Medical marijuana, although still surrounded by issues and controversies in some parts of the United States, is generally used for its health benefits. The extracted medicine from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica is mainly used for treating pain, nausea, muscle spasms, anxiety, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, and sleep problems.
Additionally, it is associated with treating chemotherapy and anorexia. Medical marijuana is composed of three major active compounds – THC, CBD, and CBN.
But how does it really work?
Similar to other synthetic and natural drugs available on the market, medical marijuana works on the brain and the nervous system of the body to alter the messages that you receive. However, there are still plenty of people that are having a hard time transitioning from using marijuana as a recreational drug to therapeutic medicine. Medical professionals are continuously trying to figure out how to harness the effects of marijuana for it to focus mainly on healing.
Marijuana targets the brain that is the main organ responsible for bodily functions. The chemicals in the brain, known as neurotransmitters, carry messages to the receptors in the body. These receptors translate the messages from the brain and are responsible for the body’s reaction. Some chemical messages can affect the heart rate while others can create feelings such as stress or euphoria.
Marijuana has been a favorite compound used in experiments aiming to alter the brain’s chemistry. As medical science continues to unlock medical mysteries, marijuana has been developed to target specific symptoms. THC was identified during the 1960s. After its discovery, a whole new endocannabinoid system was discovered too.
THC connects with the natural brain chemicals and works in those receptors. Medicinal marijuana allows different outcomes on each delivery system. Where and how THC reaches the brain determines the effect the patient would feel.
The chemicals in this component throw off the natural balance of these receptors and other brain chemicals, creating the high that is mostly associated with the use of the compound. The effects of the drug are immediate, but when eaten, it takes time before it enters the bloodstream and takes effect.
Although used for medicinal purposes, the high that is an aftereffect of using the drug may create varying long-term effects on the brain and to the body. The risks are still there, similar to other types of drugs we commonly use.
Is Marijuana a Safe and Effective Medicine?
The potentials of marijuana as a medicinal alternative, together with its other components are still subject to debate. Continuous research is being implemented and further testing is being developed. THC alone has proven its medical benefits in some medical research. The FDA has already approved THC-based medications for dronabinol and nabilone, pills that can be used for the treatment of nausea for patients undergoing chemotherapy. The pills can also be used to stimulate appetite for patients with AIDS.
There are several other marijuana-based medications that received approvals for undergoing clinical trials. Nabiximols, a type of mouth spray, is currently being used in the UK, Canada, and several countries in the EU for treating pain that accompanies multiple sclerosis. This spray is used in combination with cannabidiol or CBD that is also found in marijuana.
The CBD-based liquid medication Epidiolex used in two forms of severe childhood epilepsy has also received approval from the FDA. It is also being used for Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. However, despite these promising developments, CBD does not have the same rewarding properties that THC possesses.
Additional Concerns for Medical Marijuana Use
Although there is a huge acceptance and following for the benefits of marijuana and its uses in medicine, concerns are still rising. The long-term impact of medical marijuana use on people and their health is still vague and uncertain. Other age-related vulnerabilities such as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other neurodegenerative diseases, despite seeing the benefits of marijuana use in treating its adverse symptoms and in tolerating pain faces questions on whether prolonged use can compromise the disease and its treatment.
Further research is still being conducted to determine whether the benefits of using medical marijuana outweigh the risks of its long-term use.