The Drug Enforcement Agency, a law enforcement agency within the federal Department of Justice, defines cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which means since the 1970s, the Federal Government has believed that cannabis has “no currently accepted medical use.” Yet, since the 1970s, doctors and patients have been using cannabis in a medical capacity to treat a variety of severe health conditions.
Is there science behind medical marijuana, or is it a façade used by stoners to get access to legal weed in places where recreational regulations have not yet passed? Perhaps looking at the top reasons patients have for obtaining medical marijuana will convince you that cannabis is a critical health treatment that patients need access to.
Reports suggest that almost two-thirds of medical marijuana patients use the drug to combat chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than six months, potentially much longer than the initial injury or illness that caused the pain to start. Some research indicates that some chronic pain could be psychological in nature — i.e., there is nothing physiologically wrong that could be causing pain. However, because chronic pain presents differently across patients, it is impossible to point to one cause and develop one treatment to suit everyone.
Before medical marijuana programs became widespread, many chronic pain users had a difficult choice: suffer or use opioid painkillers. Initially marketed as non-addictive, opioids like OxyContin became massively overprescribed, leading to an epidemic of substance abuse that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of overdose-related deaths. As a result, opioids are less available nowadays, and many chronic pain sufferers are more hesitant to take them when offered.
Medical marijuana has become a miracle solution. Compounds within cannabis work to interrupt messages of pain in the body and brain. Cannabis also reduces inflammation and relaxes muscles, which can combat the source of pain and lead to greater comfort. Unlike opioids, cannabis does not produce a fatal overdose, and though it is possible to develop cannabis use disorder, the effects of addiction are much less devastating physically, financially and socially than they are with opioids and opiates.
Because it is unethical to force chronic pain patients to endure their agony unabated, marijuana is a vital medical solution that keeps patients comfortable and safe. Patients can find a number of cannabis products targeting the symptom of pain in Phoenix dispensaries equipped to provide medical marijuana services.
Most people have heard of multiple sclerosis, or MS, and know it is devastating and potentially debilitating — but few understand the scope of the disease. MS is when the immune system attacks the protective covering around nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The severe nerve damage causes pain and eventually results in an inability for the brain to communicate properly with the rest of the body, which could mean a loss of vision, an inability to walk independently, slurred speech, incontinence and more.
Usually, those suffering from MS use medical marijuana as a means of managing their chronic pain, but there is some indication that cannabis could be useful in slowing or even stopping the nerve damage. Certain compounds within cannabis have been found to be neuroprotective, preventing the premature death of nerve cells, and many have also been shown to be active in neurogenesis, or the creation of new nerve cells. Though more research is warranted to understand how cannabis can be applied in this way, many scientists and health care providers are hopeful that medical marijuana could become a vital treatment in preventing or reversing degenerative diseases like MS.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Though most often associated with those who experience the horrors of war, PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after any terrifying event. For example, survivors of domestic abuse are often diagnosed with PTSD, and many within the medical profession have received PTSD diagnoses after working through the ongoing pandemic. PTSD is characterized by intrusive thoughts and memories, which can cause severe emotional distress, interfere with relationships and responsibilities and create physical manifestations of stress, like pain, digestive issues and more.
Generally, mental health experts do not advocate for using cannabis treatments for mental concerns like depression and anxiety because the drug can exacerbate the symptoms of these diseases. However, when it comes to PTSD, cannabis can be supremely beneficial. In PTSD sufferers, cannabis can serve as a distraction, interrupting intrusive thoughts and replace them with positive feelings. Cannabis can also shorten the REM phase of sleep, reducing the likelihood of nightmares and night terrors. For this reason, medical marijuana is commonly used in conjunction with other PTSD treatment.
Medical marijuana isn’t a sham invented by stoners looking for a way around cannabis prohibition; medical marijuana is a real treatment to which many millions of patients benefit from having access. Now that cannabis is more available, it is the subject of increased scrutiny, which continues to reveal more medical applications for this age-old drug.