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What is Medical Marijuana Used For?

by | Last updated Sep 21, 2020 at 3:21PM | Published on Mar 12, 2020 | Marijuana Addiction

What is Medical Marijuana Used For

Marijuana has several medical benefits. While not all of these relate to decreasing pain, there are some known positives about using marijuana as a painkiller.

In the early 2000s, California budgeted $10 million for medical marijuana study. Barth Wilsey was one of the first to research whether pot had any pain killing effects. Wilsey, a pain specialist at the Davis Medical Center at the University of California, started looking into how pot may reduce neuropathic pain.

His findings concluded that yes, marijuana does have pain killing effects. Interestingly enough, the short-term analgesic properties displayed by marijuana can occur after consuming marijuana with a very low THC concentration, which is what we know today as CBD. THC and CBD are relatively similar. However, the latter doesn’t produce any mind-altering effects.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana comes from the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. It has mind-altering compounds known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which give people the “high” most users report. Also known as weed, pot, dope, or cannabis, marijuana has risen in popularity lately, mostly because legislation is pushing to make the drug legal. Today, smoking marijuana is seen as a normal thing, similar to smoking cigarettes.

Top Ailments Medical Marijuana Helps With

Marijuana for medical purposes is primarily used to treat pain-related conditions. However, nowadays it’s used for a myriad of ailments, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Weight loss
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Eating disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Mental health conditions
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Wasting syndrome

However, while these are all conditions medical marijuana could help, there’s no evidence that marijuana can indeed treat these conditions effectively. We still need more clinical trials and research to understand the effects of medical marijuana. Especially trying to understand how cannabis and cannabinoid receptors function in the brain.

Can Medical Marijuana Replace Prescription Opioids?

 Amid a painkiller epidemic, some states have figured out a way to reduce the mortality rate of prescription painkillers. Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont have a cumulative 24.8% lower annual overdose death rate than the rest of the country. All of which have legislations approving the use of medical or recreational marijuana.

A study was conducted on individuals with chronic pain and prescriptions for sustained-release morphine and oxycodone. The study found that when a small amount of medical-grade marijuana was added to a sustained-release morphine or oxycodone regiment, the pain was decreased by 27% without increasing the concentration of opioids in patients’ blood.

While the study is just one approach to the marijuana versus opioids debate, it’s an indicator that maybe we can look at various alternatives to opiate prescriptions.

How is Medical Marijuana Administered?

There are many methods for taking cannabis, and they often depend on the type of condition treated, as well as personal preference. The most popular methods include:

  • Vaping or smoking
  • Oils, tinctures, capsules, and edibles
  • Salves, balms, and patches
  • Rectal or vaginal suppositories

It’s important to discuss with a doctor the type of frequency and method of administration. Inhalation and oral ingestion are both rapid methods of release. The same applies to suppositories. However, topicals such as salves and balms are long-acting methods, which means it might take longer for someone to experience the effects.

states with legal medical marijuana

Where is Medical Marijuana Legal?

While more states continue to approve the use of medical marijuana, so far in the United States, 33 states and the District of Columbia have accepted its use. States that allow the legal use of medical marijuana includes:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

States with medical marijuana laws include Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Is Medical Cannabis FDA-Approved?

So far, the FDA has approved only two human-made cannabinoid medicines — dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros) and nabilone (Cesamet) — to treat nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. Another cannabidiol drug, Epidiolex, was also approved for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome.

Are There Any Risks of Medical Marijuana?

While the debate of whether the marijuana plant can be addictive remains ongoing, however, there are some side effects of medical marijuana. Some of the adverse health effects of cannabis include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Short-term reduced memory
  • Short-term reduced attention span
  • Decreased problem-solving skills

Some people might also experience cognitive side effects of cannabis use, including impaired:

  • Memory
  • Sense of time
  • Sensory perception
  • Attention span
  • Reaction time
  • Motor control

While rare, chronic cannabis use can cause other adverse effects, including:

  • Lowered blood sugar levels
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety

Those with co-occurring disorders might often experience paranoia or hallucinations. Chronic marijuana use can also make mania or depression symptoms worsen.

Marijuana Abuse Statistics

Isn’t Marijuana Addictive?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the average THC content of confiscated samples was 3.7 percent in the 1990s. In 2013, it was 9.6 percent. The mind-altering ingredient in cannabis is THC, short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

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. Cannabis is a Schedule I drug, even in states where it’s legal medically.

Initially, people think that marijuana is not a gateway drug. However, some research by the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders showed that marijuana users are more likely than non-marijuana users to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years. Marijuana can also lead to other substance use disorders like nicotine addiction. 

While rare, marijuana use disorder, chronic users are at risk of developing an addiction. The latest data suggest that at least 30% of marijuana users have some degree of dependence. Those who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop marijuana addiction than those who start using it as adults. 

Addiction Treatment Options

Many addiction treatment centers count with addiction specialists that can guide people through their recovery. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our drug rehab programs include:

Medical Detox: In this clinically supervised detox process at the rehab center, we ensure the patient’s safety and make the withdrawal phase as comfortable as possible by minimizing withdrawal symptoms and using medication-assisted treatment services to guarantee a complete detoxification process. 

Intensive Outpatient Programs: When patients are looking to seek addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving, IOPs are a more flexible option that still gives people access to the help they need. 

Group Therapy: Recovering addicts need to build a healthy support system that encourages their recovery and sobriety. Group therapy gives them a safe space to foster these relationships and continue working through their recovery after leaving inpatient treatment programs. 

Long-term Recovery Programs: With long-term recovery assistance, patients can have the ongoing support they need to maintain long-lasting sobriety. Recovery programs are crucial to relapse prevention. 

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, ask for help immediately. Please, call Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs.

We offer unique and personalized treatment plans because we believe no two addictions are alike. The journey towards recovery is a long one, but together and with your family and friends’ support, we’ll make it. Please, whether you or a loved one is thinking about starting addiction treatment, don’t delay it. Start your addiction treatment journey today. 

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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