The illegalization of marijuana has prevented its therapeutic effects from being studied in depth, but the winds are changing and evidence is accumulating for its therapeutic use in a multitude of ailments.
Have you heard of runner’s high? It is the state of euphoria that occurs when exercising. The famous endorphins secreted by sport produce greater resistance to pain and a feeling of relaxation, but euphoria and well-being actually come from another brain drug Cone weed: anandamide , an endocannabinoid. To understand us, marijuana that your own brain makes.
Like many other drugs, marijuana contains substances that resemble our natural neurotransmitters. In this case it is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which has the same effect on our brain as anandamide: in the short term, a feeling of well-being and amplification of pleasurable sensations, elevation of the pain threshold, and also some interference with the formation of memories and motor functions.
But marijuana also contains another substance called cannabidiol or CBD, which when it reaches the brain increases the levels of another endogenous neurotransmitter called 2-AG, which is responsible for regulating appetite (hence the hunger caused by joints), and Much more importantly, the immune system and pain regulation . THC is psychotropic, and it is the part of cannabis that gives you the “recreational” effects. CBD does not produce these effects, but it does affect brain functions and health in general, in many cases in a beneficial way.
So we find a plant that contains active ingredients that turn on and off chemical switches in the brain, imitating our own neurotransmitters. The bad news is that this plant is illegal. The good news is that the time when its use is normalized for the treatment of many diseases is getting closer and closer.
In Spain, cannabis is decriminalized and, socially, quite accepted, although activities such as trafficking or cultivation with the intention of selling are prosecuted. In the United States, 29 states have legalized marijuana for medical uses. Unfortunately, as it is a substance that has been illegalized for many years, studies on cannabis for health are scarce. This is what we know at the moment:
Relieves anxiety, or not
The use of marijuana in moderation induces feelings of relaxation, but after a certain dose, instead of reducing anxiety, it produces it . It is the sad experience of anyone who has eaten that cannabis cake and felt great at first, but as digestion continued and THC levels in their blood increased, they found themselves living a nightmare of nerves and cramps (the author of You know this article because a friend told you about it). The perfect dose to have relaxing effects depends on the person and their tolerance to the drug, and varies between 7.5 and 12.5 milligrams of THC.
Chronic pain treatment
After reviewing a multitude of studies, the report from the National Academy of Science in the US concluded that the treatment of chronic pain was the main use of cannabis , and the reason why many people consumed it for medical indication. These effects depend on both THC and CBD. It is also effective against muscle spasms, for example of the diaphragm, that do not respond to other medications.
Possible glaucoma treatment
Glaucoma is a disease in which pressure inside the eye increases, damaging the optic nerve and leading to risk of vision loss. Since the 1970s, there have been studies that prove that the use of marijuana relieves intraocular pressure for several hours, and can be used for the short-term treatment of glaucoma. The treatment has the side effects of marijuana use, and is no better or worse than other medications on the market , so a longer-lasting, less invasive treatment is being developed from the plant.
Does not affect lung capacity in moderate amounts
It is well known that smoking tobacco always reduces lung capacity, but it seems that marijuana does not do so, unless it is mixed with tobacco, of course. In a study at the University of Los Angeles, it was found that at low levels of consumption, marijuana seemed to increase lung capacity. Of course, by smoking similar amounts, it decreased.
Treatment for epilepsy
Cannabidiol or CBD, the non-psychotropic component of marijuana, can help control epileptic seizures in children and adolescents, according to a study published by The Lancet. This is also consistent with observations of patients using cannabis on their own to improve symptoms, and with fewer side effects.
It can slow the development of cancer and alleviate the effects of chemotherapy
The same CBD component can slow the development of breast cancer according to the study from the University of San Francisco . Other studies with mice have proven that THC also slows the growth of tumors , and another more recent one, combining CBD and THC, found that adding it to radiation therapy provided a more effective treatment to stop the development of glioma, the most common brain tumor. . However, these results have not yet been replicated in humans.
Cancer patients treated with chemotherapy suffer nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Several studies have proven that smoking marijuana or using THC-based drugs can relieve these symptoms .
Treatment for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis
Cannabis, and more specifically smoking marijuana, has beneficial effects on neurodegenerative diseases. THC slows the development of amyloid plaques that form in the brain of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, and therefore slows down the disease. The mixture of CBD and THC can also help preserve memory and dronabinol, another cannabinoid, can reduce behavioral disorders in Alzheimer’s patients. Multiple sclerosis patients who smoked marijuana also saw their muscle spasms and pain reduced , and in the case of Parkinson’s, it also reduced tremors and pain in a Tel Aviv University study .
Treatment of post-traumatic stress and schizophrenia
In the US, post-traumatic stress syndrome is the most common reason for prescribing marijuana to patients. The study with veterans indicates that it reduces feelings of fear and anxiety. Marijuana also reduces nightmares in these patients by disrupting the sleep cycles where they occur. Other studies indicate that CBD relieves seizures in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Where are the risks?
Like any substance, including water and table salt, cannabis has risks, but they may not be what you think. Marijuana apparently negatively affects concentration and memory, but studies have found that these effects are not permanent and disappear when you stop taking it. However, the effects can be long-lasting if you start using marijuana as a teenager. One study found that the cognitive abilities of subjects who had started smoking at a younger age had been affected, but not for those who started smoking as adults. This is not necessarily because of the drug, but because of the associated environmental factors.
Marijuana also does not appear to be particularly addictive. To begin with, addiction is a psychological problem that does not necessarily depend on the substance , but on the emotional lack that the substance is filling. According to statistics, 9% of people who smoke marijuana become addicted, compared to 32% of those who smoke tobacco or 20% of those who snort cocaine. However, the addiction rate doubles for those who start smoking during adolescence . It is at this age where the greatest risks of cognitive deficiencies and lower academic performance occur, hence the importance of regulating its use.
Lastly is the administration method . Smoking plants wrapped in paper is the most harmful and ineffective way to administer any substance. If you need nicotine, getting 52 known carcinogens into your lungs resulting from smoke and additives is a ticket to getting very sick. The same goes for cannabis, especially if it is mixed with tobacco. Vaporizing or even eating marijuana are much healthier ways, all while regulated drugs arrive that provide the active ingredients in a dosed and safe way.