Medical Marijuana 

Once a highly controversial topic, the idea that marijuana can be used to improve people’s health has gained momentum within the medical community. But is it really beneficial for your psychological wellbeing? In this article, we discuss medical marijuana, giving you the basic information that will allow you to form your own opinion on the matter. Let’s get started.

Medical Marijuana: What is it?

Medical marijuana means using marijuana – also known as weed, refer or bud – for medicinal purposes. While many around the world still use this drug recreationally, the herb can also be used to treat a variety of illnesses, ranging from epilepsy and insomnia to cancer and PTSD.

There are two main molecules in marijuana: Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), both of which have a similar chemical makeup. The only difference is in the arrangement of a single atom, which directly influences why CBD and THC have difference effects. Let’s explore the difference in a little more detail.

  • CBD vs THC
  • CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, meaning that it does not produce the “high” associated with THC. It acts on several biochemical pathways, allowing it to have a wide variety of effects. THC is the psychoactive compound found in marijuana, thus being the element that produces the “high”. Many people who use marijuana for medicine thus tend to use CBD, rather than THC, as they do not want the accompanying mind-altering effects. Despite this difference, the medical benefits of both CBD and THC are similar.

Marijuana as Medicine

The marijuana plant can be used to treat a wide range of illnesses and health problems, several of which are discussed below.

  • What is it Used For?
  • Medical marijuana has been used to treat epilepsy, glaucoma, cancer, muscle spasms, chronic pain and nausea, to name just a few conditions. Furthermore, medical marijuana has been shown to help people with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, anorexia and PTSD. While some say that marijuana can also be used to manage schizophrenia, the jury is not yet out as to whether this notion is true.
  • How Does It Help?
  • Cannabinoids are the active compounds present in medical marijuana. They are similar in composition to certain chemicals that the body produces. These chemicals are associated with appetite, movement, pain and memory. Further evidence suggests that these compounds have great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as the ability to increase serotonin levels. Evidence also suggest that cannabinoids increase the growth of neurons – particularly in the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that plays a role in depression and anxiety.

Risks and Benefits of Medical Marijuana

Much research has been conducted on marijuana’s health benefits. As mentioned above, it has shown positive effects in a variety of medical conditions, ranging from epilepsy and physical pain to various mental illnesses. A large benefit is its effectiveness in the treatment of chronic pain, something many individuals suffer from to some degree. Another large benefit of medical marijuana is its anti-cancer properties, as studies have shown that it may block cancer cells from metastasizing (in other words, spreading around the body). Added to this is its success in fighting the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting.

Despite the benefits, however, it is still important to consider the risks associated with medical marijuana. The side effects of marijuana use may include dizziness, dry mouth, disorientation, confusion and sedation. Further, regular smoking may be associated with breathing problems and lung infections. (However, this risk is minimized when taking medical marijuana in the form of drops or pills, rather than smoking it).

Another risk, possible risk is the addictiveness of marijuana, which may interfere in individual’s everyday life and relationships. This so-called marijuana dependence arises when large dosages of it are taken, altering the brains production and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. Finally, marijuana may trigger or exacerbate psychotic symptoms (such as delusions and hallucinations) in people who are predisposed.

Medical Marijuana Laws

Federal law states that marijuana cannot be used for medical purposes, thus disallowing doctors to prescribe it. According to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis is a schedule 1 substance (the same as heroin and ecstasy) meaning it has a high probability of abuse, with no medical value. However, federal prosecution of individuals complying with state laws is prohibited, thanks to the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. Laws on marijuana use differ from state to state, with some allowing the use of cannabis for recreational purposes, while others allow it for only medical use. Additionally, some states have particular provision as to THC content – how much is allowed; and other states do not allow any use of marijuana whatsoever. It’s definitely advisable to consult with an authority who can tell you about the legal restrictions in your state before using medical marijuana.

States Where Marijuana is Legal for Medical Purposes

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, the District of Columbia, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico – under a doctor’s recommendation and approval. The states where medical marijuana is legal include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia.  

Is Medical Marijuana FDA Approved?

Generally, no – however cannabinoid has been approved for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy known as Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome. The symptoms of these syndromes are very severe and affect children and infants.

Where Can I Find Medical Marijuana Near Me?

If marijuana is legalized in your state, a simple internet search of medical marijuana dispensaries near you should help you find a supplier.

Takeaway: a Herb for Healing

Despite the controversy and mixed opinions related to the use of marijuana for medical purposes, many people have experienced positive effects related thereto. This may help decrease the (over)use of prescription drugs – which is a vastly different problem to tackle. Ultimately, medical marijuana may prove useful for a range of medical and psychological conditions. It’s important, however, that you only use this herb under close medical supervision.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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