal cannabis products:
- Isolate: isolated cannabinoids, only THC or only CBD
Full-spectrum: products containing a range of the constituents of the cannabis plant is different concentrations. These are typically high in THC or CBD and have lower levels of the other lesser-known minor phytocannabinoids. These products tend to have THC.
Medical Marijuana Uses
In a human study of 10 HIV-positive marijuana smokers, scientists found people who smoked marijuana ate better, slept better and experienced a better mood. Another small study of 50 people found patients that consumed cannabis saw less neuropathic pain.
Medical marijuana and some of the plant’s chemicals have been used to help Alzheimer’s patients gain weight, and research found that it lessens some of the agitated behavior that patients can exhibit. In one cell study, researchers found it slowed the progress of protein deposits in the brain. Scientists think these proteins may be part of what causes Alzheimer’s, although no one knows what causes the disease.
Animal studies have shown some marijuana extracts may kill certain cancer cells. Other cell studies show it may stop cancer growth, and with mice, THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, improved the impact of radiation on cancer cells. Marijuana can also prevent the nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy treatment used to treat cancer.
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
Using marijuana or some of the chemicals in the plant may help prevent muscle spasms, pain, tremors and stiffness, according to early-stage, mostly observational studies involving animals, lab tests and a small number of human patients. The downside — it may impair memory, according to a small study involving 20 patients.
And finally… Is medical marijuana safe ?
Further study is needed to answer this question, but possible side effects of medical marijuana may include:
- Increased heart rate
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Slower reaction times
- Negative drug-to-drug interactions
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Increased appetite
- Potential for addiction
- Hallucinations or mental illness
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Some medical marijuana is formulated to provide symptom relief without the intoxicating, mood-altering effects associated with recreational use of marijuana.
Legalization and regulation of cannabis as a medicinal herb are key to developing specific products to attend to different patients’ needs and reduce side effects.