Medical cannabis is the medical use of Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica plant for treating diseases and other medical conditions. Cannabis plant was used for its medicinal purposes for centuries around the world until the early 1900s. The members of cannabis family includes marijuana and hemp.
Marijuana and Hemp
Marijuana can be considered a member of either the Indica or Sativa families and has high THC concentration, between 15% to 40%. Marijuana is used for both recreational and medicinal purposes. Marijuana can be inhaled, smoked, ingested or injected directly.
Hemp is a member of the cannabis Sativa family and has very low THC concentration, about 0.3% or less. That is why hemp is particularly grown and used for industrial purposes. But with the popularity of CBD, across the globe, hemp is used to produce a variety of THC-free CBD products for medicinal purposes.
Strong opinions exist on both pros and cons of cannabis. It is difficult to learn the actual facts about medical cannabis due to limited access given by the FDA classification.
THC and CBD
The major compounds found in cannabis are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinolis) and CBD (Cannabidiol).
THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis which is responsible for the high people feel. There exist two man-made synthetic forms of THC called Dronabinol (Marinol) and Nabilone (Cesamet). These are FDA approved drugs used for preventing nausea and vomiting among people receiving Chemotherapy.
CBD is non-psychoactive compound in cannabis which is thought to be responsible for the majority of the plant’s medical properties. One of the CBD oil extract named Epidiolex is undergoing clinical trials for Epilepsy.
Nabiximols (Sativex) is a specific plant extract with an equal ratio of THC and CBD. It is used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, spasticity, neuropathic pain, over active bladder and several other indications.
Medical cannabis products are available with huge range of THC and CBD concentrations. Experts suggest that 10mg of THC should be considered as one serving and a person should not inhale or consume more until they know their individual response.
Uses of Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis is used for pain, nausea, muscle spasticity, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, low appetite, autism, epilepsy, depression, low appetite, sleep problems, inflammatory bowel diseases and several other conditions.
More research has been conducted on the compound CBD. Medical CBD is said to be anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, neuro-protective, antipsychotic, antiemetic and anxiolytic. The CBD compound in medical cannabis is found to be neuro-protective in fetal Hypoxia, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and other neurodegenerative conditions and movement disorders.
Health Benefits of Medical Cannabis
There are over 60 peer-reviewed research studies examining the benefits of medical cannabis. About 68% of these studies found it beneficial. Most research has been conducted on the compound CBD. The benefits of medical cannabis can be attributed to binding to the endocannabinoid system.
The health benefits of medical cannabis include relief from pain, muscle spasm, nausea associated with chemotherapy and anorexia. Benefits are also seen in immune function, neuroplasticity, emotional and cognitive modulation including learning and motivation, appetite, vascular and digestive functions.
Side Effects of Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis’ side effects are minimal when used at low doses including dry mouth and fatigue. At higher doses, dizziness, paranoia, and psychoactive effects like mood changes and hallucinations can be experienced.
There are concerns about adverse effects of cannabis among adolescents because the risks are greater to immature brain and neurological system. The concerns include increased risk of schizophrenia loss of IQ. There are other public concerns like the safety of driving while under the influence of medical cannabis.
Is Medical Cannabis Legal?
Medical cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance by the FDA and is illegal at the federal level. Several countries and states have legalized medical cannabis with varying restrictions acknowledging its medicinal values.
In most places with legal medical cannabis, authorization, pescription or medical recommendation is required and a card or license is issued which allows a person to buy medical cannabis. Dispensaries sell cannabis products in a variety of forms like edibles, oils, other extracts and directly as the plant which can be smoked or otherwise inhaled.
Is Medical Cannabis Addictive?
Most research suggests a very low risk of addiction and toxicity in the case of medical cannabis when taken as recommended in low therapeutic doses. But there are concerns about psychological dependence in heavy users and whether it constitutes cannabis abuse. Research has suggested that CBD oil might be useful in treatment for marijuana addiction.