Medical marijuana has been in the news a lot in the past few years. Approximately half of the states have legalized its use so far, and many more appear poised to do so in the future. However, many people remain confused as to what exactly medical marijuana is and what conditions it can be used to treat.
Marijuana has been used for eons to treat a variety of health conditions. Currently, it is used to treat many different conditions, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle spasms
- Wasting syndrome
- Alzheimer syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Post traumatic stress disorder
Although it has only been FDA approved to treat certain forms of rare epilepsy, there is a lot of evidence accumulated over the years that it is highly effective in stimulating the appetite, relieving anxiety and pain, and relaxing spastic muscles. Scientific research into medical uses of marijuana have been seriously hampered by the DEA’s classification of marijuana as Schedule I. Thus, currently, investigators need to obtain a license to conduct studies on medical marijuana, licenses that are hard to come by.
Is medical marijuana somehow different from recreational marijuana?
Yes and no. While both medical and recreational marijuana come from the same species of plant, plant breeders have worked to alter the chemical makeup and characteristics of various strains of marijuana. Recreational marijuana generally has a high level of THC, the chemical that causes the high, but most strains of medical marijuana have lower levels of THC so users can treat their condition without becoming impaired. For example, Indica online offers a variety of medical marijuana strains with varying levels of THC so users can select the product that is right for their health condition.
How does it work?
Marijuana contains a potent cocktail of over 100 different cannabinoids, each of which has slightly different effects on the body. The body has natural receptors for cannabinoids in the nervous system. It also naturally produces cannabinoid-like substances that bind to these receptors. Although the chemistry is very complex, in a major over-simplification we can say that cannibinoids act as a dimmer switch on the brain, down-regulating certain circuits. This theory explains how marijuana treats epilepsy, relieves pain and anxiety, reduces muscle spasms, and so forth. It seems to stimulate appetite and relieve nausea by down-regulating pathways that over-stimulate the digestive tract, allowing it to relax and function more normally.
In addition to the nervous system, cannabinoid receptors are also found in other parts of the body. A few preliminary studies have shown cannabinoids can directly repress the growth of cancer cells and can down-regulate the immune system, which may explain marijuana’s beneficial effects in auto-immune diseases like Crohn’s and multiple sclerosis and its ability to inhibit inflammation.
How do you take it?
In most states, you need to get a prescription from a doctor before you can legally possess and use medical marijuana. After obtaining a prescription, the next step is to decide what strain to use. Most vendors of medical marijuana are very familiar with their products and which product works best to treat which condition, so asking for advice is a great idea. However, there is always some trial and error involved. Once a strain has been selected, the next decision is how to take it. Smoking, vaping, inhaling, and rubbing the oil on your gums induce a rapid absorption of the product to quickly relieve symptoms. For a more prolonged effect, eating the product in various forms like desserts and candies is a better approach.
Medical marijuana is not intended to be used instead of conventional medicine-it is intended to be used in conjunction with conventional medicine. For instance, a patient is extremely unlikely to be able to cure their cancer with marijuana alone, but used in conjunction with chemoradiotherapy, it may boost the treatment’s efficacy while relieving some of the more unpleasant side effects of these treatments. While it is certainly true that a great deal of research remains to be done, since marijuana is generally accepted as safe, there is no reason to not try it and see if it helps with your medical condition.