From arthritis to PTSD: The most effective uses of medical marijuana

Research continues to reveal an increasing number of uses for marijuana and its compounds, creating more options for patients

In the last few decades, scientists have begun to better understand how the cannabinoids within marijuana can treat a growing number of health problems. During this time, more than 15,000 scientific reports have been published about the plant's chemistry and its pharmacology, and another 2,000 have been written about the body's endocannabinoid system.

This has led to a greater acceptance of marijuana as a medicine by medical professionals and society alike. Marijuana is no longer viewed as a dangerous drug, but instead as a useful treatment for a wide range of conditions, from mental illness to chronic pain.

Arthritis

Arthritis can be a debilitating condition as it causes intense pain and limits motor function. There are many prescription and over-the-counter remedies to ease symptoms, but they also carry the risk of side effects, ranging from bone loss to blood clots. This has driven a growing number of patients to eschew big pharma in favour of alternative medicines.

Many arthritis sufferers have been using marijuana to treat their symptoms for years, but it wasn't until recently that science was able to verify their claims and prove the plant's effectiveness. Weed acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing the swelling caused by the condition as well as the amount of associated pain. The side effects of the plant are minimal in comparison to its chemically derived counterparts, making it a good alternative for wary consumers.

Epilepsy

Similarly, marijuana as a treatment for epilepsy was largely supported by anecdotes, but suffered from a lack of hard data to back these claims. It wasn't until 2013, following media attention on a girl named Charlotte Figi, that the medical community began to study the effects of cannabis on epilepsy. Figi was given doses of a high CBD strain named Charlotte's Web to treat her seizures.

Several studies have now shown great promise for the use of non-psychoactive cannabidiol strains and their extracts to reduce the frequency of seizures in epilepsy patients. Because these strains have very low amounts of THC, they can be safely prescribed for children, too.

HIV

Much like cancer patients, those living with HIV have long used marijuana to treat their symptoms. The drug reduces nausea and stimulates appetite, and eases pain from the disease and the antiretrovirals used to treat it. Because of this, marijuana has proven instrumental in helping patients adhere to their otherwise painful treatment regimens.

New research also indicates that marijuana could be used as a treatment for the disease itself, demonstrating its ability to slow infection rates and transmission of the virus. There's also evidence that daily cannabis consumption may help lower viral loads in patients.

PTSD

While scientists continue to research the effectiveness of marijuana as a PTSD treatment, many patients are using the plant in favour of prescription drugs that leave them feeling numb and emotionally altered. Many of those who use cannabis find that it helps to ease the anxiety and depression associated with PTSD, while still allowing them to remain active in their family and social lives.

Science continues to find an increasing number of uses for marijuana and its compounds. This greater understanding opens up options for patients, which could eventually mean a significantly improved quality of life for those in pain.

Feature Photo: Steve Ikeguchi / Shutterstock.com

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