Why is Cannabis Used as Medicine?
In recent years, the subject of medicinal marijuana has sparked debate and garnered a lot of attention. Currently, it is a subject of interest to many different groups, from patients to medical practitioners, local authorities and legislators.
More than half of the United States has legalized medicinal marijuana for more than 40 therapies. There are also about nine states that have so far legalized cannabis for recreational use. However, as far as the federal government is concerned, marijuana still remains an illegal schedule I substance.
The marijuana plant contains hundreds of compounds. Cannabinoids are the compounds that are most abundant and of specific interest when it comes to medicinal marijuana. Researchers have been looking into a group of receptors in the brain known as endocannabinoids.
Different types of endocannabinoid receptors are responsible for a wide range of characteristics ranging from its psychoactive effects to its numerous applications in medicinal therapy. There are hundreds of cannabinoids yet to be explored and studied. The most common cannabinoids are THC and CBD.
THC is the compound that is responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana. It acts on cannabinoid receptors responsible for time perception, coordination, and pleasure. It also stimulates the body to release dopamine, which causes euphoria.
This particular compound found in cannabis is believed to increase the risk of memory loss, impair motor movement and trigger anxiety or psychosis. However, THC has some medicinal properties that can be extracted for treating nausea and vomiting, as is the case with the FDA approved drug Dronabinol. Some of the research-backed medicinal properties of THC include:
- Treatment of Alzheimer’s: Research suggests that THC administered in low controlled doses, can help prevent the development of Aβ peptide which is a protein responsible for the onset of the disease.
CBD is the other compound that is found in the Cannabis Sativa plant and unlike THC, it does not cause euphoria or psychoactive effects. CBD is one of the most prominent cannabinoids and has many medicinal applications such as:
- Pain Management: While CBD’s efficacy in treating severe pain is yet to be established, the cannabinoid has proven to be effective in the treatment of chronic pain. Cannabinoids can be used alongside opiates in the management of severe pain. Another study indicates that CBD can have a moderating effect; it can reduce the effects of tolerance and dependency.
- Anti-inflammatory and Cancer: Cannabinoids are said to have anti-inflammatory and pro-apoptotic effects that inhibits the growth and spread of cancer cells.
- Chron Disease
There are two FDA approved drugs:
- Dronabinol: Also available as Marinol, contains limited amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The drug contains no other compounds found in street cannabis. It activates endocannabinoid receptors responsible for memory, sleep, and appetite. It can be used to treat nausea, vomiting, and stimulate appetite.
- Nabinole: Is widely available under the brand name Cesamet. It is made from synthetic compounds that mimic the effect of THC. It is mainly used to treat appetite loss, nausea, and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
- Medicinal cannabis refers to the use of the whole plant or cannabinoid extracts to treat symptoms and medical conditions.
- Due to government regulations and limited research, the FDA has yet to approve cannabis as an effective drug for any condition.
- The FDA has, however, approved two medications Dronabinol and Nabinole. Dronabinol contains limited amounts of THC, while Nabinole is a synthetic substance that mimics the effects of THC.
- The body produces its own cannabinoids and has receptors referred to as endocannabinoids.
- Research studies and clinical trials are ongoing to establish the efficacy and safety in the application of cannabinoids in medicine.