Marijuana has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries, but it was not until the mid-1990s that scientists began to document and study its potential benefits in detail. In recent years, attitudes about marijuana have shifted, and many people now believe that marijuana should be legalized for medical use. There is evidence that marijuana can help treat a number of medical conditions, including chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and multiple sclerosis spasticity. Marijuana also appears to have some anti-tumor properties, which could make it useful in the treatment of certain cancers. Despite these potential benefits, marijuana remains illegal in many countries. More research is needed to determine precisely how marijuana can be used safely and effectively in medical practices.
1. Treatment of Chronic Pain
Research suggests that marijuana may be useful in treating chronic pain caused by cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases. In a randomized placebo-controlled study, researchers found that pain scores were lower among patients taking dronabinol and smoking marijuana than among those taking only one of the therapies. Researchers caution, however, that marijuana should not be used as a first line treatment for chronic pain because its effectiveness has not been clearly established.
2. Nausea and Vomiting Related to Cancer Treatment
Nausea and vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy occurs when certain drugs used to fight off or kill cancer cells trigger nausea and vomiting. These side effects can hamper the ability of doctors to prescribe effective doses of these drugs, which is necessary for successful treatment. A report by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that patients who received marijuana to treat chemotherapy side effects showed no signs of impaired mental function or motor skills after using it. Researchers now are recommending that doctors consider medical marijuana MO as a possible treatment for nausea and vomiting related to cancer treatments.
3. Spasticity Related to Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease characterized by abnormal immune system activity, which often results in physical problems, including spasticity. Spasticity involves stiff muscles and uncontrollable spasms, which can interfere with daily tasks such as walking or taking care of personal hygiene. In a survey published in 2002, patients with multiple sclerosis reported that smoking marijuana reduced their spasticity by an average of 80 percent.
These findings, along with the NCI report, suggest that marijuana should be considered as a treatment for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis spasticity. However, it remains unclear how well smoking marijuana compares to other therapies currently used to treat this condition.
4. Effects on Appetite
Marijuana use has been linked to increased appetite in medical studies, but researchers are unsure what biochemical process causes this increase. The biological mechanism involved may vary depending on whether one smokes or eats marijuana. Anecdotal reports also suggest that obesity is associated with decreased rates of marijuana addiction and could help explain why some people who struggle with weight-related diseases tend to be less likely to abuse marijuana.
5. Anti-tumor Effects
In 1974, a research team from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made a surprising discovery about the effects of delta-9-THC, one of 400 compounds in marijuana: They found that this compound slowed the growth of lung tumors in mice while impeding normal lung function. Since then, there have been numerous animal studies documenting that cannabinoid may limit the growth of certain cancer cells and reduce their ability to spread throughout the body. Research has also found that a non-psychoactive cannabinoid known as cannabidiol reduces cell proliferation by acting on mitochondria in glioma cells, making it an especially promising compound for fighting cancer.
However, researchers caution that smoking marijuana can have the opposite effect on these cells, since it reduces levels of glutathione, a cellular compound that helps prevent damage to DNA. Glutathione levels are believed to be low in many forms of cancer. Patients should keep this potential interaction in mind when weighing the benefits and risks of marijuana use.
6. Treatment of Other Diseases
A number of studies indicate that marijuana may protect against osteoporosis by stimulating bone formation while simultaneously reducing bone loss. This finding makes sense given that cannabinoids are known to have effects on other systems in the body involved with regulating bone mass, including the endocannabinoid system and an enzyme responsible for producing prostaglandins.
The results of intestinal studies also support the idea that marijuana could benefit patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In a mouse model of colitis, for example, researchers found that delta-9-THC reduced the inflammatory response and accelerated recovery from colonic damage. Similar effects may be helpful in humans, especially those whose IBD is not effectively treated by current therapies. Furthermore, some researchers believe that cannabinoids could play a role in reducing inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease and preventing cancer cell growth.
Lastly, there is evidence to suggest that cannabis has therapeutic benefits for those suffering from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease experience memory loss and changes in cognition, while those with ALS experience muscle weakness and problems speaking. Studies have found that cannabinoids can protect nerve cells from damage caused by toxins associated with these diseases and reduce inflammation associated with them, which may slow the rate of nerve cell death. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that marijuana can help patients manage the depression and anxiety they may be experiencing as a result of their condition.
While significant amounts of research have been done on the benefits of marijuana, there are still many questions left unanswered about how it could affect various conditions. However, researchers continue to find evidence that suggests this drug could play a vital role in providing relief for many debilitating conditions.