What are the medicinal benefits of medical marijuana and how does it benefit those who use it medicinally? [Potty Mouth]
Contributors: Cecilia Bruns and Da’Lishia Griffin
How does medical marijuana work?
Often times when thinking of marijuana people think of it mainly for recreational use and not for medicinal uses. It helps relieve pain for those who are suffering. They do not use it to get high, they only use it for pain relief. With the addition of medical marijuana to society, it has caused some serious discussions. Pain is the main reason for it’s use and is very effective when it is being used. It’s so effective because our bodies already have marijuana-like chemicals that affect pain, inflammation, and other ailments. The medical marijuana helps stimulate those natural chemicals to relieve the pain.
Can Marijuana Actually Improve Lung Function?
A new study done by the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that contrary to popular belief, the moderate use of marijuana over time does not impair lung function, and surprisingly seems to have positive effects on the pulmonary system. In this study, scientists tested the lung capacity of nonsmokers, tobacco users, and marijuana users over time, and moderate marijuana users actually showed increased lung capacity compared to nonsmokers. Unsurprisingly tobacco users experienced the weakest lung capacity, with increased risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although marijuana and tobacco smoke both contain some of the same carcinogens, the cannabinoids in marijuana have well-defined anti-tumoral effects that have been shown to inhibit the growth of a variety of cancers, thus counteracting the potentially tumorigenic effects of the carcinogens in marijuana smoke. Also, they have anti-inflammatory and immune suppressing properties, which may prevent lung irritation from developing into COPD. Many scientists have agreed that the probable reason for increased lung functioning in moderate marijuana users is due to the fact that most users draw in deeply when smoking and tend to hold the smoke in as long as possible. In many ways scientists say smoking this drug is like performing a pulmonary function test, which is the reason why these users have the best lung capacity. Although it is more difficult to estimate the potential effects of regular heavy use because this pattern of use is relatively rare in the study sample, findings suggest an accelerated decline in pulmonary function with heavy use and the need for caution and moderation when recreational marijuana use is considered.
Marijuana Without the High
Despite what most people think about marijuana, there is actually a way to take a byproduct of this substance without causing psychoactive effects to your mentality. This plant is made up of many different cannabinoids, some of which are proven to have medicinal effects. Cannabidiol or CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in marijuana, and unlike THC which is the most abundant cannabinoid, CBD lacks the psychoactive effects of THC meaning users don’t get “high” from smoking or ingesting this substance. The human body already has cannabinoid receptor sites throughout it, making up the endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for numerous physiological and mental processes that occur naturally within the body, such as appetite, pain sensation, mood, memory, and more. The cannabinoid substances in marijuana bind to these receptor sites and help coordinate different functions in the body. However Cannabidiol specifically doesn’t bind to a specific receptor in the brain, instead it keeps all the cannabinoid receptor sites working at maximum capacity and increases the function of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids in the body. This is how the drug works as an antidepressant as well as a neuroprotective agent in the body. The cannabinoids in marijuana are also a good treatment for those with epilepsy or seizure-inducing syndromes. Cannabidiol helps to control seizures by binding to the brain cells responsible for controlling excitability and regulating relaxation; the CBD in the plant interacts with the brain cells to quiet the excessive activity in the brain that causes these seizures. Currently CBD can be smoked from marijuana strains high in CBD and low in THC, smoked in a pure oil form, or ingested by means of any kind of food made with this specific strain or oil. Research is still being conducted to try and determine the full benefits of this cannabinoid, however it has been prescribed by many doctors, and specifically to children, to help combat seizure-inducing syndromes without causing the negative psychoactive side effects.
Has Cancer Met It’s Match?
For many years now, medical marijuana has been prescribed to cancer patients to help alleviate some of the negative side effects from chemotherapy like nausea, appetite loss, insomnia and pain. However, a new study being done at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has begun to discover that cannabidiol, a cannabinoid prevelant in marijana, can actually help to prevent cancer cells from spreading as well. The main gene responsible for causing cancer to spread is called ID-1, and it is the most aggressive and most fatal component of cancer progression. Recently tested on animals as well as human cells in petri dishes, when these cancer cells containing high levels of ID-1 were treated with cannabidiol, the result was a “turning-off” of sorts of this ID-1 cell which has never been done with any substance previously. The cannabinoid actually decreased ID-1 duplication and made these cells less aggressive spreaders, which in turn stopped the growth of the cancerous tumors. Although this is still a fairly new study that has yet to be directly tested on humans, the scientists plan on starting the testing of this treatment on humans with cancer within the upcoming year, and are hopeful that similar results would occur to the ID-1 gene. If this testing is successful, this opens up new doors for cancer treatment that would involve less pain and a more natural treatment that could increase the survival rate of cancer patients exponentially.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Although the use of marijuana medicinally or recreationally is still illegal under federal law, the states have taken this issue into their own hands and the number of states where this drug has been legalized is increasing annually, with the inclusion of the Nation’s Capitol added to the growing list this past year.
Percentage of states where medical marijuana is legal: 23/50 or 45%
Currently 17% of these states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) with legal medicinal use have also legalized marijuana for recreational use as well.
There’s More to it Than Just Smoking
There are many different ways to consume medical marijuana outside of just smoking it. Each way of consumption has different effects and how long they last. Smoking medical marijuana is the most common because it works almost immediately but can wear off in 90 minutes to 4 hours. Although that is the most common way vaporizing is also a sufficient way of consuming it, when vaporizing the device extracts the therapeutic ingredients called cannabinoids. Those who use the vapor method are provided with double the effect making it a stronger dosage. The most unique way to consume medical marijuana is taking it as an edible. Once it is infused with butter or oil it can be pretty much put into any food. Because it has to be digested it takes longer to begin affecting the body than it does inhaling and vaporizing it. Although if it is eaten on an empty stomach then it will begin to kick in much quicker. This method of consumption takes longer to wear off. The method that can be applied directly to the skin is called topical medical cannabis. These include lotion, salves, balms, sprays, oils, and creams. Those are effective for skin conditions like psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other conditions. The most controlled way of consuming medicinal marijuana is tinctures, which is concentrated medical cannabis. The reason this is controlled because it is concentrated in an alcohol solution. It is so controlled that it must be taken in doses that are careful according to the patients needs. These different options of consuming medical marijuana allow for more comfort for the patient and will be most effective.
What do the doctors have to say?
A survey was taken by WebMd and Medscape, and showed that over 50% of doctors across the United States believe that medical marijuana should be legalized for patients who will benefit from it as treatment. Doctors feel so strongly about medical marijuana because it may be a better painkiller than narcotic painkillers with not as much potential as for becoming addicted to it. There is still a concern for some doctors because they aren’t sure what the long terms effects are quite yet. For the doctors and health professionals that were in states that use legalized medical marijuana feel very comfortable and confident prescribing patients that would benefit from using it. Even those from states that have yet to legalize medical marijuana felt that it their state should consider legalization in the future because the medical benefits. Overall the medical community feels that medical marijuana has benefits to those who need it for the appropriate purposes of treatment.
Feature, A. (n.d.). Medical Marijuana Treatment Uses and How It Works. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/medical-marijuana-uses
“5 Methods of Medical Cannabis Consumption.” Guide to Using or Consuming Medical Cannabis. Web. <http://www.harborsidehealthcenter.com/learn/methods-of-cannabis-consumption.html>.
23 Health Benefits Of Marijuana (Business Insider) By: Loria, Jennifer. http://www.businessinsider.com/health-benefits-of-medical-marijuana-2014-4
Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) (National Cancer Institute) http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional/page2
DrugFacts: Is Marijuana Medicine? (DrugFacts: Is Marijuana Medicine?)http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine
Caba, Justin. “56% Of Doctors Support Medical Marijuana Legalization.” Medical Daily. 4 Apr. 2014. Web. <http://www.medicaldaily.com/doctors-marijuana-more-half-us-health-care-professionals-support-medical-marijuana-legalization>.