WHAT IS MEDICINAL MARIJUANA?
Cannabis also known as marijuana is one of the 50 “fundamental” herbs of traditional Chinese medicine, and is prescribed for a wide variety of medical conditions. The main medicinal component of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Other components include cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). Cannabis is classified as a psychoactive drug.
WHERE IS IT LEGAL?
In 1972, the US Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because they considered it to have “no accepted medical use.” Since then, 17 of 50 US states and DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana. In 1996, for example, California approved medicinal marijuana for HIV/AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, migraines, seizures, and severe nausea.
Smoking marijuana is illegal in the majority of countries around the world, although a number of governments, including the U.S. Federal Government, allow the use of medicinal marijuana or cannabis for one or more conditions. On Election Day in November 2012, Colorado and Washington made history by becoming the first states in the United States to legalize marijuana.
Synthetic cannabinoids are available as prescription drugs in some countries. In the USA, the FDA has approved several cannabinoids for use: dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone, taken orally in pill form. Marinol is available in the United States and Canada and Cesamet is available in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Other countries such as Canada, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Spain, Israel, Italy, Finland, and Portugal are all beginning to acknowledge the use of medicinal marijuana and accept it’s use with limitations.
HOW IS IT USED?
Most of the controversy about legalizing marijuana is regarding the health concerns on the effects of smoking cannabis. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement against smoked medical cannabis stating that, “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” Controversy remains about smoking marijuana as it is the less healthy alternative. However, now there are many healthier methods available, and as stated above, cannabis is approved in pill form for a number of ailments, in several countries. Methods of administering cannabis include:
- and taking pills, known as synthetic cannabinoids.
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS POSITIVE EFFECTS OF CANNABIS?
There is a lot of research available. Marijuana has been shown to alleviate symptoms of a huge variety of serious medical conditions including cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma, and is often an effective alternative to synthetic painkillers. Many research studies have been conducted using THC or cannabis including studies by, The University of Oxford, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, University of California San Diego School of Medicine, the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, the Institute of Medicine, Scripps Research Institute, California Pacific Medical Center, the American Academy of Neurology, the Complutense University of Madrid, the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System (France), and others. Research shows medicinal marijuana to be effective:
- as an analgesic (eliminating or reducing pain)
- as a depressant, as a muscle relaxer
- to reduce intra-ocular pressure in glaucoma
- to reduce spasticity in multiple sclerosis
- to reduce asthma symptoms, to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
- to reduce epileptic seizures
- to inhibit the spreading of breast cancer
- to increase appetite and reduce pain in HIV/AIDS patients
- to reduce brain cancer cells
- to reduce pain, spasticity, depression and increase appetite of ALS patients
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS?
The average concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, in cannabis has more than doubled between 1993 and 2008. This means that the effects of cannabis are much more powerful today than during it’s popular use in the 1970’s. The main short-term effects of using cannabis include: reddening of the eyes, decreased pressure in the eyes, dryness of the mouth, increased heart-rate, relaxed muscles, increased sense of well-being, increased sensations of cold or hot. It is classified as a psychoactive drug and has a mixture of effects of a stimulant, antidepressant, depressant, and hallucinogenic drug. Some research shows that the parts of the brain that affect pleasure, memory and concentration continue to be affected by THC even after the drug is stopped. The mood altering effects of cannabis are mixed. Those who use cannabis often report feelings of euphoria, well-being, altered sense of time, space and depth perception, increased anxiety, increase or decrease in depression, enhanced recollection or introspection.
One study showed that young adults who started smoking marijuana regularly before sixteen years of age performed significantly worse than those who had started smoking later. Colorado and Washington both enforced age restrictions on marijuana use to adults, twenty-one years of age or older. Staci Gruber, director of the cognitive and clinical neuroimaging core at the McLean Hospital Imaging Center, near Boston in Belmont, Massachusetts, found differences in the white matter of the frontal brain imaging scans of young adults who had started using marijuana before age 16 and those who had started as smoking later. The frontal brain is associated with impulsiveness. She said,
“Early exposure perhaps changes the trajectory of brain development, such that the ability to perform complex executive function tasks is compromised.”
What do you think about legalization of medicinal marijuana?
This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
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