How Marijuana’s Medical Benefits Could Benefit You:
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Support for complete legalization of marijuana is well past the majority stage, with up to 84% of the American population believing it should be legal for medicinal purposes. At the time of writing, 29 states and Washington D.C. allow weed for medical reasons and several states look likely to join the party within a few years.
Although research into marijuana’s medical benefits is still in its relative infancy, we have reached a stage where the National Institute on Drug Abuse lists several medical uses for weed! The site points out that cannabis could help people decrease their use of opioids, a deadly addiction that claims the lives of almost 100 people a day. They even acknowledge that there could be an array of additional benefits to cannabis.
The trouble is, marijuana is illegal on a federal level, which means performing double-blind studies right now is a near impossibility for researchers. Also, they have to use government-grown and approved weed for their studies, which is nothing like the real thing. If you’re intrigued by what this humble herb can do for your medical ailments, read on to learn more.
It’s All About Cannabinoids
There are hundreds of compounds in marijuana and well over 110 known cannabinoids. The technical term for them is actually ‘phytocannabinoids’ and when you consume weed, these chemicals interact with cells in your body to produce an array of medical benefits. Cannabinoids are contained within the plant’s crystals (also known as trichomes) and are responsible for weed’s sparkly, shiny, and pleasing appearance.
The best-known cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC is notorious for providing users with a mind-altering ‘high’. That’s the awesome feeling you get when your mind is briefly at one with the universe, or when you’re too zonked out to move off the couch! CBD is non-intoxicating and is capable of counteracting the less desirous effects of THC such as paranoia. There is a host of other potentially medically useful cannabinoids such as CBC, CBG, and CBN.
How Cannabinoids Work with The Body
The reason why the cannabinoids in marijuana are so significant is that of the way they act with the body. To be more specific, the way they act on our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The term ‘endo’ relates to the word ‘endogenous’, meaning ‘originating in the body’. The ECS was only discovered in 1992, but researchers quickly found a link between it and marijuana.
The ECS consists of cannabinoids and receptors. Cannabinoids such as THC bind to receptors and this process results in changes to how the cells in our body function. To date, researchers have found two cannabinoid receptor types: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are generally found in the brain. When you consume a high-THC strain, its impact on your brain is why you feel ‘high’.
CB2 receptors are mainly found in the immune system and activation of them doesn’t result in a psychoactive high. For the record, CBD acts indirectly on these receptors, which is why it is non-intoxicating and also why it offers different effects to THC. Overall, the ECS is involved with sleep, pain, memory, mood, appetite and much more. This helps explain why marijuana users experience so many medical benefits.
How Can Marijuana Help Me?
While cannabis is federally illegal and not approved for use as a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the body has approved Epidiolex, a CBD-based medication used for the Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. These conditions include epilepsy as a symptom and it is believed that marijuana can effectively reduce the number of seizures, along with their duration. Let’s take a look at five key conditions that marijuana can potentially aid. All are backed by a significant level of medical research.
Aside from a few sensational cases such as that of Charlotte Figi, most epilepsy studies were conducted on rodents until recently. This changed upon the publication of Emilio Perucca’s report* in the December 2017 issue of the Journal of Epilepsy Research. Part of the report looked at a study of 27 children with Dravet syndrome who were given up to 20mg/Kg doses of CBD and enjoyed positive results in terms of seizure reduction.
A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said there was “definitive evidence” that cannabinoids can be an effective treatment for patients with chronic pain. In 2015, one Harvard-led clinical review* of 28 studies found that the use of cannabis for various forms of pain “is supported by high-quality evidence.”
Perhaps more importantly, marijuana could be capable of weaning people off opioids. A study* by the University of Michigan, published in March 2016, found that weed improved the quality of life of pain sufferers, and on average, reduced their use of opioids by 64%.
Glaucoma is an increasingly common eye condition in the United States and can lead to blindness if improperly treated. It increases the pressure in your eyeball and damages your vision. There are decades-old studies available that show how cannabis helps decrease the pressure in the eyeball. The National Eye Institute has said that there are studies from the 1970s which clearly illustrate how marijuana reduces intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with glaucoma, and also in individuals with normal eye pressure levels.
Most cancer patients use marijuana or CBD oil for pain relief or to increase appetite during and after chemotherapy treatment. However, there is evidence that weed could even prevent cancer from spreading. A 2007 study* by Sean McAllister and Pierre Desprez found that CBD was able to switch off ID-1, the gene responsible for cancer spreading. Preliminary studies on aggressive brain tumors in rodents also suggest that THC and CBD are capable of shrinking tumors when used at the right dosage.
While marijuana may not prevent the disease, it could at least slow it down. A 2006 study* by Kim Janda, published in the journal, Molecular Pharmaceutics, discovered that THC slowed the formation of amyloid plaques known to kill brain cells. These plaques are associated with Alzheimer’s, but Janda’s research found that THC blocked the enzyme in the brain responsible for creating the plaque.
This Sounds Great – Why Hasn’t Marijuana Been Fully Legalized Yet?
There are an awful lot of reasons why cannabis is still illegal, and a lot boils down to plain old ignorance. When you have people at high levels of government, such as Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, who still believe in myths that have long since been obliterated, there will always be a struggle for legalization. Add in the fact that Big Pharma does not want weed legalized for obvious reasons, and there is a gigantic obstacle in the path towards making marijuana available to all.
Cannabis is also trapped in a vicious circle. It is illegal on a federal level, which means it is very hard for researchers to study it properly. They have to request state and federal permission and wait for a lengthy federal review to ensure each study is meticulously recorded and properly secured. Developing double-blind studies is effectively impossible where THC is concerned.
Meanwhile, the federal government doesn’t want to legalize weed either, and one of its biggest reasons is a lack of research! As long as this situation persists, cannabis advocates will always face a fight for legalization.
Final Thoughts on What Medical Marijuana Can Do for You
It would be incorrect to suggest that medical weed is without risks. Up to 6% of users can become addicted and you could suffer side effects such as paranoia if you use a strain excessively high in THC. The full effects of cannabis are not known due to the lack of long-term studies. However, there are now thousands of studies that involve looking at the impact of marijuana on a variety of medical conditions and most of them carry positive news.
If you live in a state where marijuana is legal for medicinal use, you will need to get approval from a licensed physician to get your MMJ card. When you book your appointment, be open and honest with your doctor because that’s the only way to get what you need. It is best if you do some research and check out ‘cannabis-friendly’ physicians in your state. If and when you receive approval, use marijuana sensibly and always begin by using a small amount to ascertain its effects on you.