It’s no longer a secret – medical marijuana has the potential to revolutionize healthcare. Although studies into its health benefits are just starting to get the necessary backing, the few research studies already done reveal that the drug has a wide range of applications, the majority of them groundbreaking.
For instance, it was recently found that marijuana has the potential to help in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, one of the three most deadly neurodegenerative diseases known to man. Studies concluded in 2014 also show that medical marijuana may help treat bladder pain syndrome, an irritating medical condition that makes patients unable to control their bladders.
Interestingly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The most significant breakthroughs for researchers seeking potential applications for medical marijuana have come in the following 11 areas;
1. Cancer Treatment
Yes, marijuana can help in the treatment of cancer. First off, pre-clinical studies (involving lab and animal testing) show that the drug may be effective in slowing down or halting the development of certain tumors. Recent studies at the South African Northwest University have found that cannabis not only stops further growth of cancer cells but also kills them.
Additionally, medical marijuana has been shown to treat or relieve many cancer symptoms. The right doses of the drug;
Treat nausea and vomiting
Many cancer patients experience nausea and vomiting as a side effect of chemotherapy. Currently, there are several contemporary drugs designed to treat nausea/vomiting. Unfortunately, depending on the individual and type & stage of cancer, the medications don’t always work.
Marijuana is very effective against both nausea and vomiting. Indeed, one cannabis-based drug, Dronabinol, was recently approved by the FDA solely for this purpose.
Alleviate pain and inflammation
Cancer patients also typically go through a lot of pain. Conventionally, the doctor will prescribe opioids for pain relief. But even that is sometimes not enough.
Medical marijuana can be used to aid with the treatment. The drug has anti-inflammatory properties that act to relieve pain. The doctor can decide to use cannabis alone or alongside opioids.
Ordinarily, when you’re hungry, the stomach releases a hormone called ghrelin, which sends a message to the brain that the stomach is empty and you need to eat. In people undergoing cancer treatment, this messaging mechanism may be compromised, leading to the loss of appetite.
What cannabis does is to trigger a ghrelin surge. Additionally, marijuana changes the genetic activity of brain cells in the hypothalamus responsible for sensing ghrelin, resulting in an increased urge to eat.
Neuropathy is defined as damage to the sensory, motor, and autonomic nerves. It’s a chronic medical condition that affects nearly 20 million people in the US alone. A common sign of neuropathy is numbness, weakness, and pain to extremities like hands and feet. Most cancer patients have the condition.
Cannabis medication minimizes neuropathy by activating your CB1 and CB2 receptors, which regulate the central nervous system and neurotransmitters, effectively increasing sensitivity while reducing pain in the affected areas.
2. Managing Depression
Depression is a common mental disorder that causes patients to experience depressed mood, loss of pleasure/interest, feeling of guilt, and low self-esteem. It can also cause the affected individual to experience loss of sleep, low energy, and poor concentration.
According to the world health organization, the condition affects 264 million people worldwide. In the US, at least 16 million people are depressed at any given time. Medical marijuana acts against depression in the following ways;
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition linked to surviving or witnessing a traumatic life event. It causes agitation, impaired concentration, flashbacks, insomnia, and nightmares. Studies show that cannabis can significantly reduce some of these symptoms.
In one study in Canada, it was found that people who engage in lower-risk cannabis use are less likely to experience depression and suicidal ideation. Controlled cannabis use also reduces memory loss and treats insomnia.
People with depression tend to exhibit anxiety symptoms. Common signs of anxiety include hypervigilance, irritability, restlessness, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, and even unwanted thoughts.
In one study conducted on people using the drug in their homes, it was found that just two puffs of cannabis are sufficient to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
Effective against bipolar disorder
The exact cause of the bipolar disorder is unknown, but it can cause extreme mood swings, unwanted thoughts, fatigue, weight gain, and difficulty in sleeping.
Medical marijuana can help with most of the symptoms. First off, cannabis is effective against fatigue, weight gain, and sleep disorders. Additionally, in the right doses, medical marijuana stabilizes mood, which can suppress bipolar disorder.
It combats ADHD/ADD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), formerly ADD, is a chronic medical condition that causes attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Typical symptoms include aggression, absent-mindedness, anger, and irritability.
Although there’s still debate around the subject, cannabis helps to dampen those symptoms. In one study, 25% of respondents said cannabis use was therapeutic for their ADHD. The drug was only unhelpful in 8% of the cases.
3. HIV/AIDS Management
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are viral infections that interfere with the body’s ability to fight diseases. The two affect about 37.9 million people globally (according to WHO) and can be caught through contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluid.
Marijuana doesn’t cure HIV/AIDS; nothing does. However, the magic drug has proven effective in the treatment of several of the symptoms associated with both HIV and AIDS, including;
AIDS wasting syndrome
Wasting syndrome, or cachexia, is the sudden and drastic loss of weight that you see in people battling HIV/AIDS. Typically, the patient can lose up to 10% of their body mass. Losing so much body mass is life-threatening.
A study conducted some time back at Columbia University shows that, when taken orally, medical marijuana stimulates appetite, encourages weight gain, and boosts calorie intake, effectively reversing cachexia symptoms.
People with HIV/AIDS experience various forms of pain. Muscle pain, muscle cramping, and muscle disorders are particularly common. The pain can vary in severity and duration, depending on several factors.
Cannabis has anti-inflammatory qualities that can help ease the pain. THC directly dampens the body’s pain-inducing response to injury while CBD works by blocking inflammatory mediators.
Neuropathy refers to damage to the nervous system. Common symptoms of the condition include muscle weakness in the hands, numbness or tingling in the extremities, and feet and increased sensitivity to pain.
CBD-rich cannabis acts against neuropathic pain by activating serotonin receptors. It’s worth noting that cannabis does this without impairing the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS drugs.
Mood swings and depression in HIV/AIDS patients are primarily caused by the shock, anger, grief, fear, and sadness resulting from learning that they have the disease. In some cases, though, it can be a result of infections separate from HIV/AIDS.
Marijuana is a proven mood stabilizer. It dampens most of the symptoms associated with mood swings, including fear, shock, and anger.
4. Fighting Obesity
Obesity is a disorder involving excessive body fat. Medically, it’s defined as a body mass index greater than 30. The condition results from taking in more calories than your body can burn through regular activities. Common symptoms include pain in the back or joints, abdominal obesity, fatigue, and snoring.
Cannabis alone cannot treat obesity. However, the drug is incredibly useful in the management of most obesity symptoms. It;
Helps with high blood pressure
High blood pressure is a medical condition in which the force of blood against artery walls is too high. Clinically, you have hypertension if your blood pressure is above 140/90. The situation is considered severe if the pressure rises past 180/120.
Cannabis alleviates many high blood pressure symptoms such as dizziness, headache, blurred vision, and chest pains. It has also been shown to lower the pressure.
Obesity causes excess weight around the neck and throat, which can lead to snoring. Snoring, in turn, can cause stroke, heart disease, and heart attack. Sleep apnea is another risk.
Medical marijuana treats insomnia by limiting the effect of serotonin on cells in the inferior ganglion of the vagus nerve that affects breathing sensations. In one 2002 study, the drug reduced snoring-related sleep apnea by 32%.
Fixes cholesterol issues
Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and certain substances required for digestion. But, high levels of cholesterol usually result in fatty deposits in your blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Marijuana does two things. First, it raises good cholesterol (HDL), which helps remove bad cholesterol (LDL) deposits from the blood. Secondly, the drug also generally lowers cholesterol levels.
Obesity has significant emotional and mental impacts on the affected person, often manifesting in low self-esteem. It’s been shown that the majority of people who are obese are not happy with their body image.
Although cannabis alone cannot fix body image and self-esteem issues, it amplifies the patient’s present emotional state.
5. Cannabis and Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts weeks to years. Often, the pain is caused by inflammation or dysfunctional nerves. Symptoms usually include pain in the back, mouth, bones, and neck. Pins and needles is another common sign. The pain can be accompanied by fatigue, headaches, anxiety, and sleep deprivation.
Medical marijuana is an increasingly popular alternative to traditional pain-relieving medications. Today, the drug is used to;
Manages post-surgery pain
Post-surgery or postsurgical pain is excruciating pain lasting more than three to six months after surgery. The pain usually varies in terms of both intensity and location. It’s associated with iatrogenic neuropathic pain caused by injury to major peripheral nerves in the body.
Marijuana has analgesic properties, making it useful in managing such pain. For this purpose, cannabis is often used alongside other pain medications.
Treats spinal cord injury pain
Pain is a serious problem for people with spinal cord injury (SCI). Such injuries can result from overuse, muscle strain, or injury to the muscles, ligaments, and discs that support the spinal cord. The pain is very real and can negatively impact the patient’s quality of life.
Medical marijuana speeds up the healing of the spinal cord without the adverse effects of prescription spine medications such as constipation and overdose.
Treats central post-stroke pain
Central post-stroke pain (CPSP) is intense pain experienced after a stroke. It’s one of the most challenging consequences of this life-changing event. CPSP is a disabling condition and is primarily caused by injury to the brain.
A study conducted in 2012 shows that marijuana has anti-inflammatory properties that can help in treating the brain inflammation caused by CPSP.
Diminishing cachexia pain
Cachexia is a medical condition characterized by extreme weight loss and muscle wastage. It’s common in patients with HIV and is the leading cause of death in cancer patients. Cachexia comes with stinging pain caused by damage to muscles.
Marijuana diminishes cachexia pain in two ways. First, the inflammatory properties help alleviate the pain. Secondly, cannabis also stimulates appetite, which can help treat cachexia.
6. Treating Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, resulting in seizures. The condition is genetic but can also be caused by injury to the brain. Fainting, loss of consciousness, muscle spasms, headache, memory loss, and Todd’s paralysis are some of the symptoms.
Medical marijuana is now widely used in the treatment of the disease. Indeed, the FDA has since approved a few cannabis-based medications for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy. The drugs help as follows;
Stop epileptic seizures
One of the primary signs of epilepsy is epileptic seizures. Epilepsy makes the body move involuntarily, which often results in seizures. In many cases, the body will stiffen during the epileptic episode.
Patients who use marijuana to manage their epilepsy report that the drug minimizes or, in some cases, even stops seizures.
Treat altered breathing patterns
Altered breathing is also common among people with epilepsy. In fact, it’s one of the main causes of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), which is a leading cause of death in people with refractory epilepsy.
One of the biggest medical benefits of marijuana is its role in balancing the nervous system. This can help minimize or even treat altered breathing patterns in people with epilepsy.
Improve stability while walking
People, especially children, with epilepsy, have muscle weakness that can result in a range of issues, including difficulty walking or even standing. Some also experience posture problems. All these can result in sudden falling.
Again, marijuana’s nervous system-balancing qualities can help resolve these problems. This, combined with the drug’s anti-seizure properties, make cannabis a valuable treatment for those with epilepsy.
Boosts control of eye movements
Epilepsy also causes irregularities in eye movements. Research published in the scientific journal PLOS One suggests that people with epilepsy exhibit saccadic eye movements, which refers to quick, simultaneous movements of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction.
These saccadic eye movements reduce significantly when the patient starts taking marijuana as part of their treatment plan.
7. Treats Insomnia
Insomnia refers to persistent problems falling and staying asleep. Most cases of the condition are related to poor sleeping habits, anxiety, depression, lack of exercise, chronic sickness, or certain diseases. Insomnia may cause slowness in activity, headache, and irritability, among other health issues.
Medical research shows that cannabis significantly reduces insomnia symptoms. Some of the ways the drug can help include;
Treats sleeping difficulty
As already mentioned, difficulty falling asleep is perhaps the most common symptom or effect of insomnia. You could stay on the bed all night and not fall asleep at all.
Terpene, an element found in cannabis and several other sources such as pine plants, has been shown to have sedative qualities that can help insomnia patients fall asleep. It reduces sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and even boosts non-REM sleep.
Treats daytime sleepiness (narcolepsy)
People with insomnia tend to suffer from disabling daytime sleepiness, a condition known as narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is characterized by difficulty waking up in the morning, sleepiness during your waking hours, and daytime naps that don’t take the edge off your sleepiness.
Marijuana helps you sleep during the night, so you’re not sleepy during the day. Since it also induces deeper sleep, you’ll be more productive during the day.
Fixes the lack of concentration
Scientists studying sleepiness have found that sleep deprivation causes reduced alertness and diminished concentration. The affected person finds it more challenging to focus or pay attention, often resulting in confusion.
Cannabis fixes this issue in two ways. First, it helps you sleep better and sounder. Secondly, marijuana also impacts the areas of the brain associated with coordination and focus, thus boosting concentration.
Sleeping loss and oversleeping are two of the best-known triggers of headaches. The two cause wake-up headache, which is a type of migraine that occurs early in the morning. They also cause hypnic headaches that occur during sleep and cluster headaches that occur within an hour of falling asleep.
Boosting your sleep quality using marijuana can help prevent these issues. Additionally, marijuana is a proven treatment for migraines.
8. Huntington’s disease
Huntington’s disease is an inherited medical condition in which nerve cells in the brain break down over time. It starts as the individual enters the thirties. Some of the disease’s typical symptoms include involuntary movements, body coordination issues, muscle spasms, and cognitive problems, including delusion, amnesia, and mental confusion.
Medical marijuana is an effective treatment against some of the symptoms of the disease. The right dose of cannabis;
Chorea is a condition characterized by involuntary and jerky movements. It mostly affects the shoulders and hips but can also attack the face. These movements can change the way the patient walks, talks, or swallows.
Chorea improves in patients taking cannabis as part of their treatment. Researches attribute these results to cannabis’s anxiolytic effects. An anxiolytic drug is one used in the treatment of anxiety.
Treats muscle rigidity (dystonia)
Dystonia is another movement disorder. It causes the muscles to contract involuntarily, resulting in repetitive or twisting movements. The muscle spasms can range from mild to severe, and possibly even be painful. The condition often interferes with the performance of daily tasks.
Both THC and CBD boost the inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters that can help regulate muscle tremors and spasticity common in dystonia patients.
Stabilizes eye movements
People with Huntington’s disease have difficulty initiating voluntary eye movements. This often results in compensatory movements with the head, a phenomenon known as a head impulse.
Cannabis alone doesn’t treat this condition. But the drug has been shown to decrease the amount of rapid eye movement when given in modest doses, which is the reason it also works so well to improve sleep quality.
Boosts gait and posture
In the early stages of Huntington’s disease, gait may become unstable. Posture is also often affected, with patients often exhibiting lateral or side-to-side deviations and imbalance. Difficulty turning has also been reported.
When administered in the right doses, medical marijuana regulates unsteady muscle movements of the body, and can thus stabilize gait and posture, allowing the patient to walk more normally.
9. Cannabis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term used to reference chronic inflammatory conditions affecting the digestive tract. There are two main types of IBD; ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is a condition that causes long-lasting inflammation and sores/ulcers in the inner linings of the colon and rectum. Cohn’s disease, meanwhile, is characterized by the inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract.
Cannabis is effective against most of the symptoms of IBD. Research shows that taking cannabis helps in the following ways;
Stomach ulcers are sores that develop on the lining of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestines. The sores occur when stomach acid damages the lining of the digestive tract. Common causes of stomach ulcers include bacteria H. Pylori and anti-inflammatory pain relievers.
Medical marijuana helps heal ulcers and other stomach ailments through its action on stomach acid. It slows down the process of acid production in the stomach.
Reduces intestinal blockage
Intestinal blockage, also known as bowel obstruction, is a condition that hinders digested material from passing through the bowel smoothly. It’s mostly caused by tissues that compress the gut but may also be caused by certain medications. Typical symptoms include pain in the abdomen, bloating, constipation, and nausea.
Medical cannabis is effective against most of these symptoms. The drug treats nausea and vomiting. It also suppresses gastrointestinal mortality.
Treats perforation bowel
Perforation bowel is a high-risk medical condition that results in the development of a hole in the bowel. It can also cause the enlargement of the colon, thus significantly affecting the patient’s long calls.
Marijuana, if used alongside other medications, is effective in preventing perforation bowel. It does so by minimizing the inflammation that often creates the perforation.
Prevents rectal bleeding
Rectal bleeding is one of the symptoms of late-stage ulcerative colitis. The condition is characterized by unexplained bleeding in the rectum that’s often accompanied by pain. The degree of pain tends to vary depending on the severity of the disease.
Again, medical marijuana acts by treating the root cause of these problems – inflammation in the stomach and digestive system.
10. Treating Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that causes the immune system to eat away at the protective covering of nerves. This uncontrolled nerve damage can disrupt communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Common MS symptoms include pain in the back, tremors, muscular cramping, whole-body fatigue, and frequent urination.
Studies conducted in 2012 indicate that medical marijuana might be useful in treating many of the MS symptoms, including;
Also known as spasticity, muscle stiffness is a hallmark symptom of multiple sclerosis. The spasticity causes tightness in the muscles found in the legs (calf or thigh), groin, and buttocks. It may also cause pain in the back.
Cannabis helps to ease the pain resulting from muscle stiffness. The synthetic drug, Nabilone, in particular, significantly reduces spasticity-related pain.
Muscle spasms are another defining symptom of multiple sclerosis. The spasms are excruciatingly painful and mostly affect joints. You’ll know you have muscle spasms if you feel tight in the joints and on your back.
Again, cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties are valuable in treating the pain associated with muscle spasms. In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, half of the participants reported a significant reduction of muscle spasm pains.
Around three-quarters of people with multiple sclerosis report tremors. For most of these people, the tremors are mild and infrequent. But for others, they are a frequent occurrence and often severe. The tremors can be; intentional, postural, nystagmus, or resting tremors.
Cannabis helps in regulating tremors by stabilizing the nervous system. Additionally, marijuana has anti-anxiety qualities that can help minimize the occurrence of tremors.
Dizziness in MS patients is caused by an existing lesion’s growth or the appearance of a new lesion on the brain stem or cerebellum. The cerebellum is the area of the brain that controls balance. Aside from dizziness, vertigo, the feeling of the world spinning, is also possible.
The anti-seizure components of cannabis can help reduce dizziness and vertigo. However, patients are advised to strictly adhere to the doctor’s recommendations.
11. Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive medical condition that destroys memory and other important mental functions. It compromises brain cell connections and the cells themselves, ultimately destroying the patient’s ability to remember. Cognitive mental decline, difficulty thinking, dementia, and forgetfulness are, therefore, some of the highlight symptoms.
According to studies at the California Salk Institute, cannabis is valuable in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease as follows;
Suppresses inflammatory response
One of the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease is neuroinflammation, i.e., inflammation of the nervous system. In Alzheimer’s, the inflammation happens right in the brain.
Cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties make the drug effective in managing the inflammatory response in people with Alzheimer’s.
Due to the complex changes happening in the brain, people with Alzheimer’s may see or hear things that aren’t real. The situation may also worsen, resulting in delusion (the false belief that something is real) and paranoia (a type of paranoia that causes people to falsely believe that others are mean, lying, or unfair).
Cannabis balances the nervous system, which can help reduce hallucinations in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Effective against dementia
Dementia isn’t a disease in itself, but rather a collection of thinking and social symptoms that interfere with daily mental functioning. It’s characterized by mental decline, confusion, especially in the evening hours, and the inability to recognize familiar things.
A 2016 study at the US National Institute of Health (NIH) shows that cannabis helps retain blood flow to the brain, thus boosting brain functioning. Marijuana also helps repair damaged brain cells.
People with Alzheimer’s, especially those with dementia, tend to experience a more pronounced change in mood than the healthy person. They easily become depressed, withdrawn, and quickly lose interest in activities previously enjoyed.
The same patients, however, showcase much better moods after taking marijuana. The abrupt change in mood disappears, with the patients exhibiting a more stabilized disposition.
Getting Started with Medical Marijuana
Now that you know just how beneficial medical marijuana is, perhaps it’s time to find out whether it would help with your medical condition and, if so, how to acquire and use the drug. Here’s everything you need to know;
Who Can Use Medical Marijuana?
Although medical marijuana is legal in many US states, not everyone is allowed to access the drug. The following are some of the requirements you must meet;
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Be a legal resident of a state where marijuana is legalized. Proof of residency is a must.
- Have a certification signed by a doctor, stating that in the physician’s professional opinion, you’d benefit medically from the use of marijuana.
- Have medical records showing proof of diagnosis for qualifying medical conditions. Qualifying conditions vary by state but often include all the 11 medical conditions discussed above.
How to Get Medical Marijuana
If you meet all the above conditions, the next step is to register yourself as a marijuana patient with your local marijuana authorities and start seeking the requisite marijuana medication. Here’s how to get the required medication;
- Register yourself at a legalized marijuana health facility to get a cannabis card.
- Take the card to a country or your state’s marijuana dispensary.
- Buy the necessary medical marijuana as prescribed by your doctor. You’ll need to show the doctor’s prescription.
How to Use Medical Marijuana
Your doctor will advise on the best way to use medical marijuana, depending on your medical condition. Often, it will be one of the following ways;
- Smoking: Smoking is the easiest and most common way to take marijuana. Smoked marijuana also acts fastest, thus providing immediate relief from symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. It’s, however, not recommendable for patients with lung issues.
- Vaporizing: Marijuana vaporization involves heating a vaporizer to the recommended temperature, then adding a small amount of dried (cured) cannabis flower/extract to the vaporizer and inhaling the vapor.
- Orally ingesting MIPs: Marijuana-Infused Products (MIPs) are products that have been prepared with oils made from supercritical CO2 fluid extracted from the cannabis flower. They are eaten like food and take effect in 20-60 minutes.
- Applying topical treatments: Topical marijuana treatments come in several forms, including lotions, ointments, sprays, and balms. They are applied directly onto the affected area and are best for sunburns, swellings, muscle soreness, and chapped skin.
- Drinking marijuana beverages: Cannabis beverages are marijuana-infused teas, juices, smoothies, and sodas. They’re an excellent option for patients who can’t smoke or vaporize the drug due to lung issues. You can even add lemon or your favorite tea to the marijuana-infused beverage to add flavor.
- Using cannabis inhalers: Cannabis inhalers are inhalers that contain clean, pure forms of marijuana. It’s one of the best ways for people using cannabis for asthma to intake the drug as you avoid the negative effects associated with the traditional smoking route.
Often, you’ll need to take just one form of marijuana. However, don’t be surprised if your doctor recommends a combination of two or three forms of the drug, such as topical ointments plus MIPs. It’s about finding a formula that works best for the patient’s specific condition.
Take the Next Step
Now that you know the many uses of medical marijuana, the endless diseases and symptoms it treats, and how to use it, the next step is to find out if the drug can help with your condition. See your doctor at MMJ Doctors, ask them if medical marijuana would benefit your treatment and, if the answer is yes, begin the journey to acquiring the drug.