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Medical marijuana is constantly in the news and is promoted as an effective medicine for a variety of chronic illnesses. Although it has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, its recreational use is still illegal in most of the United States. Many states have legalized it for medical use, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has refused to approve it as a medicine.

Is medical marijuana really as effective as its’ advocates claim? What are its’ side affects? Let’s take a look.


medical marijuana



Medical Marijuana: What Is It?

The mind-altering ingredient in marijuana is THC, short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The amount of THC in marijuana varies and has been steadily increasing over the past few decades. 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.

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. Among its effects are reduced pain and increased appetite.

In states where medical marijuana use is legal, a doctor must write a prescription for the drug.



Medical Marijuana: Treatments And Applications

Medical marijuana may be effective in treating the following:

  • chronic pain, due of its effect on the central nervous system
  • nausea
  • muscle spasms, especially those associated with certain conditions, such as multiple sclerosis

The California Medical Association (CMA) states that marijuana may also be used to help treat these conditions:

  • AIDS
  • anorexia
  • arthritis
  • cachexia
  • cancer
  • chronic pain
  • glaucoma
  • migraine
  • persistent muscle spasms, including multiple sclerosis
  • seizures, including those related to epilepsy
  • severe nausea
  • any other chronic or persistent medical symptom that limits your ability to conduct major activities in life or can cause serious harm to you if not relieved

Medical marijuana is used to relieve symptoms, not cure diseases. Using it won’t change the outcome of a certain disease. But it can ease certain symptoms, make you feel better, and improve your quality of life.

According to the CMA, cannabis is most effective in treating chronic neuropathic pain. This is pain from nerve injury or disease. Because marijuana can make you hungry, it is also useful in treating conditions or side effects of diseases that cause a loss of appetite, such as AIDS.



Medical Marijuana: Risks

One possible risk is addiction. The debate over whetheit is physically or psychologically addictive is ongoing. NIDA cites research that suggests 30 percent of marijuana users may become addicted, and people who smoke marijuana before the age of 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.

Once addicted, withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • mood difficulties
  • decreased appetite
  • physical discomfort
  • nausea
  • restlessness

Marijuana smoke does contain some of the same elements as tobacco smoke. Therefore, it may have negative effects on the lungs.



Medical Marijuana: Side Affects

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), possible side effects of marijuana use include:

  • increased heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting
  • short-term reduced memory
  • short-term reduced attention span
  • decreased problem-solving skills

Cognitive side effects of marijuana use include impaired:

  • memory
  • sense of time
  • sensory perception
  • attention span
  • problem solving
  • speaking
  • reaction time
  • motor control

Other side effects of marijuana use are:

  • lowered blood sugar levels
  • drowsiness
  • increased bleeding
  • adverse interaction with other medications or herbs

People with mental or emotional disorders may have paranoia or hallucinations. It could also make their depression or mania worse.



Although the American Cancer Society believes that more research needs to be done into medical marijuana’s effectiveness for people with cancer, it’s still regularly prescribed to treat many conditions. Marijuana is not a cure in itself, but it can be used to relieve adverse symptoms of diseases or side effects of their treatments.

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