What Are the Many Benefits of Marijuana?
Cannabis has always been a controversial topic and to this day it remains one of the most polarizing subjects in the mainstream media. Even with all the studies that back up the benefits of marijuana, there are still many countries around the world that refuse to legalize it. Users who have never even tried marijuana before can still easily get overwhelmed by all the hyperbole and sensationalism being spewed by the media regarding cannabis.
Sometimes it can make one wonder why marijuana always gets a lot of bad press. How much of this negative publicity does the plant even deserve? Today, we are going to look at the many benefits of cannabis. Read on because this article might help change your perspective on this oft-misunderstood plant.
Medical Benefits of Cannabis
From the 1850s to the 1930s, marijuana was becoming popular due to its recreational use. The consumption of this plant grew, and it continued to grow in popularity up to the point that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 finally classified marijuana as a Scheduled 1 Drug. Controversy would eventually follow the use of medical cannabis.
The active ingredient of cannabis, THC, was synthesized in 1966 to make it more medically acceptable, and it was finally approved by the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) in 1985. Despite all the controversy surrounding it, the U.S. government would sponsor a study on medical marijuana at the Institute of Medicine in 1999 and the results were positive.
The study was able to uncover marijuana’s medical benefits in providing relief for certain medical conditions such as chronic pain, wasting syndrome caused by HIV, and nausea from chemo. Several studies have since been conducted to reveal the analgesic properties of smoking cannabis.
California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, 32 other states have followed suit and now allow the use of medical marijuana in varying degrees.
In addition to relieving the symptoms of certain physical ailments, smoking cannabis has also been found to benefit those dealing with mental health conditions as well. Medical marijuana is valued in the mental health community as it has been found to help relieve anxiety, stress and depression.
Just like depression, anxiety is a mental health condition that has long been misunderstood. Those who suffer from it carry a heavy burden with them. It is characterized by excessive and constant worrying about certain situations or tasks. Nearly 20% of people in the United States have an anxiety disorder and were prescribed benzodiazepines to help them manage their symptoms. While the medication is effective to some degree, its addictive potential has forced many doctors over the last two decades to move away from it completely.
There is now growing data to support the use of medical cannabis in managing the symptoms of anxiety and other mental health conditions. Anxiety’s symptoms are caused by different factors and scenarios. Things like work, constant worry, loneliness, and even a large crowd can trigger anxiety attacks in individuals.
Some of the symptoms that are associated with this condition are:
- Trouble sleeping
- Tingling sensations in the feet and hands
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling of restlessness
Stress and anxiety are often associated with one another but are completely different things. Stress is the feeling of annoyance or worries over real circumstances. For instance, problems at work and dealing with annoying people can cause stress. In layman’s terms, real-world situations or circumstances that cause these feelings. However, stress should not be looked at as a disease. Medication is not an appropriate response to stress but rather doing certain things to reduce it.
The THC compound in cannabis is responsible for the uplifted and happy sensation or high that users feel when smoking it. However, there is more to this compound than just psychoactive effects. When used in low doses, it can help patients who are dealing with anxiety. However, it needs to be administered in just the right amount because a high dose of this drug can cause counter-active effects, including stimulating anxiety.
CBD is the other cannabis compound that is said to be effective in treating anxiety because of its numerous beneficial properties. Several studies have shown CBD to potentially fight off the symptoms of anxiety and other mental health ailments. However, using CBD to treat anxiety is not cheap and needs to be given in high doses. For one to reap the full benefits, one must consume 800 to 1200 mg of CBD per day. It costs $0.05 per milligram, so we’re looking at expenses that could be as much $1800 per month.
Cancer and Chemotherapy
A lot of articles, memes, and case studies have been made regarding medical cannabis and how it can help treat cancer. Some studies have shown that cannabis is helpful in treating nausea and vomiting that usually follow chemotherapy. A few studies have also shown that smoking cannabis can also provide temporary relief from neuropathic pain – a condition caused by damaged nerves.
Smoking medical marijuana can also patients to feel the munchies, which is characterized by a strong craving for food. Patients who undergo chemo and radiation therapy often lose their appetites because of the side effects, but smoking a bit of cannabis can help them regain their appetites once the munchies set in.
A study published in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics journals suggests that the CBD in cannabis can help stop cancer cells from spreading by killing off the Id-1 gene. Researchers from the California Pacific Center in San Francisco discovered that CBD could also slow down cancer cells. They conducted experiments on breast cancer cells containing high levels of Id-1 and treated it with CBD.
The results of the experiment were positive as the cells showed decreased value in Id-1 expression and were no longer as aggressive when spreading. As a matter of fact, marijuana has also been found by the American Association for Cancer Research to help slow down the growth of tumors in the breasts, lungs, and brain by a significant amount.
In the United States, around 50 million people or 20% of the population were suffering from chronic pain in 2016. 8% of these people were dealing with pain that severe enough to hinder them from doing any kind of work most days. Chronic pain is also one of the main reasons why people seek medical treatment. Depending on the severity of the pain, doctors may prescribe patients with painkillers or have them undergo surgery to fix the issue. This health issue can sometimes lead to substance abuse, especially if it becomes too severe for the patient to handle.
Medical cannabis has become a more “wholesome” alternative for patients who are looking for some momentary relief from their symptoms. One common observation from patients who use cannabis for pain management is even though it doesn’t exactly take away the pain, it can help them ignore it.
For inflammatory pain, smoking medical marijuana helps decreases the inflammation. In many cases, patients are often prescribed potent opioids such as hydrocodone, morphine, or oxycontin to help them manage their symptoms. However, using medical cannabis has helped patients become less dependent on these opioids.
2011 marked the first time that researchers pointed out marijuana’s ability to relieve the pain associated with arthritis. It does this by promoting better sleep. Patients who were dealing with rheumatoid arthritis were given a cannabis-based medicine called Sativex by researchers. After two weeks, the patients reported experiencing significantly less pain and had better sleep quality compared to patients who were given a placebo.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders that affects more than 300 million people and is described as the world’s leading cause of disability. Despite the many high-profile stories about this disorder and the many suicides associated with it, it remains completely misunderstood by some.
Some people confuse depression with sadness which is wrong. Sadness is an emotion while depression is a mental disorder. Feelings of sadness are often evoked whenever a person goes through an emotionally draining situation such as a breakup or getting laid off from work. Just like with all other emotions, sadness is a temporary feeling.
Depression, on the other hand, is different because it is a mental disorder. Those who have been diagnosed with it sometimes have it for the rest of their lives. It can greatly affect one’s quality of life and prevent one from being functional or productive. The longer depression gets left untreated the longer its symptoms are likely to last.
Here are some of the symptoms associated with this mental health disorder:
- Loss of interest in hobbies or things that used to provide one with excitement or pleasure
- Constant thoughts of suicide or death in particular
- Loss of concentration
- Trouble sleeping
- Constant feelings of worthlessness
- Body aches or headaches that have no underlying cause
- Constantly feeling sad for no reason
Some of these symptoms are associated with sadness, so it’s easy to see how people can often confuse it with depression. Feelings of sadness usually last no longer than a week or two, but suicidal thoughts are clear signs of depression.
While there are drugs available that help patients manage depression’s symptoms, others have turned to medical marijuana for help. The relationship between cannabis and this disorder is a complex one to say the least. The verdict on whether medical marijuana can treat depression is still up in the air as there are conflicting answers from cannabis supporters and naysayers.
This hasn’t stopped scientists from exploring it further though. Researchers from the University of Buffalo have already looked at the possibility of using medical cannabis as a potential treatment option for depression brought about by chronic stress. Their research has been putting more focus on the endocannabinoids produced by the brain.
Endocannabinoids are a naturally occurring chemical compound and play an important role in behavior, emotions, motor control, and cognition. The chemical makeup of this compound is like that of cannabis. Scientists believe that introducing cannabis into our system will help restore endocannabinoid functions back to “normal” and provide mood stabilization.
Due to marijuana’s ability to provide an uplifting high, many patients with depression prefer smoking cannabis instead of taking pills. It also helps them become more sociable as people with depression sometimes remain aloof and aren’t fond of social gatherings. One such cannabis that is great for managing depression is the Wonder Woman strain.
Do note that there are several different treatment options available for depression, and cannabis is only one of them. If you live in an area where medical cannabis is legal, consult with your doctor to see if you can come up with a treatment plan that will allow you to take advantage of the health benefits of both medical cannabis and traditional drugs to deal with depression’s symptoms.
Glaucoma is a condition that affects the optic nerve which is the cable that sends information from the eye to your brain. Any damage to this nerve caused by glaucoma can lead to vision loss and blindness. There are treatments available for this condition that can lower the pressure in the affected eye and reduce the risk of acquiring the damage that defines glaucoma. They can also prevent the condition from worsening.
However, some patients don’t respond well to these treatments and some of them even suffer from side effects. Whenever this sort of situation arises, both the patient and doctor will look at possible alternatives, and one of those alternatives is marijuana.
Marijuana has been considered as an alternative treatment for glaucoma for quite some time because smoking the plant helps lower eye pressure. However, marijuana’s eye pressure-lowering effects only last 3 to 4 hours tops, meaning one would have to smoke 6 to 8 times a day to maintain it for an entire day.
There are other ways of administering marijuana’s main active ingredient, THC. This can be done under the tongue or by mouth. These methods are more preferred by patients who don’t smoke cannabis as it helps them avoid its effects on the lungs. But these methods aren’t full-proof as they can still cause unwanted side effects such as drowsiness, anxiety and poor concentration.
Eye drops containing THC are currently being investigated, but so far, no formulations have been made that would make it possible to introduce a sufficient amount of the drug into the eye without hurting or damaging it.
To a small degree, medical marijuana might provide a bit of help in treating glaucoma, but more research is needed for this. Patients should consult with their ophthalmologists if they smoke marijuana regularly to see if there are available treatment options that might help them deal with the condition while not compromising their marijuana use.
Hepatitis C is a condition that affects the liver with symptoms so mild that it can sometimes go undiagnosed. In fact, people who acquire this disease may not even show symptoms for several months or years.
This is bad because this medical condition can lead to other serious and life-threatening illnesses, including liver cancer and cirrhosis. The condition is spread through the blood, meaning people can become infected by having sex (especially if one of you already has an STD), blood transfusions, and sharing needles.
There are new drugs for Hep-C that work well but cause some mild side effects. Traditional treatment methods are still there but can cause depression, anxiety, diarrhoea, and nausea. Patients who are lucky will only suffer from flu-like symptoms.
An alternative method in treating hepatitis C is cannabis. There are conflicting reports on the use of cannabis for hep-C as some believe that the effects are more motivational rather than medical. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, hep-C patients use cannabis to help ease their symptoms.
So, what exactly is the relationship between cannabis and hepatitis C? For one thing, smoking it will not treat the complications that lead to cirrhosis and liver disease. Instead, the drug is effective at reducing nausea which is often associated with the medications taken to treat the disease. Some studies have even credited cannabis use for providing treatment protocols with stricter adherence.
These studies suggest that cannabis use can help reduce the unpleasant side effects of traditional drugs, thus making the antiviral medicals become more tolerable for patients. This means patients will be able to finish the entire treatment course and have much better outcomes as a result.
Even during the earliest days of the HIV epidemic, patients have been using marijuana to treat the many complications that come with this illness. This includes the symptoms of HIV wasting syndrome and the side effects associated with the use of antiretroviral drugs. While newer drugs have been introduced over the years and have done well in lowering the severity of these conditions, cannabis remains a popular alternative for patients who are looking to get some relief from the nausea, depression, pain, and weight loss that come with the disease.
Some have even suggested that the plant may even provide patients with long-term benefits by slowing – or even completely stopping – the disease’s progress. But there are still sceptics who think that cannabis doesn’t do anything to help HIV patients, and that the drug is all hype. Even though research on the use of marijuana to treat HIV is still limited, the support for it in the treatment of HIV wasting keeps growing stronger. A big part of this is due to how the laws regulating cannabis use have caused scientific investigations to become constrained. In contrast, Marinol – which is a synthetic form of cannabis- has studies that are well-established. Both long-term and short-term research have concluded that Marinol can stabilize weight and promote better appetites among people suffering from HIV wasting while giving them an average of one percent muscle gain.
There is also little data available to demonstrate the efficacy of smoked cannabis in obtaining similar results. In fact, most research seems to show that Marinol is more effective at promoting weight gain. But despite all this, patients still prefer smoking cannabis because of its perceived benefits, ranging from the immediate onset of its high and stress-relieving properties.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS for short, is one of the leading causes of neurological disability among adults. This health condition is characterized by tremors, muscle spasms, mental fatigue, blurred vision, loss of motor control, anxiety, and depression. As you can see, MS is a serious illness that affects both a person’s physical and mental state.
In the United States, there are an estimated 2.3 million people who are diagnosed with this condition, and 200 new cases get diagnosed each week. It currently ranks as one of America’s most serious health problems. Just to give people an idea of just how serious this condition is, imagine your body’s immune system attacking the central nervous system.
The blood white cells invade the white matter surrounding the blood vessels called myelin, thereby destroying the matter that insulates and protects our neurons. This can ultimately cause neurological degeneration and lesions. The destruction of this myelin is what causes MS patients to suffer from cognitive and physical impairments.
Cannabis has been used by patients to help them deal with some of the symptoms of MS. The CBD in cannabis has analgesic properties that help MS patients deal with the pain and inflammation that accompany the condition. Inflammation in the brain is one of the major symptoms that MS sufferers must deal with. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help regulate the immune system and provide pain relief.
CBD from cannabis can also improve muscle-tone control and mood disorders. Tremors and spasticity are a couple of things that MS patients suffer from, and cannabis has been found to be quite good at alleviating them. In addition to their analgesic properties, CBD has also been shown to influence the limbic system, which is otherwise known as the “emotional” part of the brain. This helps keep depression and anxiety levels low in MS sufferers.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that primarily affects a person’s motor skills. It is the world’s second most degenerative disorder related to age. The statistics for this illness are alarming with an estimated 7 to 10 million people all over the world living with it. There are at least 50,000 new cases of Parkinson’s being diagnosed each year.
Little is known about its root cause and there is still no cure for this condition as well. However, there are studies that show cannabis as a beneficial alternative for Parkinson’s patients. Researchers point out how cannabinoids can modulate our cannabinoid receptors and keep our dopaminergic neurons safe.
The disease mostly affects individuals who are over the age of 6, although it can also sometimes be diagnosed before age 50. Men are more commonly affected than women, and the disease is also partially due to genes. About 15% of patients have a first-degree relative suffering from the disease. Studies also suggest that environmental factors may play a role in it as well.
Parkinson’s is normally treated with medications, but these drugs tend to cause side effects, and their effectiveness gradually diminishes over time. Severe cases of PD may sometimes require the patient to undergo brain surgery where micro-electrodes are placed to stimulate the brain and decrease the symptoms affecting the patient’s motor skills.
But how exactly does cannabis fit into all of this? A study published in 2004 had 339 PD patients answer an anonymous questionnaire regarding the subjective improvement of their motor skills after taking the drug. The ones who took cannabis reported experiencing significant improvements in their symptoms. 30% of the patients who used cannabis also noted how they were experiencing fewer tremors, while 44.7% of the patients reported some improvements in the slowness of their movement.
Indica strains are recommended for PD patients because of their analgesic properties and ability to make one relax. Indica also promotes better sleep which can help PD patients manage their symptoms better.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD for short, is a mental health condition that’s triggered by traumatic events. The affected individual either experiences these events first-hand or witnesses them. Events such as being in combat or going through and surviving an assault or natural disaster are common causes of PTSD.
Symptoms include severe anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, and difficulty in sleeping and functioning normally. Those with PTSD may also end up having a changed perspective of the world and go through a major emotional transformation. These symptoms make it nearly impossible for PTSD patients to have a normal quality of life.
Many army veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD, especially those who survived violent engagements on the battlefield. Victims of sexual abuse also suffer from PTSD, and these individuals often have a hard time living a normal quality of life.
Like with most mental disorders, PTSD has no known cure, but it is treatable. Traditional treatment involves SSRI (Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) to control the symptoms as well as providing patients with training so they can address these symptoms.
However, the effectiveness of conventional treatment methods - particularly the use of SSRI -for PTSD remains a subject of much debate. For instance, a study published by the US Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that Sertraline (antidepressant of SSRI class) was no different from a placebo.
It is no wonder why so many patients are looking to alternatives such as cannabis to treat their PTSD. There is also a lot of research that backs up the efficacy of cannabis as a viable option. It helps to reduce anxiety, which is one of the more prominent symptoms of PTSD and can also prevent nightmares. Cannabis can also help patients get more sleep as the plant has properties that counter the effects of insomnia brought about by PTSD.
One strain that is highly recommended for PTSD sufferers is the Great White Shark strain. This potent strain provides a body buzz that is felt almost immediately and plenty of medical benefits. In addition to its pain-killing properties, this strain can also help users relax by washing away stress and negative thoughts, which is perfect for patients suffering from PTSD.
Many people think of rheumatoid arthritis as a disease that only affects people aged 65 and older, but you might be surprised to learn that it can also affect younger people as well, including children. A lot of ointments and medication are available to help treat the pain, but not all of them will work the same way for everyone.
This is why there is an increasing number of patients who use marijuana as an alternative. The health benefits of cannabis are well-documented, particularly its analgesic properties and ability to make one feel relaxed. But before we get into the health benefits of medical marijuana, let us learn more about rheumatoid arthritis first.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder wherein the immune system attacks the joints. This is characterized by intense pain and loss of motion around the joints, inflammation, and stiffness. The condition is nearly three times more common in women than it is in men. Most medical experts believe that the best course of action for RA sufferers is to take anti-rheumatic drugs. These drugs help reduce the risk of long-term complications and joint damage from RA.
So, how exactly can medical cannabis help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis? Many preliminary studies suggest that cannabis-based medications can serve as a direct complement to conventional treatment methods.
Medical marijuana has anti-inflammatory properties, and patients with RA have an unusually high amount of CB2 (cannabinoid type 2) receptors. The CBD in marijuana helps fight inflammation by activating these receptors’ pathways. Furthermore, according to preliminary evidence, CBD may also improve the release of cytokines which can lead to potential relief from RA’s symptoms, and a better immune system.
Cannabis also has the ability to help improve one’s sleeping patterns, which is beneficial for RA patients as they tend to have a difficult time getting enough sleep because of their painful symptoms. Medicating with Indica strains (especially the ones bought from one of the top ten seed banks) at night will help patients sleep better and give them some momentary relief from the pain.
Summary: Does Marijuana Have a Positive or Negative Impact on Your Health?
Marijuana will always have a stigma attached to it even if one were to use it for medical purposes. It is quite ironic because according to research, people have been using marijuana for medical purposes for the last 3000 years. However, the media and the Food and Drugs Administration have yet to label it as a safe alternative to traditional medicine.
However, cannabidiol, which is a substance found in marijuana has already been approved for treatment purposes, namely for epilepsy. The lingering tension between those who support marijuana as a viable alternative to medicine and the lack of evidence and knowledge on its effects has been made worse as of late because of the ongoing drive to make medical marijuana legal.
Speaking of legalization, cannabis is now legal in 29 states including plus Washington D.C. – and some states have them both legal for medical and recreational purposes. The health benefits of marijuana have been well-documented, and some doctors even prescribe it to their patients.
Many studies have been conducted through the years to show that marijuana may indeed have some medical benefits for certain ailments. Depression, anxiety, epilepsy, cancer, chronic pain, inflammation, and insomnia are just a few of the conditions that medical cannabis can help alleviate. Of course, just like with everything else, cannabis has to be taken in moderation.
Consuming it in just the right amount will bestow benefits but going overboard will cause users to experience side effects. Some of the side effects of cannabis include paranoia, increased anxiety levels, slight dizziness, and red eyes.
It all comes down to consuming cannabis responsibly. Even growers who raise Bruce Banner seeds in their backyard for medical purposes know that smoking or consuming their harvests in moderation will help them enjoy the benefits without the risk of suffering adverse reactions.