Taking Cannabis as Medicine: Understanding the Facts

Medical Marijuana Buds on Black Background

Using cannabis for medicinal purposes has become increasingly popular in recent years. In fact, with the recreational legalization in a number of US states, the cannabis industry as a whole is seeing tremendous growth. However, if you are looking to dabble in medicinal cannabis, there are a couple of things you should know.

How does it actually work?

Our brains have a natural inclination to interact with the cannabinoids found in cannabis due to its own natural production of chemicals that work very much like the substances found in cannabis. Your brain has a series of endocannabinoid receptors that react with either the cannabinoids produced by the body or those ingested by other means. These receptors are involved in mood, appetite, pain sensations and memory.

So far, doctors have discovered over 104 cannabinoids that can be found in cannabis. The pharmacological value that they possess, however, has not been fully researched, however. The restrictions that allow for clinical testing deters many physicians from doing research because cannabis is still regarded as a schedule 1 drug.

This means that you can easily abuse the drug or that it has no medical value. There are a number of researchers who are fighting to have it reclassified as a Schedule 3 drug, meaning that it has medical value.

Eating vs smoking

Many first-timers don’t want to smoke marijuana for fear of getting high. Although this is a legitimate concern, it beats the alternative of making a trip to the hospital because of a bad experience with an edible version. There are even some veteran marijuana users who have had some somber experiences with edibles.

When marijuana is ingested, it goes to the liver and gets supercharged. The chemical composition changes and this altered chemical, 11-hydroxy-THC, passes through the blood-brain barrier a lot easier. The effects can then also last for several hours. Alternatively, when the marijuana is smoked or vaporized, it does not undergo a chemical change in the liver and goes straight to the brain.

However, if you still insist on ingesting your marijuana via edibles, you might want to consider tinctures. It is by far the easiest way to measure your intake and reduce the risk of having a bad experience. You control your dosage and can side-step getting uncomfortably high.

Why should you use marijuana, to begin with?

Just to make it clear, marijuana is not the drug to replace all drugs. Although it is a very versatile drug, there are still certain medicines that it cannot replace. It can, however, replace some opioids, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines that are highly addictive.

People who suffer from depression are also in luck. Cannabis has been known to be a much more effective mood stabilizer than prescribed antidepressants.

The stigma around cannabis is a bit unfair. Compared to other prescription pharmaceutical drugs, it is much safer. There have been no reports of fatal cannabis overdoses when used alone, whereas conventional prescribed medication has been the cause of many fatal accounts of overdose. Like most other medicines, one should refrain from ingesting cannabis with alcohol. You might just have a bad experience.

Negative side effects

To date, there have not been any reports of fatal marijuana side effects. There is little to no chance that you can actually overdose on cannabis. Your body has a natural regulator that prevents your system from absorbing too much THC.

The most recorded negative side effect of marijuana is nausea and stomach ache. This mainly occurs if the cannabis was ingested with alcohol, or if excessive amounts of it were ingested. Long-term users may on very rare occasions also develop Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome which might also lead to nausea. The only known cure for the syndrome is to quit using cannabis altogether.

Another common negative side effect that can occur is a sense of paranoia. These cases are also isolated and don’t necessarily occur every time. Your mouth often also becomes dry and it is recommended to have a sort of hard candy to suck on to generate saliva.

What can it be used for?

The medical society has only but scraped the surface of the various medicinal used for marijuana. For a very long time, it was believed, that when cannabis is smoked, it damaged the lungs. However, a study that was completed in 2012 showed that marijuana could actually reverse the carcinogenic effects of Tobacco smoke. Over 5000 participants were monitored for 20 years and the pot smokers’ showed increased lung capacity and functions, whereas the Tobacco smokers’ lungs got worse.

Probably one of the most significant uses of cannabis is to prevent cancer from spreading. The cannabinoids turn the gene Id-1 off. This is the gene that cancer cells copy and use to spread. It is also suggested that the cannabinoids can actually kill cancer cells.

There are a number of other uses for the drug, from helping to control epileptic seizures to decreasing anxiety and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. With all the medical proof that cannabis is actually a safe and effective drug, more research is bound to be done to further explore this magical herb’s uses.

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