Medical marijuana, also called medical cannabis, is the clinical, physician-recommended herbal medicine for the treatment of chronic pain and other diseases or disorders. It has been found to provide therapeutic benefits to patients who suffer from painful symptoms associated with chronic pain and a wide range of medical conditions. Medical marijuana has been used to treat symptoms from AIDS, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Epilepsy, Arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Huntington’s Disease and others.
Forms of Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana can come in two main forms; a synthetic cannabinoid that is produced as a capsule or tablet or the plant form of marijuana. In plant form, the herb is available in many different forms including edibles, drinks and tinctures as well as dried plant leaves, buds and extracted hash.
Medical Marijuana Use and Prohibition
Marijuana has been used as a therapeutic and medicinal tool for over 5000 years all over the world. Chinese and Indian historical records show that the herb has been used for millenia to treat afflictions, pain and chronic disease. In more recent history, marijuana has had a tainted existence with the drug being was placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act of the United States in 1972. This meant that the drug was considered to have no medical benefits and a high risk of abuse.
The push for decriminalization of marijuana began in the late 1970’s in the United States. Decriminalization refers to the abolition of criminal penalties related to certain acts, which for marijuana meant the cultivation and possession of personal amounts of the drug were tolerated. This has lead the way for the development of medical marijuana use and policies.
Marijuana and Cannabis
The marijuana plant, cannabis, contains over 60 chemical compounds which are known as cannabinoids. Cannabis has been found to act on specific receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. Certain brain areas have more cannabinoid receptors such as those that influence feelings of pleasure and coordination.
The psychoactive element in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. Once ingested, THC will invoke pleasurable feelings. Users feel relaxed and have a loss of anxiety. THC has been found to be a significant contributor to a loss of short term memory and may be a factor in an increased risk in the development of psychosis or mental health disorders when a predisposition to the condition occurs.
Marijuana’s second most abundant cannabinoid is Cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD occurs in up to 40 per cent of the plants makeup and unlike THC, CBD does not illicit psychoactive effects. CBD has been found to have anti inflammatory, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic and anti-oxidant properties as well providing many therapeutic benefits to serious health conditions. Street-purchased marijuana typically has low levels of CBD and high levels of THC .
Benefits of Medical Marijuana
Researchers, doctors, users and advocates of medical marijuana state that there are vast number of therapeutic benefits of the herb. Reduction in nausea, pain relief, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are just some of the studied benefits of the drug.
One of the interesting side effects of marijuana is the stimulation of the appetite. Colloquially known as the munchies to regular marijuana smokers, this effect can have significant benefits for people with diseases such as HIV, AIDS or those who suffer from cancers.
Research suggests that marijuana has pain relieving benefits that are similar in pain reduction to codeine. Marijuana can also reduce inflammation while providing pain relief which is of significant importance to people who suffer conditions such as arthritis. For sufferers of multiple sclerosis,chronic headaches and migraines, the reduction in pain on movement and at rest provides significant improvements to quality of life.
The anti-nausea effects of marijuana are important in their role of decreasing the symptoms of vomiting and nausea. This is particularly beneficial for individuals who are undergoing chemotherapy or other medical interventions and who find other medications do not treat these afflictions well.
Herbal Medical Marijuana Products
Medical marijuana is most commonly available in its herbal, natural form. A range of different strains of marijuana buds that vary in terms of strength and effects can be purchased as well as pre-rolled joints for smoking. Concentrated hash is also available. Due to the health concerns of some people surrounding smoking and inhalation, there are a significant number of edible cannabis products. These include chocolates, lollipops and sweets, medicated drinks, oils, biscuits, and cakes.
Synthetic Cannabis – Dronabinolabinol and Nabilone
There are a number of different synthetic cannabinoids available to treat pain, nausea and weight loss that are prescription-only medication. These drugs include Donabinol and Nabilone.
Dronabinol, also known as Marinol, is a prescription-only form of medical marijuana. This medication contains a synthetic form of THC in a capsule that comes in 3 strengths – 2.5mg, 5mg or 10mg. It does not contain any cannabidiol. Marinol is prescribed to treat nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and other approved conditions.
Marinol can cause a number of negative side effects that are linked to the high concentration of THC in the medication. These include anxiety, confusion, memory loss, unsteady walking, dizziness, sleepiness and strange thoughts or visions. Anecdotal evidence suggests that psychoactive properties are more significant than natural marijuana. This may be because of the method of ingestion; THC is absorbed into the blood stream in the small intestine after which it is metabolized in the liver. It is believed that this increases the likelihood of an adverse reaction.
Nabilone is another synthetic cannabinoid that is typically prescribed to chemotherapy patients to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy which include severe nausea and vomiting. As with Marinol, there are a number of side effects that have been caused by the use of Nabilone. These include hallucinations, headaches, insomnia, weakness, lack of coordination and anxiety.