Since the 2012 election, the United States has seen an increase of states legalizing marijuana for either medical or recreational use. As of November 2018, 32 states and Washington D.C. have legalized weed for medical use. That’s because there is a mountain of research and anecdotal evidence that marijuana is a great alternative to traditional, pharmacological medicines.
Why Medical Weed
Cannabis has been used to treat all types of illnesses and ailments since around 2900 BC. It’s an inexpensive but effective alternative to costly medications that, not only have dangerous side effects but may cause opioid addiction. Even though weed is still considered a Class 1 narcotic by the federal government, people have still been using it to heal.
CBD vs THC
Cannabidiol or CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC are both cannabinoids found in all varieties of the cannabis plant. THC is the chemical that induces the euphoric feeling or “high” while CBD does not.
Biopharmaceutical companies are now jumping on the CBD medicine train. However, like most drugs that people desperately need, the prices are incredibly expensive to the average user. For example, the FDA recently approved the first cannabis medication for epilepsy called Epidolex create GW Pharmaceuticals PLC- ADR. Depending on where you live and how much you need, Epidiolex can cost between $200 and $2000 a month. CBD oil from a trusted medical dispensary can cost less than $100.
Medical Uses for Weed
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that cannabis has healing properties. It’s been used for centuries to cure or heal various ailments. However, it remains illegal, federally, in the United States. One of the main reasons it has remained illegal federally is that the majority of federally backed research on marijuana has focused on potential negative effects instead of its potential to heal. But that’s changing. Institutions are conducting more and more research that back up the anecdotal evidence of the healing properties of weed. And there are so many illnesses and ailments where weed is, not only helpful but preferable to traditional medicine.
The United States has a serious problem with pain. According to 2011, The Institute of Medicine released a report saying “Chronic pain costs the nation up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity.” Much of the medical treatment for pain has been with addiction-causing opioids such as Morphine and Oxycodone. Most heroin users begin their addiction to opioids from pain treatment with morphine or other opioids before progressing to heroin. Marijuana is a safe, non-addictive alternative to treating chronic pain.
How does weed help with chronic pain? The feeling of pain is caused by the coordination of brain cells that tell the body something hurts. And there are two types of pain: nociceptive and neuroceptive. Nociceptive is the most common type of pain and is a result of tissue damage. Think inflammation, aches, throbbing, etc. Cannabis can weaken the intensity of the sensation of pain by blocking the neurotransmitters signaling the brain to tell your body to feel pain. Also,
Nociceptive pain can be weakened by reducing the pain signals at the site of injury by blocking the inflammatory process itself or the signals they elicit. Another strategy is to dampen their effects as they make their way up the spinal cord to the brain. The cannabidiols in weed can target both of these processes to reduce pain. THC has anti-inflammatory properties that are “driven through the activation of CB2 (brain) receptors on immune cells which dampens the body’s pain-inducing response to injury.” And CBD can block inflammatory mediators, reducing inflammation. In other words, it’s the interaction between THC and CBD with brain receptors that trigger pain relief, anxiety relief, appetite stimulation, and mood management.
Weed has also been shown to help patients in their battle against various types of cancer. In many small studies, weed had shown to help alleviate nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Studies have also shown that CBD blocked the growth of cancer cells and killed cancer cells in cervical cancer patients.
Thankfully, more long-term human trials are taking place. But the evidence of short-term clinical trials is clear: there is no denying the marijuana positive health effects that patients have experienced.