Medical cannabis is cannabis and cannabinoids that are prescribed by your doctor for various illnesses. The history of cannabis for medical purposes dates back to ancient times and is believed that China was among the first countries to use it as medicine. As cannabis is the most common trafficked and abused illicit drug worldwide its use in medicine has not been thoroughly researched yet for its safety and efficacy due to various restrictions worldwide.
In recent years however therapy with medical marijuana has garnered much attention for positive reasons worldwide. The use of cannabis for medical purposes is on the up and there are currently 42 countries that have legalized the use of medical cannabis. In addition to these countries, some countries have legalized the use of only certain cannabis-derived medicines. 35 states and the District of Columbia in the United States have legalized its medical use. Despite the growing use of cannabis for medical purposes, there are still more than 100 countries where its use is prohibited.
Medical Uses of CannabisYou can use medicinal cannabis in different forms including capsules, sprays, vapors, or through smoking dried flowers of cannabis. Though much needs to be learned about the safety and efficacy of cannabis for medical purposes, evidence has shown it to be somewhat effective in:
- Alleviating Chronic Pain: Chronic pain following different medical conditions is associated with long term disability. The use of medical cannabis is observed to be an effective alternative in managing chronic pain. Peripheral nerves in your body that detect pain have shown to have multiple cannabis receptors; cannabinoids are shown to reduce pain by modulating these receptors. Also, chronic pain in cancer caused due to nerve damage, inflammation, and invasion of sensitive structures in your body is also said to be reduced by the use of cannabis.
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: Cannabinoids have been shown to improve nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients. Though the exact mechanism is not known it is thought to be caused by blocking certain receptors that trigger vomiting.
- Parkinson’s disease: Significant amounts of cannabinoid receptors are found to be present in part of your brain called the basal ganglia and there is increasing evidence that suggests it has a modulatory function in the basal ganglia. Parkinson’s disease is caused by a defect in nerve cells of basal ganglia The use of medical cannabis has been observed to improve slow movement (bradykinesia), rigidity, and tremor, increase sleep, and alleviate pain in Parkinson’s disease.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a condition of your eye where increased pressure leads to optic nerve damage. The use of cannabis has been shown to reduce the pressure in your eyes thus improving the condition and staking its claim as a viable alternative to traditional methods of treatment.
- Post-Traumatic stress disorder: Studies have shown cannabis to reduce activity in the amygdala- the part of the brain that controls response to fear and threat thus reducing past trauma-related anxiety in these patients.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disorder: Some evidence have shown cannabis and cannabinoids to improve symptoms in these disorders by reducing inflammation through its receptors present in the GI tract (tract for food passage)
- Multiple Sclerosis: It is a disorder where your immune system acts against myelin sheath which covers your central nervous system producing various symptoms. Spasticity (stiffness) caused by multiple sclerosis is thought to be improved by the use of cannabinoids.
- Anorexia: Medical cannabis used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to improve anorexia. This is because active ingredients of cannabis have appetite-stimulating properties.
The current knowledge on medical cannabis use suggests that it is an appropriate alternative therapy option for patients who have chronic pain, multiple seizure episodes, and movement disorders. Further study is required to understand its exact use in improving GI disorders, managing patients with MS, anorexia, and headache. Caution should be taken while prescribing cannabis products.