Marijuana can get a person high, unleash creative prowess, and, in the case of overindulgence, might also make him or her act dumb. But there’s more to pot than running around acting stoned, like actor Seth Rogen might have everyone believe in the 2008 classic stoner comedy, Pineapple Express.
For starters, with cannabis legal in Canada, there’s no need to visit a sketchy “weed dealer” anymore. Second, when used medically, the drug has some benefits.
In fact, almost 62 percent of consumers of CBD—CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a compound found in the cannabis plant—reported using it to treat a medical condition. The data was highlighted in a 2018 study conducted on over 2,000 individuals, recruited through social media, from Oct. 25, 2017 to Jan. 25, 2018.
Here are the most common health conditions CBD is used for:
Pain: Can you puff and pass the pain away?
From treating joint pain and muscle spasm to gout and malaria, cannabis has been in use since 2,900 BC. Now with legalization gradually gaining momentum across the globe, CBD’s pain-relieving properties are once again in the spotlight, so much so that it’s being touted as a “miracle drug.”
“The most common use for medical marijuana in the United States is for pain control,” Peter Grinspoon, MD, was quoted saying in Harvard Health Publishing. “While marijuana isn’t strong enough for severe pain (for example, post-surgical pain or a broken bone), it is quite effective for the chronic pain that plagues millions of Americans, especially as they age.”
Multiple Sclerosis: CS (cannabis sativa) for MS
CBD, for its medical properties, is often the star student. But when combined with its rouge sibling THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol, a cannabis compound responsible for causing the high), the two can reportedly pack an even greater punch.
Cannabis-based oral spray, Sativex, for example, is a mixture of THC and CBD and is used to treat pain related to multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis.
The product is widely acknowledged for both its benefits—and side effects. Since its launch in 2011, the product is “registered across 29 countries worldwide,” including Canada.
“The question of whether marijuana—produced from the flowering top of the hemp plant, cannabis sativa—should be used for symptom management in MS is a complex one,” cautions the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in an article on its website. “It is generally agreed that better therapies are needed for distressing symptoms of MS—including pain, tremor and spasticity (stiffness and muscle spasms)—that may not be sufficiently relieved by available treatments. Still, there are uncertainties about the benefits of marijuana relative to its side effects.”
Depression: Are marijuana users less likely to be depressed?
The total number of people living with depression in the world is more than 3oo million, as per a report by the World Health Organization; pain and depression co-exist in almost 80 percent of them.
For many, cannabis is a go-to option: mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, mood disorders (like depression) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are the tops reasons U.S. patients use cannabis, per a 2019 report by CB2 Insights.
Way back, too, cannabis was used and advertised as an anti-depressant. English clergyman Robert Burton once recommended “using ‘hemp-seed’ for curing depression in his book, The Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621,” The GrowthOp reports. Moreover, data from a 2006 study evaluating 4,400 adult Internet users, also found there was decreased depression in marijuana users.
Anxiety: How can pot make people anxious and, conversely, aid in treating anxiety?
The trick is in figuring which cannabis strain to pick.
From a panic attack to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), anxiety can manifest in numerous ways and is characterized by an inner state of unease. “As anxiety disorders go, GAD is one of the most common—studies indicate it may affect about three of the Canadian population any given year,” TheGrowthOp reports.
A 2018 Canadian study by Whistler Therapeutics was able to identify strains that helped reduce symptoms, and others that had the opposite effect. THC “and trans-nerolidol (an essential oil found in the cannabis plant) have significant correlations with increased anxiolytic (preventing anxiety) activity. Other cannabis compounds such as Guiaol, eucalyptol, γ-terpinene, α-phellandrene, 3-carene and sabinene hydrate all have significant correlations with decreased anxiolytic activity. Further studies are needed to better understand the cannabis varieties,” the study adds.
Insomnia: With weed, sleep might not remain an elusive dream
Caffeine can’t always be blamed if a good night’s rest is far, far away. Nearly 50 percent of the adult population in the United States experience sleeping problems. That number is no joke; neither is the data that suggests cannabis can help reduce that number.
The 2018 study highlights how sleep aids, including antidepressants, benzodiazepines and anti-psychotics, have enormous negative side effects.
“Although no U.S. state has legalized medical cannabis for the treatment of sleep disorders, results show that the consumption of cannabis flower is associated with significant improvements in perceived insomnia,” the report adds.
Epilepsy: Can cannabis be of use with children?
Once again, CBD takes the spotlight when it comes to treatments for epilepsy; the most commonly used strain, in this case, is Charlotte’s Web.
The strain, which has high-CBD and low-THC, is named after Charlotte Figi, a Colorado resident who suffered from a rare form of epilepsy called the Dravet’s Syndrome and experienced repeated seizures. But it is extremely important to note that “cannabis has only been shown in children with rare genetic seizure disorders. These children have either Dravet’s Syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome,” The GrowthOp reports.
Nausea: Cannabis helps with nausea, but why can’t pregnant mothers use it?
For a lot of cancer patients, traditional medicine just doesn’t help when it comes to treating nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy (CINV). Cannabis, in this case, has offered a welcome Plan B for some.
When administered orally, two cannabis-based medicines, nabilone and dronabinol, have helped improve CINV symptoms. “However, cannabis should never be used during pregnancy as they pose known and unknown harms to both a woman and her developing fetus,” Angela Smith, PhD, founder and principal of Toronto-based Catalyst Life Science Consulting, was quoted saying in The GrowthOp article.
Concussion: Football players are losing their lives. How can cannabis help?
It’s no surprise that 80 percent of NFL players use cannabis. A lifetime of playing football could possibly lead to players developing the dreaded C.T.E. that can be diagnosed only through an autopsy.
C.T.E., short for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a neurodegenerative disease that results in brain and part of the nervous system to worsen over time.
Repetitive brain trauma like blows to the head causes C.T.E.—mostly because the trauma leads to the build-up of a protein called tau, one that’s been suspected to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
Accounting for cannabis’ pain management properties, cannabis can potentially be an option for players. While the research, in this case, is nascent, an Israeli study on rats and mice found how endocannabinoids reduced brain damage. Another study on rats, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, found that “cannabis had neuroprotective (protecting and preventing nerve injuries and degeneration) qualities as an antioxidant.”