Medicinal Marijuana—Its Pros and Cons and Everything in Between
Here’s another controversial topic in the health care world that has plenty of tongues wagging. Everyone has different opinions about it—some are completely against it, some swear by its effectivity in most medical issues, and some are still left in the dark. What am I talking about? Medicinal marijuana, people.
In the United States, the use, possession, cultivation, sale, and transportation of marijuana is illegal under federal law. It is still classified as a class I controlled substance, which makes it illegal to possess.
However, there are several states that have legalized medicinal marijuana. Some states even legalize it for recreational use, like Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and California. Of course, a strict regulation system is in place as well.
What Is Medicinal Marijuana?
So before we proceed, let’s first define what medicinal marijuana is. It refers to the use of the entire marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of different illnesses and other conditions. There are many studies and researches that have been done regarding the plant. Most of them show positive results.
Benefits of Medicinal Marijuana
When talking about medicinal marijuana, many people are always spouting about all its positive benefits. According to researchers, there are two active chemicals in marijuana that have medicinal uses. These are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD impacts the brain without making the person high, and THC provides pain relief (although it has euphoric effects).
So without further ado, here are some benefits of medicinal marijuana.
Kills Cancer Cells
A recent study shows that marijuana extracts can kill specific cancer cells and reduce the size of others. It slows down the growth of cancer cells from one of the most serious types of brain tumors.
What it does is it turns off the gene Id-1. Cancer cells produce this gene and helps them spread throughout the body.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that increases pressure in the eyeball. The result is damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision. According to the National Eye Institute, “Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma.” This means medicinal marijuana decreases the pressure inside the eye. The effects of the drug also slows down the progression of the disease, thus preventing blindness.
Aids in Epilepsy
There are many lab studies, reports, and small clinical studies that show that CBD is helpful in controlling epileptic seizures. One famous case is Charlotte Figi. She is an eight-year-old girl with Dravet syndrome, which is a rare and debilitating from of epilepsy. She was given medicinal marijuana, and the results were astounding. It was able to do something that prescribed medication could not: dramatically reduce her seizures.
In low doses, medicinal marijuana acts as a sedative. Its other effects are reduced anxiety and improved mood. What it does is THC interacts with anandamide, a neurotransmitter. The result is a happy and relaxed feeling. It provides an immediate sense of relief and relaxation.
Treats Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Crohn’s disease causes pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and more. Ulcerative colitis causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. But there’s good news. People who are suffering from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis benefit from medicinal marijuana.
What it does is it helps the gut regulate bacteria and intestinal function. This then leads to a reduction of the symptoms of the diseases and even remission.
Treats Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that may be mild (lasting for a few weeks) or serious (lasting for a lifetime). It’s caused by being infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV) through contact with the blood of a person with the infection.
The usual treatment for hepatitis C can be uncomfortable and painful. The negative side effects include fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and depression. And these effects usually last for months.
Fortunately, a 2006 study shows that 86 percent of patients who use medicinal marijuana were able to successfully complete their treatments. This is because the drug helps lessen the side effects. Also, medicinal marijuana improves the treatment’s effectiveness. Around 54 percent of hep C patients had lower viral levels and kept them that way.
Helps with Parkinson’s Disease
When you get to middle age and beyond, the risk of getting Parkinson’s disease increases. Parkinson’s is a progressive disease of the nervous system, which causes tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow imprecise movement. It affects the way that you move.
However, research from Israel shows that medicinal marijuana shows a significant reduction in pain and tremors and also improves sleep for those with Parkinson’s disease. Also, there is an improvement in the fine motor skills of the patients.
Cons of Medicinal Marijuana
Of course, as with everything in this world, there are two sides to every story. Along with the good, most people don’t always acknowledge the bad. As this is a highly controversial topic, we have to make sure to provide a completely unbiased report. Here are some of the negative side effects when dealing with medicinal marijuana.
Increases the Risk of Psychosis
The use of medicinal marijuana actually increases the risk of both acute psychosis and chronic mental illness, which includes schizophrenia. Marijuana is a powerful psychoactive drug that has serious side effects on the mind and body.
Some of the psychoactive side effects of marijuana include anxiety, panic attacks, hallucination, confusion, and memory loss.
Dr. Stanley Zammit even associates the use of marijuana with the increased risk of psychosis, severe anxiety, depression, and even suicidal tendencies.
Affects Brain Development
The long-term use of medicinal marijuana leads to structural changes in the brain. It triggers bouts of mental illness. There is also a decline in IQ, a drop in neuropsychological functioning. Structural and functional brain changes also emerge from the long-term use of medicinal marijuana. There is also thinning in the cortex, which is the outer gray matter of the brain.
Higher Risk of Heart Attacks
When you take in medicinal marijuana, the heart beats faster. This lasts for at least 20 to 30 minutes afterward. According to a study, the chances of getting a heart attack increases by 300 to 500 percent for about an hour after smoking marijuana. Also, the blood pressure can increase, which adds more to the risk.
Smoking marijuana is more dangerous than ingesting it. Marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons as compared to tobacco smoke. This means smoking medicinal marijuana has a higher potential to cause cancer of the lungs and respiratory tract. Marijuana smoke is inhaled and held in the lungs longer than tobacco smoke. This increases the lungs’ exposure to harmful chemicals and dangerous carcinogens.
Of course, despite the restriction of use and federal regulations of medicinal marijuana, there are still those individuals who abuse and take advantage of the system. Many are concerned that there will be people who don’t actually need marijuana prescriptions but will lie to doctors in order to obtain a medicinal marijuana card. Taking in too much medicinal marijuana will most definitely interfere with other aspects of life, and that’s when abuse and addiction sets in.