Medical Marijuana: Medical Uses of Cannabis and THC

Marijuana is a well-known psychoactive substance, obtained from a plant called Cannabis sativa. Cannabis and cannabis-based products have always been a part of the debate that whether or not they should be legalized for medicinal use. While it may be used for recreational purposes by many, it has been proven to have some benefits that make it a good candidate for medical use as well.

Cannabis has more than a hundred active compounds, but the two most active compounds that provide the most benefits are CBD (cannabidiol), and THC (tetrahydro cannabidiol).

There are many recognized benefits of these two components, but still, the legality of this substance is a matter of huge dilemma because of its potential abuse threats. Although many countries are now recognizing its benefit and are making an effort to make Cannabis-based products legal for medical uses, especially in conditions where other commonly available medications fail.

This article covers conditions that can actually be benefited by the use of marijuana.

 

1. Chronic pain:

Chronic pain is a pain that persists– for weeks, months or even years. There are thousands and thousands of people who are living with chronic pain every single day. Many conditions can result in chronic pain, like cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic migraine, chronic backache, endometriosis, etc. Sometimes there can be no known cause for it as well. In any case, for most patients, it’s quite debilitating. These patients of chronic pain rely on pain-killers to get by their day. But after many years of medication use, the patient can become resistant to the effect of the medicine. And in some cases, even opioid-based pain medications give little to no relief.

Cannabis-based medications are a good option for these patients. Research has shown that pain that doesn’t respond to opioids responds to CBD and THC (components of cannabis). It gives a greater benefit for patients with neuropathic pain when given in combination with opioid drugs.

Although no cannabis-based medications are approved by the FDA yet, Sativex is an approved and widely used medication for neuropathic pain in Canada and European countries. It contains both CBD and THC components of cannabis in equal proportions.

Any conditions that are characterized by neuropathic pain, like multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve damage, pain associated with cancer, etc, can all be benefited from this drug.

Check with your doctor regarding its availability and legality in your country.

 

 

2. Chemotherapy-induced nausea: 

Chemotherapy is the treatment modality for many different types of cancers. It has the amazing ability to kill the cancerous cell, but it can be very harsh to the body. It is quite notorious to cause many side-effects like hair loss. “While most of these side-effects are temporary, they make the whole treatment cycle much more difficult. One of the major side-effects of chemotherapy is nausea. It can be moderate in some patients, while extremely debilitating to others. Many patients end up quitting chemotherapy because of this side-effect, says Dr.Bharat, an oncologist at Doctorspring.

If this is something that concerns you, you might want to check out an FDA-approved drug called Nabilone which is used specifically for chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Speak to your doctor regarding its use and availability in your country.

3. Epilepsy: 

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that leads to recurrent seizures. Usually, it can be easily managed with the regular medications available in the market. However, in certain rare forms of epilepsy, which can even be potentially fatal, like Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome, these regular drugs may not be effective.

Epidiolex is another FDA-approved medication containing cannabis components, which is specifically indicated for these rare forms of epilepsy. It contains the cannabidiol (CBD) component of cannabis and is great in controlling these violent seizures. It can be given to children of more than 2 years of age and is very effective in managing difficult cases of epilepsy.

4. HIV-induced anorexia and cachexia: 

Cachexia (extreme weight loss due to muscle wasting) is a quite serious problem associated with chronic diseases like HIV, cancer, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, and others. This is usually associated with anorexia. A combination of these two over time leads to unhealthy weight loss. A continued weight loss while being chronically sick worsens the outcome of these diseases.

Previously studies suggested that CBD was good at improving anorexia and cachexia related to chronic diseases. Following many studies, FDA was able to approve yet another cannabis-based drug called Dronabinol to tackle cachexia induced by HIV. It stimulates appetite, increasing the caloric intake and body fat levels, and thus improves body weight.

Maintaining a good health is the key in most chronic diseases, and therefore this drug can really improve the morbidity and mortality in these diseases.

These are the only conditions that have specific cannabis-based medications available in the market for their management. However, there are some other conditions where people like to use Cannabis-products for supportive effects.

Conditions that can be managed with Cannabis, CBD and/or THC based products (but no FDA-approved medications are available for their management):

  1. Skin conditions:Certain formulations containing cannabis-based components are available in the market as an ointment for acne. CBD has shown to reduce oil production and thus reduces acne.It is also proven to relieve many other chronic skin conditions like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, scleroderma, pigmentation disorders, etc.

For patients with skin conditions, topical application is more effective as compared to oral consumption

  1. Anxiety and depression:The THC component of Cannabis is great for relieving the symptoms of anxiety. Although no FDA-approved medication is available in the market, many people are reaching out for CBD products to get some relief with these conditions. Cannabis is a great anti-stress agent, and also helps people with anxiety that have difficulty falling asleep.

Apart from being helpful in anxiety, studies have also shown CBD to be effective in stress-induced depression. Experts do see the potential in its use for depression, but more research is needed to draw any conclusions regarding its management for depression.

  1. PTSD: For its ability to help keep the mind calm, it is also great for managing PTSD. Studies have shown CBD helps to reduce treatment-resistant nightmares that are associated with PTSD as well. This makes it a great candidate for the management of PTSD.
  2. Insomnia:Insomnia has become an epidemic today. Many diseases can lead to insomnia, like chronic pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. Although, not always a cause can be found. Whether or not the cause is known, studies have shown Cannabis to be effective in inducing sleep by helping the mind to relax and improving the sleep-cycle.
  3. General inflammation:Many people like to use CBD products for relieving post-workout inflammation and other minor inflammations in the body. Soreness of the muscles, mild joint pain, etc can be effectively managed with CBD products.

 

  1. Parkinson’s disease:Cannabis is an excellent muscle-relaxant and is therefore helpful in reducing tremors in the case of Parkinson’s disease. This can be of great help for someone who suffers from Parkinson’s. Taking the opinion of your doctor, with a prescription is recommended in the case of Parkinson’s disease.

 

 

Since there are no specific guidelines from the FDA for cannabis and CBD based products use, it’s difficult to decide on the dosage for these conditions. It’s different for different people and is mostly found on an experimental basis. Consider starting with the lowest dose possible and slowly increase the dosage till you find the dose that’s effective for you.

 

The legality of Cannabis-based products:

In recent years CBD and THC products have gained wide popularity for their many proven benefits. In the year 2018, US govt legalized hemp (a strain of Cannabis sativa produced for industrial purposes), making products containing CBD and less than 0.3% THC products legal. They are now very easily available and are used for medicinal and recreational purposes in the United States even without a prescription. However, CBD and THC products derived from Marijuana are still illegal in all those states where Marijuana is illegal.

Many other countries have legalized Marijuana for either strict medicinal use, or for both recreational and medical use.

Check with your local law regarding its use. Possession of these substances in places where it is banned is a punishable offense.

Something to remember:

There are many “proven” effects of marijuana at an experimental level, but it should be noted that when it comes to clinical application, the story might be entirely different. We may see positive results at an experimental level, but the effect might not be enough to produce a clinical benefit.

For example, marijuana is shown to reduce intraocular pressure. High intraocular pressure is seen in glaucoma, and although marijuana is proven to reduce IOP at clinical levels, it’s effect is not enough to treat an actual patient of glaucoma– for various reasons like it only provides relieve for a few hours whereas the patient needs a 24 hours coverage, and there are medications in the market to provide way better management as compared to marijuana.

Another example is the claim of marijuana being an anti-cancerous agent. While it is true that the components of marijuana have shown anti-cancerous effects, including killing cancerous cells and reduce their growth, there is no conclusive evidence that similar effects would be achieved at the clinical level as well. Research is being done to find out more about marijuana and its anti-cancerous effects, but as of now– no, marijuana will not cure cancer.

There are many other conditions that studies show cannabis-based products can potentially help with, however, research evidence is not strong enough to draw any conclusion.

Experimenting with Cannabis-based products if you have a long-term medical condition or if you are currently using any kind of medication without your doctor’s opinion is not recommended. Cannabis-based products have their side-effects, and drug-interaction is a potential threat in these cases as well. Caution should be taken while using them.

NOTE: This article is meant for information purposes only. It should not be used as a replacement for a doctor’s advice.