Medical marijuana can do wonders to help many patients who lost all hope for an effective treatment. As an incredibly effective alternative to traditional drug therapies, many studies proved cannabis’ safety and effectiveness against diseases such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and epilepsy.
Albeit still controversial because of its psychoactive effects, there are some less known aspects of weed that often fly under the radar. Here are a few key facts about this important natural remedy.
- Marijuana might help reduce the current opioid epidemic
The legalization of medical marijuana could help decrease the serious problems currently associated with the widespread overprescription of opioid painkillers. Cannabis is a potent remedy to stave off pain (especially chronic pain). The cannabinoids found in the plant are, in fact, a group of chemicals which can interact with some receptors known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). These receptors are scattered through the brain and nerves, and can modulate and regulate the subjective sensation of pain.
Opioid painkillers are undeniably more powerful than cannabinoids in reducing pain. However, they’re also associated with a significantly higher risk of addiction, and much more severe side effects. Opioid misuse may even cause a patient’s death when an overdose occurs. Data suggests that treatment with cannabis might reduce the opioid dose prescribed for patients who deal with acute or chronic pain.
Legally protected access to pot dispensaries has reduced the overall number of opioid prescriptions, opiate misuse, overdose deaths and the admission rates for addiction to narcotic painkillers.
- The effects of cannabis depend on its concentration in CBD and THC
A marijuana plant contains more than 80 different cannabinoids, and their concentrations might vary a lot from strain to strain. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) represent the two principal cannabinoids found in this plant. CBD has no psychoactive effects, is usually found in small percentages (0.6% up to 1%) and usually exerts a relaxing effect on the user. THC is a potent psychoactive substance that produces the subjective sensation of “high.” It is found in higher concentrations (usually 10% to 20%), but its effects are mitigated by CBD.
This means that choosing the right strain is of paramount importance to determine the effectiveness of treatment with medical marijuana. For example, two Sativa strains may have the same percentage of THC and different percentages of CBD. The one with a lower concentration of CBD may cause nervousness as a side effect, which might precipitate a pre-existing anxiety disorder. CBD, on the other hand, has been used as a highly-purified oil to specifically treat some conditions, such as drug-resistant epilepsy in children.
- Medical Marijuana can reduce suicide rates
According to some recent studies, in the 10 years following cannabis legalization, suicide rates have dropped significantly. Researchers analyzed 17 years of data from the 12 states that had legalized weed and compared it to those who kept criminalizing it. The decrease in suicides was significant, with a 10.8% peak on males aged 20-29. The reasons for this phenomenon still need to be properly explored before an explanation can be provided. However, a solid hypothesis is that pot can help people affected by disabling conditions cope with their stressful lives.
- Medical cannabis can be legally acquired in many states
Since many scientific studies have proved the medical properties of marijuana, many states legalized its use for the treatment of several conditions. The new legislation allows users with a written recommendation from their doctor to acquire it from one of the many dispensaries across the country. Cannabis can be prescribed for several diseases including cancer, AIDS/HIV, anxiety disorder, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and much more.
In many states, it’s even legal to grow some cannabis plants, although there are some restrictions on the number of flowering plants one can possess at a given time. For those who do not want or cannot cultivate marijuana plants, many ready-to-use products are available in the form of edibles, capsules or vaping oils. Medical marijuana delivery can be requested from retail stores or licensed online dispensaries. Some of them even deliver the weed directly at home.
Medical cannabis can be the solution to the symptoms you cannot deal with anymore. It can be that much-needed helping hand that relieves you from suffering, but only if used responsibly. Do not explore the possibilities of this natural remedy by yourself! Talk with your doctor to discuss with him an adequate treatment plan or just to get more info and insights.
Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D. contributed to this story.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24625.
- Atakan Z. Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. 2012;2(6):241-254. doi:10.1177/2045125312457586.
- Lynch ME, Clark AJ. Cannabis reduces opioid dose in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2003;25(6):496-498.