Cannabis has been used across various cultures and regions throughout history. It is utilized for its medicinal properties, as a fiber for making clothing and rope, and its psychoactive effects. Its cultivation spread to different parts of the world, including Europe, the Americas, and Asia. In more recent history, Cannabis came under increased regulation and prohibition due to various social, political, and cultural factors. The international movement towards cannabis legalization and decriminalization has seen a resurgence in recognition of its potential medical benefits and led to various applications in modern medicine.
The first known use of cannabis dates back thousands of years. The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, around 2737 BCE, is believed to have written about Cannabis in a medical compendium called the Pen Ts’ao. This text described the plant’s medicinal properties, including its use as a treatment for various ailments.
Scientific research on the medical use of Cannabis has gained significant attention and continues to evolve. While Cannabis contains numerous chemical compounds, including cannabinoids, much of the scientific focus has been on two primary cannabinoids: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Cannabis has been used for centuries as a natural pain reliever. The compounds called cannabinoids, such as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), can help reduce pain and inflammation. Medical marijuana is prescribed to manage chronic pain conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and neuropathic pain. It is also commonly used to alleviate nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy treatment for cancer. THC can help stimulate appetite, reduce nausea, and prevent excessive vomiting, thereby improving quality of life for patients undergoing chemotherapy; and may also be beneficial in reducing muscle spasticity and spasms in conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS). Other neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and Tourette’s syndrome, are also being evaluated for treatment with medical marijuana. For Glaucoma, MM can help lower intraocular pressure and provide relief. And certain strains of medical marijuana, particularly those with higher levels of CBD, may help promote better sleep and alleviate insomnia.
Because of this new research being conducted on the scientific side, there is an increase in the number of educational institutions in New York offering certificate programs focused on cannabis education, and some universities and research institutions might have been exploring opportunities to conduct research on the medical benefits and potential risks of Cannabis.
In some jurisdictions where medical marijuana is legal, hospitals may have programs or protocols to allow patients to use medical marijuana within certain guidelines. This typically applies to patients who have obtained a valid medical marijuana recommendation from a qualified healthcare provider and are registered with the appropriate regulatory authorities.
In these cases, hospitals may allow patients to use medical marijuana for symptom management or to supplement their treatment plans. Since policies and regulations regarding cannabis use, including medical marijuana, can change over time, it’s important to check with specific hospitals or healthcare facilities in your area to understand their current policies regarding the use of Cannabis by patients.
While Cannabis can be habit-forming for some individuals, it is generally considered to have a lower potential for addiction compared to narcotics. The primary psychoactive compound in Cannabis, THC, can lead to psychological dependence in some users, particularly with frequent and heavy use. However, physical withdrawal symptoms are rare, and the addiction potential is generally lower than that of narcotics. Narcotics, particularly opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers, have a higher potential for addiction. These drugs bind to opioid receptors in the brain and can cause physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. Opioid addiction can be challenging to overcome and carries a higher risk of overdose compared to Cannabis.
Addiction is a complex phenomenon influenced by various biological, psychological, and social factors. Regardless of the substance, if you or someone you know is struggling with substance use or addiction, it is advisable to seek professional help and support from healthcare providers, addiction specialists, or rehabilitation programs.
While there is promising research in these areas, the use of cannabis-based treatments in medical practice varies by jurisdiction, and regulations surrounding access and prescription differ across different areas.
Like recreational Cannabis, medical use has some effects that need to be considered. Cannabis can produce immediate effects such as relaxation, altered perception, euphoria, increased appetite, dry mouth, impaired coordination, and memory and concentration difficulties. These effects can vary depending on the individual and the strain of Cannabis consumed.
Its use might also impair cognitive function when consumed in higher doses or with higher levels of THC. This can affect performance in tasks that require alertness and concentration, such as driving or operating machinery. While the relationship between cannabis use and mental health is complex, research suggests that heavy and long-term cannabis use may be associated with an increased risk of certain mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, psychosis, and an increased risk of developing schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals. Smoking Cannabis, like smoking any plant material, can have negative effects on respiratory health. Inhalation of smoke can irritate the lungs, leading to respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and increased phlegm production. Long-term heavy cannabis smoking may also be associated with chronic bronchitis-like symptoms. And as stated earlier, although cannabis addiction is generally considered to be less common compared to substances like opioids, it is still possible for some individuals to develop a dependence on Cannabis, especially with regular and heavy use. Some people may experience cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and difficulty controlling their use. Adolescents and young adults may be more vulnerable to the potential risks of cannabis use due to ongoing brain development. Regular cannabis use during this critical period can have long-lasting effects on cognitive function, memory, attention, and mental health.
If you choose to use Cannabis medically, it’s advisable to:
- Be aware of the legal status and regulations regarding Cannabis in your jurisdiction.
- Start with low doses and use them responsibly.
- Avoid combining Cannabis with other substances that may interact or amplify its effects.
- Consider alternative methods of consumption, such as vaporizing or consuming edibles, which may have different effects and risks compared to smoking.
If you have any concerns about the safety or potential risks of cannabis use, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances and health history.