Understanding Medical Marijuana: Laws, Uses, Safety

What Is Medical Marijuana?

When people talk about medical marijuana, they’re referring to any part of a marijuana plant used to alleviate any health problem. People don’t use this to get high, but rather to ease their medical symptoms.

When cannabis is legally sold as medicine, it is typically no different from the type used for pleasure. However, new strains of medical marijuana have been specially developed with fewer chemicals that cause euphoria and more chemicals thought to provide other health benefits.

In the following slides, you will learn information about

  • the chemicals that make up medical marijuana,
  • how cannabis affects the brain,
  • side effects that accompany the drug,
  • what manufactured drugs have been developed based on marijuana’s chemical properties,
  • the laws for states that have legalized medical marijuana, and
  • the use of medical marijuana to treat children.

THC and CBD in Medical Marijuana

There are more than 80 chemical compounds in cannabis known as cannabinoids. These chemicals are responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects. Of these, the two most researched compounds are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), which were both discovered in the early 1960s. THC is considered the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, but CBD has recently raised interest due to its potential to treat illnesses like seizures

Medical Marijuana Uses

Various lines of research into the health effects of marijuana are ongoing. However, research into medical cannabis has been hampered since the 1930s by the drug’s illegality, a situation only now beginning to change for would-be researchers. This means that while many promising benefits of medical cannabis are being researched, in many cases further and repeated studies will be necessary before these uses can be approved by doctors.

Medical Uses of THC: Increased Appetite

One of the most well-established medical uses for cannabis is in increasing appetite for AIDS and cancer patients, those with wasting diseases, and other patients who might benefit from an increase in appetite.

The synthetic THC pill Marinol was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1985 for just such a purpose. Marinol has been shown to stimulate the appetite and reduce nausea and vomiting.

Other Medical Uses of THC

Beyond its ability to stimulate appetite, THC may be medically useful in several other ways. Here are a few of the potential medical benefits of THC:

  • Pain reduction
  • Inflammation reduction
  • Improving problems in muscle control

 

Medical Uses of CBD

CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, has garnered a lot of media attention for its use in young children to relieve the symptoms of serious seizures. Many more medical uses have been suggested for CBD, including

  • neuroprotection from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s disease,
  • pain reduction for conditions like cancer, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis,
  • anti-tumor effects,
  • anti-psychotic effects for schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder,
  • anti-anxiety effects, and
  • treatment for drug addiction, particularly morphine and heroin addiction.

Medical Marijuana Side Effects (Short Term)

Along with its many potential health benefits, medical marijuana also causes several potential side effects. In the short term, medical marijuana can disrupt short-term memory, disrupt the ability to make decisions, and alter mood, making a patient feel happy, relaxed, sleepy, or anxious.

In large doses, some people using medical marijuana will experience hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.

If a patient has breathing problems like bronchitis, smoking marijuana can make those problems worse.

Medical Marijuana Side Effects (Short Term)

Along with its many potential health benefits, medical marijuana also causes several potential side effects. In the short term, medical marijuana can disrupt short-term memory, disrupt the ability to make decisions, and alter mood, making a patient feel happy, relaxed, sleepy, or anxious.

In large doses, some people using medical marijuana will experience hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.

If a patient has breathing problems like bronchitis, smoking marijuana can make those problems worse.

Medical Marijuana for Children

Children with hard-to-treat epilepsy may find relief from their seizures through medical marijuana, according to some studies. One strain of medical marijuana, “Charlotte’s Web” makes it easier to treat kids without getting them high because the strain has high amounts of CBD but very low levels of THC.

The trend toward using medical marijuana in children is relatively recent, meaning few studies have been performed as to its effects. One study of 74 children ages 1-18 with intractable epilepsy found that 89% reported some seizure reduction following treatment using a CBD oil. Other positive benefits reported by these subjects included improved behavior and alertness, better communication, language improvements, improved motor skills, and better sleep.

Reported adverse effects included drowsiness, fatigue, stomach upset, and irritability.