Is Cannabis the Future of Medicine?

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

Medicinal cannabis is certainly making headlines recently, 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.

Uses of Medical Marijuana

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 conditions, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and even schizophrenia
  • Cancer, especially in relation to pain, loss of appetite, and nausea
  • Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • Epilepsy — which is one of the most promising areas of research, especially because 30 to 40 percent of epilepsy patients do not respond to traditional medications
  • Pain-related conditions, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
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 paediatric-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.

In terms of the future, cannabis will allow patients to receive more personalized treatment. With so many varying strain, 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.

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