Is Medical Marijuana beneficial for treating certain health conditions? Which ones?
The use of medical marijuana has been a controversial issue for a long time now, since it still falls under the category of Schedule I drugs (substances that are at a high risk of being abused) in most countries. The legal status of medical marijuana in Canada is not certain, due to the mixed and swaying opinions of political parties on the legalization of the drug. However, over the years, medical grade marijuana has emerged to be a wonder drug, with the potential to treat a variety of health conditions. This article addresses some of the health conditions for which medical grade marijuana may be a useful alternative course of treatment.
The stomach mucosal lining has specialized cells which secrete mucus. This secretion plays an active role in protecting the stomach lining from the corrosive acid produced by the stomach for digesting food. A sudden inflammation of this lining is referred to as acute gastritis.
Gastritis can be categorized into two types; acute and chronic. Acute gastritis affects the stomach lining for a shorter period of time, whereas chronic gastritis lasts for a longer period. If chronic gastritis is not treated immediately, the condition may eventually persist for life. Vomiting, nausea, severe abdominal cramps, fever and diarrhea are some of the symptoms that are associated with acute and chronic gastritis.
A study conducted by the University of Bath in collaboration with the Bristol University in 2005 was published in the ‘New Scientist’. This joint study shed light on the healing properties of medical grade marijuana in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases. The outcome of the study suggested that plant derived molecules present in medical marijuana could effectively ease the symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases such as gastritis because of a strong probability of the existence of cannabinoid receptors present in the intestinal lining.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common neurodegenerative condition that systematically affects the memory function of the individual. Medical grade marijuana has shown promising results in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease over the years. In 2004, a research suggested that the cannabidiols present in medical marijuana could stop the neurodegenerative disease from progressing by inhibiting the release of beta amyloidal peptides.
Agitation is a common symptom that affects almost 75% of the individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s. A chemical compound present in marijuana, called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been shown to reduce behavioral issues that are commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients. A medical research performed in California by the Scripps Research Institute suggested that tetrahydrocannabinol had the ability to prevent the formation of Alzheimer’s plaques in the brain.
Moreover, THC successfully restricted the production of acetylcholinesterase, that is responsible for the creation of the plaques. This study was published in the Journal of Molecular Pharmaceutics and concluded that medical grade marijuana could be more effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease than the commonly prescribed medications.
HIV/AIDS Wasting Syndrome
Anti-retroviral drugs are often prescribed for prolonging the onset of HIV/AIDS. However, the side effects that are associated with these medications are far too extreme for the individual taking them. Wasting syndrome is also one of the side effects of AIDS, known as cachexia in medical terms. According to the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, almost 60% of HIV/AIDS patients use medical grade marijuana as an effective drug for pain management. Medical marijuana doubles as an anti-ematic that helps in reducing nausea and vomiting, as well as an analgesic that relieves AIDS related pain symptoms.
The Institute of Medicine also supports the use of medical marijuana to counter symptoms of AIDS, such as loss of appetite, pain and nausea. It also suggests that the cannabinoids found in medical marijuana effectively improve the quality of life as compared to other allopathic drugs that are rendered ineffective in providing broad spectrum relief to AIDS patients. Therefore, the right amount of medical marijuana may offer a wide variety of benefits to individuals living with AIDS, along with improving their general quality of life.
Autism is a common brain disorder that affects children under three years of age. Some of the major characteristics recognized in autistic children are an inability to interact, impaired communication skills and repetitive behaviour. Despite the rise in autism cases, scientists are still unclear as to whether autism is a hereditary disorder or a rare gene mutation.
Currently, there is no cure for autism. However, according to the findings of the Autism Research Institute, medical marijuana usage can considerably reduce some of the symptoms of autism, including aggression, generalized rage, severe anxiety and self injurious behaviour. Medical marijuana helps in ameliorating these symptoms due to the presence of cannabinoids, which are known for their calming effect on the brain.
Macular degeneration is a disease that affects the eye. It is common in both males and females above the age of 50. As the name suggests, it is a condition in which the macula of the eye (located in the central region) is affected. Individuals with macular degeneration often suffer from weak peripheral vision that eventually leads to permanent loss of vision if left untreated. The reason macular degeneration often goes undiagnosed is because it exhibits gradual effects on vision. An affected individual usually seeks help when the vision becomes blurred and the ability to distinguish between colours is lost. There are two types of the disease; the wet and dry type.
Medical marijuana is known to reduce the ocular pressure in the eyes. The cannabinoids present in marijuana are known to inhibit VEGF growth. Although research on medical marijuana does not show any effective properties for treating macular degeneration, there are certain small scale studies that suggest that using medical marijuana could help in inhibiting the progression of macular degeneration in affected individuals.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a fatal disorder that affects the central nervous systems of individuals within the ages of 20 and 40. Multiple sclerosis is known to affect women more than men. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis differ from one individual to another, but spasms, excruciating pain and loss of function (caused by the spasticity) are generally common. Multiple sclerosis is caused by abnormal immune activity in the brain and spinal cord, leading to the destruction of the protective cover over the nerve endings called myelin.
Another characteristic of multiple sclerosis is that the symptoms come and go, thus it is characterized as a ‘remitting and relapsing condition’. The treatment for multiple sclerosis involves treating fatigue, pain, bladder problems, depression and spasticity.
Studies conducted on a small scale show that medical marijuana usage had the ability to improve tremors and spasticity in patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Apart from treating the symptoms of this fatal disorder, research on medical marijuana shows that it has the potential of controlling the abnormal immune functions in the nervous system and reducing the occurrence of autoimmune attacks considerably.
The British Medical Association has recognized synthetic cannabinoids like dronabinol and nabilone as an effective course of treatment for multiple sclerosis, since they can greatly reduce the painful symptoms associated with the disease. Another independent study by GW Pharmaceuticals highlighted the benefits of a medical marijuana preparation called Sativex. When used for treating MS symptoms, patients claimed that it was an ‘incredible pain-relieving drug’.
Lupus is a common inflammatory autoimmune disease. The immune system of the body considers healthy cells to be foreign invaders and starts attacking them. This causes symptoms such as inflammation, pain, discomfort and relatively permanent damage to the cells of the body. Lupus can be characterized into six different types depending on the different parts of the body that it affects. These include:
• Systematic Lupus Erythematosus
• Drug Induced Lupus
• Life Threatening Lupus
• Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus
• Neonatal Lupus
• Lupus In Overlap With Other Connective Tissue Diseases
A very limited number of medical studies have been carried out on the effects of medical marijuana on lupus. However, the studies have yielded quite promising results. Limited but groundbreaking research on medical marijuana shows that naturally occurring cannabinoids are effective in reducing the autoimmune attacks and temporarily slowing down the hyperactive immune system.
Medical marijuana may not be considered an appropriate standalone treatment for curing many diseases because it has a high potential for abuse. However, if used in controlled quantities for medical purposes, medical marijuana can be an effective and alternative all-natural treatment for various rare health conditions.