If you’re a patient with a medically approved condition for treatment by medicinal cannabis, you’re in a good position to benefit from how cannabis works and the healing, relief-providing properties of medicinal cannabis.
With over 84% of Americans expressing approval for legalized medical cannabis to treat symptoms and side effects of debilitating diseases, and over 61% in support of legalizing cannabis for both recreational and medical use, cannabis is slowly gaining ground from the public as well as the medical establishment as a legitimate treatment for an increasing number of symptoms and side effects.
So, what makes this largely misunderstood drug work so well?
Two active chemicals: Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These cannabinoids, as they’re called, do much of the work of treating symptoms and side effects. Cannabis has at least 60 cannabinoids in it1, and more than 100 according to other sources2.
CBD appears to have properties that affect the brain without producing the “high” typically experienced, while THC contains properties associated with pain relief that produce the euphoric “high” associated with marijuana use. CBD has been shown to help patients with issues related to chronic pain live almost pain-free. And because CBD doesn’t cause a user to get high, it can help to control seizures, nausea, pain from inflammation, anxiety plus others. CBD products are best to start with to find out if they can help your condition.
Because of the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin, ecstasy, and LSD (which are considered to be among the most dangerous drugs), controlled studies can’t be performed on marijuana by high-profile institutions with the power to change its classification to a medically acceptable drug (as well as a recreational drug) with health and healing qualities that can benefit patients.
This Schedule I classification prevents hospital, college and other institutional researchers from receiving the funding needed to do clinical studies on the potential that medical cannabis holds—otherwise they will lose federal funding for work on other studies3. On the flip side, cocaine and methamphetamines are categorized as less-dangerous Schedule II drugs.
Now, back to how cannabis works on symptoms and side effects of certain medical conditions…
The Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis is the ingredient that can help patients cope with prescription medication side effects and symptoms like appetite loss, sleep issues, depressive mood, memory function, and others. The FDA has approved THC for use in prescribed medications to treat nausea and boost appetite. It can be found in the drugs Marinol4 (dronabinol) and Cesamet5 (nabilone).
THC’s medical benefits include bringing about a greater sense of calm, reducing pain, and relaxation to reduce anxiety. But because of the effects of the “high” with THC, caution is strongly advised so that you don’t find yourself in situations (like driving) while your coordination and cognitive abilities are somewhat compromised.
Cannabinoids keep your neurons firing, but can cause you to fixate on the same thing until a different thought swings your attention from it. Just as sugar, caffeine, and alcohol affect dopamine levels in your brain, cannabinoids in medicinal cannabis also have an effect on dopamine levels, producing a euphoric sense of relaxation. But since cannabis doesn’t affect everyone the same way, an individual’s experience may range from calm to anxious depending on the patient’s makeup.
Cannabinoids have anti-cancer abilities through a process called “apoptosis”, which is the controlled death of cancer cells that impacts their ability to spread, and through “angiogenesis”, which helps slow the new blood vessel formation that can enable cancer cells to spread.
Compared to other medications, one of the safest is cannabis. Definite precautions are required though for safe dosing and application to a condition. But we know how dangerous and prone to addiction prescription narcotics can be. With the known risks and harm potential prescribed medications can present, it is only a matter of time until medicinal cannabis is studied with more intensity and freed from the hindering stigmas that have kept from being included in the world of legitimate medical treatments.