The medicinal benefits of cannabis have been the subject of frequent debate in recent years. While about 62% of Americans are in support of marijuana legalization, many people still seem to doubt the health benefits provided by cannabis.
Due to the status of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, some are hesitant to accept the medicinal properties of marijuana. Many of these people even continue to believe that marijuana is more harmful than other popular consumer products such as alcohol or cigarettes, despite the known negative side effects of the latter.
However, recent studies have demonstrated that two of marijuana’s primary active chemicals, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), offer several practical medical applications. As a result, cannabis is quickly becoming one of the most effective and sought-after products to help individuals with a variety of illnesses without experiencing harmful side effects.
Brief History of Cannabis in Medicine
Cannabis has a very long history of being used throughout the world to treat ailments. Dating back to around 2700 BCE, records have been found that indicate the use of marijuana in China to treat illnesses such as gout, malaria, and rheumatism.
From then, cannabis spread throughout the world to India, North Africa, and Europe. By the 1800s, cannabis was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia and was recommended to treat symptoms related to nausea and labor pain.
While the medicinal uses of cannabis have been understood for centuries, people in the United States began to doubt the effects of the plant due to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 which listed marijuana as a Schedule 1 Drug. Since then, the medical benefits of cannabis have been widely debated throughout the United States even though several studies have demonstrated its medicinal applications.
Health Benefits of Cannabis
These are just a select few of the many recorded health benefits of cannabis.
Marijuana can serve to reduce anxiety in users when taken in low doses. However, keep in mind that consuming cannabis in high amounts can have the opposite effect and lead to increased anxiety and paranoia.
Ease Chronic Pain
One of the most common reasons that individuals request medical marijuana is to treat chronic pain. A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine stated that definitive evidence showed that cannabis and cannabinoids can be a very effective treatment for chronic pain.
Control Seizures Caused by Epilepsy
The use of cannabis to treat epilepsy has been studied for several years. Due to overwhelming evidence of the positive effects of cannabis in treating epilepsy, the FDA approved Epidiolex. Epidiolex is a plant-based formulation of CBD meant to treat seizures for people 2 years of age and older. This treatment is specific to individuals with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS).
Reduce Muscle Spasms
The same report which demonstrated the ability of cannabis to treat chronic pain also showed that marijuana can be an effective treatment for muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis.
It was shown that the THC in cannabis bonds the receptors in the nerves and muscles to relieve pain.
Easing the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease has severe side effects which can significantly impair an individual’s motor skills. Pain and tremors can drastically affect these individuals’ quality of life. Recent studies have shown that cannabis can be an effective way to reduce the pain and tremors associated with Parkinson’s Disease and help improve the motor skills of affected individuals.
Slow the Spread of Cancer Cells
One incredible benefits presented by CBD is that it may be able to stop or slow the spread of cancers cells. The American Association for Cancer Research has found that cannabis is potentially able to slow down tumor growth in the brain, lungs, and breasts.
Reduce Side Effects of Chemotherapy
One extremely common use of marijuana is to help mitigate the side effects caused by chemotherapy. Chemotherapy patients suffer from symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Both THC and CBD have been proven to be effective in alleviating these side effects.
Researchers have found that marijuana use can reduce pain and inflammation. As a result, some individuals might find that cannabis helps to reduce pain experienced as a result of rheumatoid arthritis.
These are just a few of the several common medical applications of cannabis. It is important to understand that these benefits are constantly being studied an re-evaluated. However, all of these have been proven to some degree, and it is likely that many more health benefits will be revealed in the future.
Marijuana vs. Alcohol
Marijuana and alcohol are often the subjects of comparison. Both are frequently used by people for recreational purposes; however, one is legal and one is not. The reason that this is an issue for may recreational marijuana users is that alcohol has been shown to have much more significant negative side effects without the medical benefits offered by cannabis. Despite this, the issue of marijuana legalization is still shrouded by controversy. Here are a few points which illustrate the dangers of alcohol compared to cannabis.
Risk of Overdose
The CDC reported that alcohol was responsible for approximately 88,000 deaths per year between 2006 and 2010. Of these 88,000 deaths, nearly half of them were caused by binge drinking.
Alternatively, there has never been a recorded marijuana overdose. In fact, it is nearly impossible for a human to consume a fatal dose of THC.
The addiction potential of alcohol has been shown to be much greater than that of marijuana. A study by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine found that, while some marijuana users do form a dependency, it is much less common and severe than addictions caused by alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs.
It has been demonstrated through several studies that alcohol abuse is likely to contribute to violent behavior and actions. As such, alcohol is not only an intoxicant that can harm the user but also presents a danger to others.
On the other hand, the Journal of Addictive Behaviors revealed that cannabis reduces the likelihood of violent behavior.
Risk of Injury
As one of the main factors taken into consideration when determining the legal status of a substance is its risk of personal injury, it is important to note that alcohol has been shown to greatly increase the risk of injury for both heavy and moderate drinkers. The linked study estimates that approximately 21% of all injuries are attributable to alcohol use.
Meanwhile, cannabis has been shown to not increase risk-taking behavior. As a result, it is much less likely to contribute to personal injury or injury to others.
These factors have been a few of the primary talking points for individuals who oppose the legalization of cannabis for medical and/or recreational use. However, it has been demonstrated over and over again that legal substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and nicotine pose a much greater risk than cannabis when it comes to addiction, hospitalization, and violent behavior.
Cannabis has several proven medicinal applications for a variety of afflictions and has been used throughout history to treat symptoms related to these illnesses. As this fact becomes more accepted, it is likely that the use of marijuana for medical purposes will continue to increase in the coming years.