Is Cannabis the Future of Medicine?

Last updated: July 22, 2021

 

“The biggest killer on the planet is stress, and I still think the best medicine is and always has been cannabis.” — Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson cannabis advocate smiling with red bandana
“Willie Nelson” by John Pozadzides is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

U.S. cannabis sales are expected to reach $92 billion in 2021, a 30% rise from 2020. Even more impressive is the $160 billion sales forecast for 2025, according to the MJBizFactBook.

Medicinal cannabis continues to make headlines, and for good reason. Believed to help combat a wide range of symptoms, across a vast number of conditions, it is now being studied and in many regions, legalized for medicinal purposes.

Although researchers most actively study THC and CBD, the most widely discussed cannabinoids, these active compounds are just the beginning. In fact, cannabis is believed to contain over 400 chemicals, many of which influence the body’s natural endocannabinoid system — a complex system involved in everything from mood to memory, pain to sleep.

Now prescribed to people around the globe, for conditions such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy, cannabis may very well be the future of medicine.

Medical Uses of Cannabis

Although the most common reason why individuals are prescribed medical marijuana is for pain, its benefits are incredibly vast. From mental health conditions such as depression to diseases that severely affect one’s quality of life, such as MS, medical cannabis has great potential, helping patients experience sustained relief.

Depending on the condition being treated, cannabis can also help many patients reduce the number of side effects they experience due to pharmaceuticals, such as antidepressants, painkillers, and antipsychotics. Just some of the conditions currently of interest in relation to medical cannabis include, but are not limited to:

Mental Health and Cannabis

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Bipolar
  • Schizophrenia

Neurological Conditions

  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Migraines
  • Seizures

Pain Related Conditions

  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia

Cancer

What the Research Says

While research is currently limited in regards to human studies, there are a number of available preclinical and clinical trials. In the coming years, there is no denying this area of research will continue to evolve, offering greater insight into the beneficial properties of cannabis.

Currently, pain-related conditions, epilepsy, and cancer are the most widely studied — particularly in terms of CBD, which is non-psychoactive (meaning, it does not result in patients feeling “high”).

One key review, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, found that pharmaceutical-grade CBD may reduce seizure frequency in pediatric-onset drug-resistant epilepsy. This is believed to be based on the anti-seizure effects of CBD in relation to the endocannabinoid system.

In a 2019 study, published in Pain, rats living with a nerve injury for 24 days were given low-dose CBD for seven days. It was found that not this treatment not only reduced pain levels but also induced anxiety-like behaviors. These results were mainly based on the interaction between CBD and serotonin — a brain chemical that impacts everything from mood to pain.

Another 2019 study, published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, found that medical cannabis helped cancer patients achieve and maintain at least a 30 percent reduction in symptoms. This effect was seen across all studied symptoms, including lack of appetite, anxiety, depression, fatigue, pain, disturbed sleep, and vomiting — and the cannabis treatment was well tolerated.

A 2020 study, published by Cureus looked at the association between cannabis use and healthcare utilization in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The research suggests that cannabis use may decrease healthcare utilization and costs among hospitalized patients with IBS. IBS places a significant burden no a patient’s quality of life. More IBS patients should have access to this treatment if they choose.

 

How Can You Gain Access to Medical Marijuana?

That depends on where you live. You can find the specific laws by state, but they update continuously. If medical marijuana is not legal in the state you live in, you may still have the option of using Delta-8.

What is Delta-8?

Delta-8 is a cannabis compound that has become popular because of its similarity to delta-9 THC, the main compound in cannabis that gets you high, causing euphoria, happiness, sedation, symptom relief, and much more. The difference lies in their chemical structure and delta-8 has reportedly milder effects.

Due to a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, delta-8 is unregulated at the federal level. However, 14 states have recently banned its sale, citing lack of research on the compound. You can find the states where delta-8 is legal here.

Is Cannabis the Future of Medicine?

It will definitely be a complement to current treatments on the market.

In terms of the future, cannabis will allow patients to receive more personalized treatment. With so many varying strains, patients will be able to access treatment options that are more personalized in terms of their exact symptoms and associated needs.

As more research is conducted on the efficiency and safety of cannabis, it is likely that standardized medical cannabis treatment will become available. In turn, patients will gain access to higher-quality treatment, especially when combined with other effective, low-risk treatment options.

medical cannabis storefront sign with green marijuana leaf
“Medical Marijuana” by “Caveman Chuck” Coker is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

 

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