What Is Medical Marijuana?
Marijuana, or cannabis, has
played a role in medical treatment for thousands of years. Though its
recreational use is still illegal in most of the United States, many states have
legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
ingredient in marijuana is called THC, which stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The amount of THC in marijuana
varies. It is common for marijuana to contain anywhere from one to seven percent THC.
When THC enters the
body, it attaches to and stimulates cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The
stimulation of these receptors affects the body in various ways and may reduce
pain and increase appetite.
In states where it marijuana
use is legal, a doctor must write a prescription for the drug.
What Does Medical Marijuana Treat?
People receiving cancer
treatment and chemotherapy sometimes receive a medical marijuana prescription.
It may also help people with medical conditions that cause muscle spasms, such
as multiple sclerosis. Because marijuana may increase appetite, it may help
people with conditions that cause anorexia, such as AIDS.
Researchers continue to
study the benefits of marijuana for medical purposes. Marijuana may be
effective in treating:
- Pain: Because of its effect on the central nervous system, cannabis
may reduce chronic pain in some people. According to the California Medical
Association, cannabis seems to be most effective when treating chronic
neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is pain from nerve injury or disease.
- Nausea: Cannabis may reduce nausea and stimulate appetite in some
- Muscle spasms: According to the Mayo Clinic, early studies show that cannabis
may help reduce muscle spasms associated with certain conditions.
Medical marijuana is
used to reduce symptoms, not to treat or cure diseases. Cannabis use does not
change the prognosis of a certain disease. It can alleviate certain complaints
and make someone feel better, which can improve quality of life.
How Is Medical Marijuana Administered?
A doctor will determine
the specific dosage and frequency of medical marijuana use. Methods for
ingesting cannabis include:
- synthetic forms such as dronabinol,
which is taken orally
- baking it into food or
putting it in other edible items
What Are the Risks of Medical Marijuana?
As with all types of
drugs, there may be risks associated with cannabis use. One possible risk is dependency.
The debate over whether cannabis is physically or psychologically addictive is
ongoing. According to the National Cancer Institute, cannabis use has less
potential for addiction than other types of illicit or prescription drugs. But addiction
is still possible.
If dependency does
occur, withdrawn symptoms can develop if the drug is stopped. Withdrawal
symptoms may include:
Marijuana smoke contains
some of the same elements as tobacco smoke, raising concern for its effects on
What Are the Side Effects of Medical Marijuana?
According to the
National Cancer Institute, possible side effects of marijuana use include:
- increased heart rate
- low blood pressure
- short-term reduced
- decreased problem-solving skills
Other possible side
effects of marijuana use are:
- lowered blood sugar
- increased bleeding
- adverse interaction with
other medications or herbs