Five Common Medical benefits of Medical Marijuana

Posted august 9, 2013 by admin in medical marijuana benefits

Over the years, alternative medicine has become a popular approach to relieving everything from back pain to depression. Aromatherapy, acupuncture, crystal therapy and many more are common replacements to the traditional doctor's office visit. Another method of alternative healing is medicinal cannabis.

Dating back to ancient Chinese medicine, there has long been a following of this "magical" herb, praised for its soothing and hallucinogenic qualities [Source: Guy, Whittle and Robson]. Though recreational use of the drug is still illegal in the U.S., the popularity of the drug for medicinal purposes is on the rise. With more states legalizing medical cannabis each year – currently 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation governing the drug's use for medical purposes [source: NORML] - the substance is increasingly being used to help treat these five common ailments.

Nausea and Vomiting

There are two types of receptors in our body that allows us to take in the effects of medical cannabis - CB1 receptors that are found primarily in the brain, spinal cord, and periphery and CB2 receptors that are found on the immune tissues [source: McCarberg, Bill M.D.]. When coming into contact with cannabis, our body produces molecules (called endocannabinoids) that interact with these CB1 and CB2 receptors which produces the euphoric state that helps to dull our senses to various symptoms [source: McCarberg, Bill M.D.].

One first documented uses of medical cannabis was to ease the symptoms of nausea, especially following chemotherapy. The National Cancer Institute presented research from two FDA-approved cannabis-based drugs, dronabinol and nabilone, which showed statistically significant benefit in reducing chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. When taken orally, the drugs "worked as well as or better than some of the weaker FDA-approved drugs to relieve nausea and vomiting" [source: National Cancer Institute].

Anorexia/Loss of Appetite

The next breakthrough for medicinal cannabis was the discovery that medical marijuana could stimulate appetite in patients with anorexia, loss of appetite secondary to a serious illness such as cancer or AIDS. A clinical trial conducted by the National Cancer Institute showed "patients with HIV/AIDS and weight loss found that those who took dronabinol (delta-9-THC) had increased appetite and stopped losing weight compared with patients who took a placebo." Although, the trial also found that the dronabinol was less effective at increasing the appetite of patients in the advanced stages of cancer than standard treatment methods [source: National Cancer Institute].

Further studies on healthy volunteers indicated that the inhalation of cannabis can lead to an increased consumption of calories, especially in sweet and fatty foods. In addition, there are many animal studies which have proven that inhaling cannabinoids increases food consumption [source: National Cancer Institute]. Medical Marijuana has also been shown to work for cachexia, severe anorexia or wasting disease.

Muscle Spasms

One of the key benefits of medical Marijuana is its ability to relax muscle tension. In 2004 a study by the American Cancer Society concluded that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) who used cannabis in a liquid extract form containing THC and cannabidiol had a significant decrease in muscle spasms and shaking [source: American Cancer Society]. Another study performed on severely disabled MS patients, an intake of THC produced a decrease in tremors and muscle stiffness [source: National Multiple Sclerosis Society].

Many patients with chronic muscle spasms prefer to use medical cannabis as opposed to prescription muscle relaxants such as Valium which can be very addictive.

Chronic Pain

Chrnic pain can be very debilitating. It can interfere with a patient's quality of life both personally and professionally. Medical cannabis can provide an analgesic quality to those suffering from chronic pain. Those suffering from neuropathic pain - commonly caused by alcoholism, amputation, spine surgery, HIV, MS, disc disease, etc. often prefer medicinal cannabis as opposed to Vicodin or other prescription pain medications which can be very addicting.

In 2010 a study done by the Canadian Medical Association Journal with 21 men and women with an average age of 45 and in chronic pain showed a definite relief of symptoms with the use of medical marijuana. The subjects were tested with four different strengths of cannabis - one at 9.4% THC, one at 2.5% THC, the other 6% THC and one placebo [source: Doheny, Kathleen]. Each test subject used a random strain (they had no knowledge of the different strengths) three times a day for five days. After the five-day test period, the patients rated their level of pain. The highest dosage of THC (9.4%) was shown to lower the pain level from 6.1 to 5.4 on average. The study notes that most strains sold on the street are at 10% or 15% THC levels and therefore may produce an even lower pain rating [source: Doheny, Kathleen].

Insomnia

Many users of medical marijuana use it to reduce anxiety and improve sleep disorders such as insomnia. In a study by the National Cancer Institute, the testing revealed that test subjects who inhaled marijuana had "improved mood, improved sense of well-being and less anxiety." Patients also reported more restful sleep [source: National Cancer Institute].


Sources

  • American Cancer Society. "Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Herbs, Vitamins and Minerals." http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/marijuana
  • Doheny, Kathleen. "Marijuana Relieves Chronic Pain, Research Shows." WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20100830/marijuana-relieves-chronic-pain-research-show
  • Geoffrey William Guy, Brian Anthony Whittle, Philip Robson. "The Medicinal Uses of Cannabis And Cannabinoids." Pharmaceutical Press, 2004.
  • McCarberg, Bill M.D. "Marijuana and Pain Management." National Pain Foundation. http://www.nationalpainfoundation.org/articles/112/marijuana-and-pain-management
  • National Cancer Institute. "Cannabis and Cannabinoids." National Institutes of Health. 2011. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/patient/Page2#Section_13
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Marijuana" http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/treatments/complementary--alternative-medicine/marijuana/index.aspx
  • "State Laws: Medical Marijuana." NORML. http://norml.org/legal/medical-marijuana-2