3 Major Health Problems Medical Marijuana Can Help

I will come right out and say it: for many illnesses and disabilities, there is no evidence with a large enough sample pool to say, “medical marijuana definitely works for condition x.” What we do have, however, are lots of patient testimonials and plenty of high-quality laboratory studies – mostly on rodents or in vitro samples of some description – on cannabis’s therapeutic potential for a wide range of medical problems.

I will also state that the evidence varies for a lot of conditions, from “makes it better” to “neutral” to “makes it worse”, and sometimes even “could make it both better and worse.” Cannabis, like people, is a complex plant with lots of contradictory effects. This is because everyone’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is different. The ECS seems intimately involved with homeostasis (the body’s “ideal natural state”, to put it simply).

One theory for why cannabis works is because people could have endocannabinoid deficiencies (or even abundance!). However, this is just a theory for the moment, but understanding the ECS and its interactions with cannabis could be essential to our understanding of how many neurological problems, cancer and so many other health problems that arise.

I will mention some of the most common and persistent conditions cannabis can help with, rather than cancer, epilepsy and so on, as these conditions are more common and can be caused by any number of health problems. Many people suffering from neuropathic pain will suffer from cramps and chronic pain, for example.

So, without further ado, here are the three common health problems – often side-effects of lots of other problems – cannabis can help with, and why getting yourself a medical marijuana card (MMC) is a good thing …

1. Headaches/Migraine

Persistent headaches and migraines are a common problem, but can be devastating. Some people have headaches so strong and consistent that it causes them to lose weight, lose sleep and can make every living hour a living nightmare. There’s a reason why cluster headaches are known as “suicide headaches”. Cavernous angiomas, caused by lesions comprised of abnormally dilated blood vessels in the brain, spinal cord, skin or retina, can produce very nasty, persistent headaches.

The most common drugs prescribed for migraine are paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen and opioid-based drugs like co-codamol (paracetamol and codeine). Moreover, for effective treatment for headaches, high doses of these drugs are needed – drugs that don’t necessarily work for many people. Codeine, for example, doesn’t work on many people due to their lack of CYP2D6 gene, which turns codeine to morphine in the body.

This essentially means that hundreds of thousands if not millions of people are being prescribed harsh, addictive opioids for headaches everyday, and it doesn’t even work for them! With NSAIDS and co-codamol especially, there is the possibility of overdose and addiction. Cannabis avoids these pitfalls, and activation of the ECS “could represent a promising therapeutical tool for reducing both the physiological and inflammatory components of pain that are likely involved in migraine attacks.”

epilepsy and medical marijuana
(Photo illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein)

2. Cramps and Spasms

There are lots of conditions that can cause cramps and spasms. Parkinson’s Disease, Restless Leg Syndrome, Myofascial Pain Syndrome caused by exercise, autoimmune conditions like Stiff-Person Syndrome, Pre-/Post- Menstrual Syndrome, stomach cramps from chemotherapy … The list goes on.

Famous actress and medical marijuana advocate, Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth her business partner, actually created a line of medical marijuana products aimed specifically at relieving cramps and other menstrual discomfort.

Unlike many other medications that are prescribed for cramps and spasms, for example carisoprodol (Soma), ibuprofen and diazepams like valium, cannabis isn’t nearly as habit-forming and is generally much safer. Many prescribed drugs may also cause undesirable side-effects like vomiting, nausea and dizziness – not helpful if you’re a Parkinson’s or cancer patient.

The reason why cannabis works for all of these conditions? Quite simply, it’s because of various cannabinoids’ effects on the ECS. THC, which stimulates CB1 receptors, may help regulate synaptic neurotransmissions. CBD, which stimulates CB2 receptors, may help control the pain and inflammation that can arise from regular cramps and spasms. On top of this, terpenoids like lavender can be an excellent natural muscle relaxant.

3. Anxiety and Depression

depression and medical marijuana

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who are in a lot of pain tend to get quite anxious and depressed. This, in turn, exacerbates pain. This is one of the reasons why antidepressants like amitriptyline (brand name Amitril, Elavil) and imipramine (brand name Tofranil) are often prescribed for pain management. Though such antidepressants can be very effective and generally quite safe, sometimes they can cause some major problems. Amitriptyline, for example, can cause ulcers, confusion, nausea, and in extreme cases blood in the urine or coma.

Unfortunately, people in extreme pain are often given harsh opioids alongside their antidepressants in order to deal with any pain. Those suffering from anxiety-related conditions like PTSD are prescribed highly-addictive and often dangerous benzodiazepines, even though there is no proof that they work for PTSD and often even make symptoms of PTSD worse!

For the worst of depressive and anxiety-related episodes (pain-related or not), a combination of antidepressants and cannabis seems to make more sense than combining antidepressants and opioids or benzos. Cannabis, which has far fewer side-effects than many prescribed medications for depression and anxiety, could be an answer for the damage some of these drugs are doing.

We hope this has been useful for you and has taught you more about cannabis as a medicine. Yes, there are lots of studies to look through and the evidence available out there prevents us from making too many hard-and-fast statement of facts, but for many people getting a medical cannabis card could prove to be a far safer alternative (and sometimes even cheaper) to all the crazy chemicals present in prescribed medications. So why not get your medical cannabis card today and give it a try?


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