Cannabis is an intriguing plant with many remarkable medicinal properties that have been used by humans for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, pain, and mental disorders. Cannabis’ versatility and usefulness have prompted many states, including Mississippi, to legalize it as a medical alternative treatment to traditional opiate and narcotic medications.
The Truth about Medical Cannabis.
The medical cannabis plant contains over 120 different types of compounds known as cannabinoids. Each of these cannabinoids produces a unique reaction and level of relief in each individual. Cannabidiol (CBD) and THC are the most well-known and researched cannabinoids. THC is frequently cited as the active cannabinoid that provides the euphoric feeling people experience when consuming medicinal cannabis, even though it is only one of the dozens of cannabinoids that contribute to the medicinal impact of the cannabis plant.
How Can Medical Cannabis Help?
Since 1996, 39 states have approved medicinal and adult-use cannabis as an alternative therapeutic option. Private and public research sectors are conducting an extensive study to determine which cannabis chemicals and their diverse combinations, called the “Entourage Effect,” provide relief for various diseases and pain. In Colorado and Oregon, for instance, the most prevalent ailments for which medicinal cannabis is utilized are pain, nausea, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, epilepsy, cachexia, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and degenerative neurological diseases.
Chronic pain, cancer, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, HIV-related anorexia and weight loss, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy, spasticity, Tourette syndrome, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, dementia, glaucoma, traumatic brain injury, addiction, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia and other psychological disorders are among the other diseases and conditions that medical cannabis may help treat. Research on the potential effects of cannabis on the following areas is still ongoing at this time:
- Cancer in general
- Treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Spasticity due to paraplegia from spinal cord injury
- Symptoms associated with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Motor function and cognitive performance associated with Huntington’s Disease
- Motor system symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease or levodopa-induced dyskinesia
- Achieving abstinence or reduction in the use of addictive substances, including cannabis itself
- Sleep outcomes in individuals with primary chronic insomnia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms
- Mental health outcomes in individuals with schizophrenia or schizophreniform psychosis
- Cannabis short-term relief from anxiety symptoms
- Symptoms of chronic manic and severe depression
How Cannabis is being Used Today.
- Chronic Pain and Swelling.
Patients most commonly utilize cannabis for chronic pain relief. Light et al. (2014) stated that 94% of Colorado medical marijuana users had “severe pain.” 87 percent of study participants sought medical marijuana for pain management, according to Ilgen et al. Some people are replacing conventional painkillers (e.g., opioids) with cannabis. One study found that medical cannabis use in pain sufferers was associated with a 64% reduction in opiate consumption (Boehnke et al., 2016). Recent assessments of Medicare Part D prescription data from jurisdictions with medicinal cannabis access suggest a drop in traditional pain drugs (Bradford and Bradford, 2016). Combined with survey data revealing pain is a main cause for medicinal cannabis use, these latest results suggest pain sufferers are replacing opioids with cannabis, despite cannabis not being FDA-approved for chronic pain.
- Sleep Disorders
Insomnia, sleep-related breathing disorders, parasomnias, sleep-related movement disorders, and circadian rhythm sleep–wake disorders are sleep disorders (Sateia, 2014). 50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleep issue (ASA, 2016). In 2010, insomnia caused 5.5 million U.S. doctor visits (Ford et al., 2014). Some data suggests the endocannabinoid system affects sleep. THC dose-dependently alters slow-wave sleep, which aids learning and memory. Low doses of cannabis may reduce sleep latency, whereas excessive doses may increase it (Garcia and Salloum, 2015). Cannabinoids may treat sleep disturbances.
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
Many cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs cause nausea and vomiting. Several medication classes have been licensed for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Nabilone and dronabinol were licensed in 1985 for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in individuals who did not react to traditional antiemetics (Todaro, 2012, pp. 488, 490).
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is classified by DSM-5 as a trauma- and stressor-related condition (DSM-V). Diagnostic criteria for PTSD include exposure to a traumatic event (e.g., the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence) and exhibiting psychological distress symptoms as a result (e.g., intrusion symptoms, such as distressing memories; avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event; negative mood and cognitive changes; alterations in arousal and reactivity associated with the traumatic event; function problems) (APA, 2013, pp. 271–272).