Medical marijuana has received a lot of press lately as more countries legalize it for medicinal and recreational use.
Many believe that marijuana can help heal everything from the common cold to cancer. But, what does the evidence show? And, does having a medical marijuana card make any difference to the amount of pain you have to manage daily?
What Exactly Is Medical Marijuana?
There are two main chemicals in the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant that are the active ingredients in medical marijuana. These are tetrahydrocannabinolis (THC), cannabidiol (CBD).
Some growers are deliberately creating plants with less THC and CBD in them to be used as medical treatment.
What Is Tetrahydrocannabiolis (THC)?
THC is the psychoactive compound that produces the high in recreational use and is also the compound that is said to ease the negative side effects of chemotherapy.
Marinol and Cesamet were created as synthetic THC replicas and the FDA has approved their use.
What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
This is the compound that is thought to provide the most benefit for medical use and is not psychoactive. People do not get high from CBD.
If you have a medical marijuana card and are using it to treat chronic pain or other symptoms you should be aware that medical marijuana is distributed in different strengths. Trial and error may be the only way for you to find a dose that relieves your pain but does not get you high.
Starting at a low dose, and then building up is advisable.
What Form of Medical Marijuana Is the Best?
Medical marijuana can be taken in tablet form, it can be eaten, either as butter or in other types of cooked food. It can be brewed like tea and drunk, and of course, it can be smoked or used with a vaporizer.
Which form of medical marijuana is best for each person is largely a matter of preference, although you should consult your Doctor. If you’re susceptible to chest infections or have asthma, for example, you might find that drinking it as a tea is your best option, rather than smoking it.
What Conditions Make You Eligible for a Medical Marijuana Card?
The earliest reports of marijuana being used for medicinal purposes dates to China in the 27th century B.C. In the U.S. marijuana could be found in over 20 medications right up until the 1940s.
The first state to legalize medical marijuana was California and many other states have followed suit. It has been used to ease symptoms of many conditions, but chronic pain remains the most common use. It has also been used to combat nausea and a loss of appetite with people who are being treated for cancer and HIV.
There has been research conducted that suggest medical marijuana may reduce the amount of seizures in some people with epilepsy. It may also be used by multiple sclerosis patients to ease symptoms such as muscle spasms and stiffness and frequent urination.
Other conditions medical marijuana may help with are:
- Severe pain
- Anxiety disorders
- Muscle spasms
- Sleep disturbances
Other studies have found that the CBD in marijuana may promote neuroplasticity, modulate the immune system, and improve emotional and cognitive functions in the brain.
How Does Medical Marijuana Work in the Brain?
Although researchers believe that CBD is the compound in the brain that has the most effect on relieving pain and other symptoms, they’re not yet sure why or how, it works.
THC, on the other hand, promotes the release of Dopamine in the brain and is most associated with the pleasure/reward reaction. When marijuana is smoked, THC enters the bloodstream from the lungs, so the effect is almost immediate. If eaten, it may take up to an hour for effects to be felt.
Are There Any Side Effects from Medical Marijuana Use?
The side effects from medical marijuana can be placed into two groups: the short-term and the long-term.
Short-Term Side Effects
These can include a dry mouth, sleepiness, anxiety, or paranoia. It can affect your short-term memory and increase your appetite. In large doses hallucinations can occur and severe mood swings can also be experienced.
Long-Term Side Effects
These can largely depend on how you take medical marijuana. Smoking is still the most popular method of consuming marijuana and this can cause respiratory problems such as chronic coughing, Bronchitis, and lung infections.
Long-term marijuana use may also cause depression, anxiety, and addiction. Younger people are particularly susceptible to long-term side effects, either through medical or recreational use, and these effects can be as severe as permanent, lower brain function, psychosis, and even Schizophrenia.
Is Medical Marijuana Legal?
That largely depends on which state you live in. Medical marijuana is legal in 29 states and recreational use is legal in 9 states, and Washington D.C. Some states have decriminalized it but only under certain conditions and limited amounts. It’s important to remember that neither medical or recreational marijuana has been declared legal under federal law.
Your Doctor should be able to tell you if medical marijuana is legal in your state and if it is legal, which conditions apply. It is not legal for people under the age of 21, but if you are 18, you may be eligible for a medical marijuana card.
How Do I Get a Medical Marijuana Card?
Again, this depends on where you live. In the states where marijuana is legal you don’t need a medical marijuana card. However, it might still be to your advantage to get one as you may not be able to get some health products without one.
To obtain a medical marijuana card you must have a Doctor with a medical cannabis license confirm that you meet the criteria for one or more of the conditions that have been approved.
If you are approved, after an initial evaluation, you will be able to legally use medical marijuana.
Your medical marijuana card is valid for one year. After that, you will have to reapply which means following the diagnosis, evaluation, and recommendation process again, just as you did the first time.
Where Can I get Medical Marijuana?
In some cases, you will be allowed to grow your own marijuana for medical use.
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are also becoming more popular and these are often the preferred option for people who are new to using medical marijuana.
Sometimes the Dispensaries are run by a collective and others are run by the grower. You will need to produce your medical marijuana card and usually another form of identification. Before you visit the dispensary talk to your Doctor about which method of consumption is best for you and your condition.
The people who work at medical marijuana dispensaries are passionate about what they do and are very knowledgeable about their product and its uses. They can answer any more questions that you may have.
If I Get a Medical Marijuana Card - Will I Be Pain-free?
Just like any other medication, medical marijuana will have different effects for each patient. Those effects are determined by may factors including your current pain level, your diagnosed condition, even your size and weight.
Although there is a lack of concrete evidence either for or against medical marijuana it has only been used medically for a short time in the US and appropriate research needs to be done. Also, unfortunately, it is still illegal at a federal level - which is where most researchers receive their funding. Until it is legalized by federal law we will probably not see many, if any, studies conducted.
However, a quick search on the internet, will bring up several stories from people who have used it and have experienced life-changing results. As there are more than 60 chemicals in the cannabis plant it seems reasonable to assume that it may have many healing properties.
Limited research conducted in 2017 has produced some promising results about the positive effects of medical marijuana. Researchers in Israel found that more than half of 12,000 cancer patients had experienced relief from pain through marijuana use. Other Israeli researchers found that a 27% improvement in pain relief of 47 people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
In another study conducted with participants suffering from fibromyalgia, half of the 26 patients were able to stop taking other medication while using marijuana and there is also evidence that it can reduce pain in migraine sufferers.
Ultimately, the only way to find out for sure if a medical marijuana card will help ease your pain is to consult a cannabis licensed Doctor, obtain the card, and try it.