A few years ago, medical marijuana was such a hot topic; it stirred emotions from virtually all cadres. Its efficacy, scientific basis, and its history were all questioned. How such an addictive substance could be used to treat an illness was so mindboggling. While most marijuana users had already labeled it a wonder drug, most critics were not buying the idea, and they considered it a ploy by stoners to have weed legalize.
The successful isolation and analysis of the various chemical components of marijuana was the breakthrough step in the discovery of medicinal marijuana. These chemical components, termed cannabinoids are the ones responsible for the different effects elicited by marijuana. They include tetrahydrocannabinol which is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana, including the subjective feeling of getting high and addiction. The other cannabinoid is cannabidiol. This one is responsible for the medicinal effects. It lacks psychoactive effects and does not induce a state of addiction. In total, there are over a 100 cannabinoids and related compounds, but the ones mentioned above are the significant cannabinoids.
Currently, the primary indication and use of medical marijuana is pain control. Marijuana has been found to be effective in alleviating chronic aching pains such as that of multiple sclerosis. It is suitable mild pain management, especially when other analgesics such as NSAIDs like aspirin are contraindicated. Marijuana has an advantage over most analgesics such as opiates in that it lacks the sedative effects and thus it does not impair the normal functioning of the patient.
Apart from pain control, medicinal marijuana can be used in the treatment of epilepsy, a condition in which the victims suffer from recurrent attacks of seizures which can be very debilitating. Undergoing studies have shown cannabidiol oil to be effective in reducing the frequency and duration of seizures. Marijuana’s superiority over other anticonvulsants is exemplified by its ability to control seizures which are resistant to other drugs.
Treatment of CTE
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy(CTE) is a brain disease associated with the development of microinfarcts in the brain due to multiple and recurrent concussions. It presents with multiple neurologic deficits. It is associated with sports with excessive and violent contact such as NFL, boxing, and rugby. Medicinal marijuana has been shown to be neuroprotective with a capacity to increase cerebral blood flow by dilating blood vessels in the brain.
Mood and anxiety disorder control
Marijuana can be used in the treatment of depression caused by chronic stress, not necessarily due to its psychoactive effects, but because the human brain produces substances like cannabinoids known as endocannabinoids. The levels of these endocannabinoids are markedly decreased in depression. It is thought that marijuana directly replenishes these substances. It has been established that Marijuana is effective in managing post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) especially in veterans returning home from combat. Cannabidiol has a mind relaxing effect. It can be used for management of anxiety disorders such as social phobias.
Management of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
The advent of medicinal marijuana has been a blessing for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy. These patients frequently experience devastating bouts of emesis, which at times is resistant to commonly used anti-emetics. This nausea and vomiting, however, respond well to treatment with either nabilone and dronabinol both of which are synthetic cannabinoids, currently FDA-approved for treatment of emesis. Additionally, marijuana promotes appetite. This is so true for marijuana strains such as Matanuska Tundra whose effects include an almost immediate hunger and increased appetite. This is beneficial for patients suffering from appetite loss.
Glaucoma is a condition caused by increased intraocular pressure leading to optic nerve damage and blindness if not treated. Studies have shown that when smoked, marijuana temporarily decreases the intraocular pressure in both normal eyes and those with glaucoma. It can, therefore, serve as a short-term treatment option for glaucoma.
Neurodegenerative diseases refer to a vast group of disorders which affect the nervous system leading to dysfunction and incoordination. They include disorders such Parkinsonism, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Marijuana may be used to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and preserve memory. The mechanism of action involves inhibition of formation of amyloid plaques, which are responsible for brain cell death, by tetrahydrocannabinol. For Parkinsonism, marijuana relieves tremors, pain and improves sleep. Fine motor functions are markedly improved in these patients
Marijuana consumption seems to be beneficial among people with inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease whereby tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol increase intercellular adherence and by interacting with immune cells. It reduces the inflammation, pain, and insomnia associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Apart from its beneficial effects on humans, marijuana is also a good option for management of anxiety, pain associated with old age and arthritis. The cannabidiol oil is administered mixed with animal feed or as tinctures. Animals should, however, not be given parts of the marijuana plant fresh from the farm.
Marijuana has numerous beneficial effects on health, and with many ongoing studies and research, these benefits are expected to increase. It is the new big thing in the pharmaceutical industry. However, like any other drug, marijuana has its negative effects, the side effects, and adverse drug reactions. This should, however, not be the reason for turning a blind eye over the numerous beneficial effects and the many yet to be discovered.