More Research is Needed for Medical Cannabis
In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published an extensive report in which it concluded that the barriers obstructing cannabis research—most importantly, the federal prohibition of cannabis—create a public health risk in light of the increasing prevalence of cannabis consumption for recreational and medical purposes. The truth is, there is promising evidence implicating cannabis in the treatment of an array of illnesses. However, we need more research to better understand how cannabis works and the extent of the conditions it has the efficacy to heal or mitigate. That is especially true in states where accessing medical cannabis depends on the condition a patient is seeking to treat. Here are some of the most common conditions states are likely to qualify for their medical marijuana programs.
The leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old is glaucoma, a disease characterized by fluid build-up in the front part of the eye. That build up increases the pressure in the eye, ultimately causing optic nerve damage that can lead to blindness.
The two primary types of glaucoma are primary open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease, and it occurs when the eye simply does not drain as much fluid as it normally should. It is painless and does not cause immediate symptoms. Over time, it can cause optic nerve damage. Closed angle-glaucoma is painful and sudden. It occurs when the iris blocked the drainage angle of the eye.
Cannabis has been used to treat glaucoma because it can reduce intraocular pressure in the eye.
Epilepsy is an extremely common chronic neurological disorder. An umbrella term used to describe seizure disorders, epilepsy is characterized by the unpredictable occurrence of seizures. The intensity and frequency of the seizures vary from person to person. Furthermore, epilepsy can affect people of all ages. Epilepsy can be caused by traumatic brain injury and may be associated with family history, but most often its origins are unknown.
Some epilepsy syndromes are resistant to more conventional drug therapies. This is where cannabis comes in. Studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD), a powerfully therapeutic but non-psychoactive cannabinoid can be an anti-convulsant, making it an effective treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy disorders. Since CBD doesn’t have the mind-altering effects of THC, cannabis products with high levels of it and very low levels of THC are the most beneficial for patients, especially pediatric.
MS is an auto-immune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system. This causes inflammation that damages myelin, a protective substance that surrounds nerve fibers. The symptoms experienced as a result of this damage vary from patient to patient, but the most common include intense fatigue, altered sensation, mobility issues, and vision impairment. Symptoms may improve or worsen with time.
Cannabis has been used to treat the symptoms of MS because of its neuroprotective, pain-relieving, muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, mood elevating, and sleep stimulating attributes.
Cancer is a genetic disease that changes the ways that cells function. When cells multiply without any control and become invasive, they are considered cancerous. There are over 100 types of cancer. Most cancers are classified in stages I, II, III, or IV. Stage I cancers are small and contained in one area. Stage II cancers are somewhat larger but have not begun to spread. Stage III cancers have spread into surrounding tissues and into lymph nodes. Stage IV cancers have spread from their point of origin to another organ.
The research on cannabis’ relationship with cancer is striking, but very limited. There is conclusive evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea. But there is also a small amount of evidence demonstrating cannabis’ anti-proliferative effects in some cancers. That means that in some cases, cannabis has actually stopped cancer cells from continuing to multiply.
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, causing the body to become extremely vulnerable to disease. AIDS is the severest stage of HIV and it occurs when the immune system has become so weak, opportunistic diseases and cancers will manifest in the patient. The disease is most commonly spread through sexual behaviors or shared needle or syringe use. It can also be transmitted through breastmilk.
Recent evidence suggests that cannabis may be able to prevent HIV from becoming AIDS. Cannabis has also been shown to treat pain, nausea, and wasting syndrome, all common symptoms related to HIV/AIDS.
Pain that lasts longer than 6 months is typically diagnosed as chronic pain. In addition to being painful on its own, chronic pain often causes secondary ailments to emerge including insomnia, depression, anxiety, irritability, and decreased functionality.
Chronic pain is an extremely common ailment, and it is also the most implicated condition in the rise of prescription drug abuse. Often, addiction to the opioid-based drugs that have fueled the opioid epidemic were first used to treat pain. However, the addictive nature of those opioids has led to wide-scale and often fatal abuse. There is conclusive evidence that cannabis can treat chronic pain. There is even evidence that when given the choice, patients will substitute opioid medications for cannabis and experience better results.
Cachexia is a condition that causes muscle wasting and drastic weight loss. It is often a side effect of chronic conditions including HIV, cancer, MS, and type I diabetes. The syndrome is not simply a matter of someone not having an appetite. Cachexia patients lose weight and muscle mass even when they are eating, although overtime, cachexia patients do increasingly lose the desire to eat.
While the evidence on cannabis’ effect on cachexia is limited, there is some suggestion that the cannabinoids housed in the plant can both stimulate the appetite and increase energy levels needed for more physical activity, an important deterrent to muscle atrophy.