Patients coping with the negative effects of debilitating medical conditions are learning that medicinal cannabis can help relieve symptoms associated with various medical conditions such as chronic pain, depression, and excessive anxiety. Medicinal cannabis has also been shown to help manage conditions like epilepsy and insomnia.
For an increasing number of conditions, patients now taking medical cannabis in the 29 states plus D.C.1 where it’s legal are finding that medicines originating from cannabis, along with natural varieties of cannabis, have the potential to replace traditional pharmaceutical medicines or be taken in conjunction with them to manage their conditions.
This should offer hope to patients concerned with the safety and addiction potential of conventional prescription medications and opioids.
In data from a cross-sectional study that appeared in the National Center for Biotechnology Information in May, 2017, 2,774 subjects were surveyed as part of a sample group to determine how many of them had substituted cannabis for prescription drugs. Of the respondents, 46% or 1,248 had done so2. Categories of drugs that were substituted included narcotics, opioids, anxiolytics, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants3. Among some common drugs that could potentially be substituted with medicinal cannabis are:
Vicodin & painkillers:
When chronic pain occurs due to surgery, an injury, or a health condition like cancer, commonly prescribed medications to relieve symptoms include Vicodin or Oxycotin, which are opioids that can be addictive and dangerous. Over 44 Americans overdose and die every day4 from the abuse of opiates.
Medical cannabis has been shown to be effective at relieving pain, reducing discomfort, keeping side effects from increasing, and improving quality of life. There have also been studies showing that medical cannabis could have positive effects at relieving “multiple pain syndromes” that accompany neuropathic pain, or burning sensations; mechanical discomfort, or achiness; and inflammatory pain, or severe, stabbing pain.
But, the main feather in the cap surrounding the use of medicinal cannabis to help relieve pain is that it’s a safer alternative to prescription meds that could have the potential to promote addictive behavior. There are no perilous side effects, and it has the effectiveness to treat multiple categories of pain.
Xanax & anxiety suppressors:
Certain strains of marijuana have been shown to be beneficial in treating anxiety in patients that suffer from it. Medicinal cannabis can provide a feeling of relief and tranquility practically from the moment it’s taken. A 2014 study by a group of international researchers discovered that there are cannabinoid receptors in the amygdala region of the brain, which helps manage responses associated with anxiety or reactions connected to flight-or-fight responses5.
If you’re versed in human physiology, you may recall that as humans have a system of natural endocannabinoids in our brains that help manage our moods and anxious feelings. Cannabinoids are natural elements of marijuana that also minimize anxiety when they connect with the endocannabinoids in our body6. So a more relaxed, calmer feeling usually occurs when they connect.
When making a decision as to which strain of marijuana you should take to reduce anxiety, the indica strain might be a better choice. Sativas strains have been known to encourage anxiety and paranoia.
Adderall & stimulants:
In patients that are being treated for medical conditions such as ADD and ADHD, the cannabis strain that’s been found to be more effective in the treatment of it is Sativas.
But while there’s still a lot of research to be done to find out more precisely how cannabis and ADD/ADHD interact with each other, for some patients, cannabis has helped reduce the effects of prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, which can help boost concentration but also expose them to a multitude of negative side effects and symptoms associated with withdrawal.
Cannabis can stimulate the production of dopamine, which helps with cognitive functions like attention and memory. In addition, the way that cannabinoids influence the handling of dopamine in the brain has uncovered some positive therapeutic results7.
There are positive signs that cannabis is gaining more traction and attention as a safer alternative to prescription medications for ADD/ADHD, and as the political and research restraints are loosened, its benefits will be better understood.
Ambien & sleep enablers:
The ways in which cannabis affects sleep isn’t simple, cut and dried knowledge. And that’s because sleep isn’t a simple process. You might have known that cannabis is a very common sleep inducer, but looking at it more closely, there’s a lot more to understanding what works about cannabis and what doesn’t.
When it comes to the strain of medicinal cannabis that can best help with sleeping issues, the indica strain is prefered over the sativa, as well as findings that show medicinal cannabis to be nontoxic and as closely successful a treatment for sleeplessness as a prescribed medication like Ambien.
Certain sleep disorders that benefit from medicinal cannabis are insomnia, night terrors, and sleep apnea. And if you’re a patient with any kind of medical condition that compromises your ability to get a good night’s sleep, you just might find an answer to your dilemma with medicinal cannabis.
Zoloft & mood enhancing drugs:
Studies have become available along with numerous accounts from medicinal cannabis patients supporting the opinion that cannabis is effective as an alternative treatment for battling depression8.
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to veteran users of cannabis, just by the very familiar sense of euphoria that cannabis is known to provide. But research is uncovering proof that shows more favorable results in the use of medicinal cannabis to fight depression rather than prescription anti-depressants. Research published in 2015 found that the use of cannabis affected a person’s mental health in a positive way, and did not necessarily result in the destruction of brain cells9.
Medicinal cannabis has also been shown to help people suffering from PTSD symptoms (post-traumatic stress disorder), which may consist of depressive moods, anxiety, and disturbing memories. And prescription drugs that have traditionally been used in the treatment of PTSD have not given as much relief as medicinal cannabis10. In a May, 2014 research study, it was documented that over 75 percent of medicinal cannabis patients saw a decrease in their PTSD symptoms11.
Antiepileptic & anticonvulsant drugs:
There are over twelve forms of epilepsy, and over eight types of seizures that can occur within the forms of the disorder12. Various forms of epilepsy have been traditionally treated with medications that prevent convulsions such as phenytoin and phenobarbital. The problem is that these meds and others like them are also accompanied by serious side-effects that can have debilitating results.
A growing volume of research is indicating that CBD-based (Cannabidiol) drug treatments such as Epidiolex may play a role in being a first defense measure in managing some forms of epilepsy. Some of these CBD-based medications are proving to be equal to or just as effective as prevailing anticonvulsant drugs and don’t carry the dangerous side effects13.
There’s a lot of research yet to be done, but suffice it to say that based on a lot of affirming feedback from epilepsy patients, a role for medicinal cannabis in the treatment of epilepsy shows promise.
With the numerous opioid-containing medications on the market today that are used to treat debilitating symptoms that accompany medical conditions, the benefits that go along with the substitution or partnering of medicinal cannabis with traditional medicines is outweighing and outdating the stigma that’s been attached to marijuana in general.