Cannabis is derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant, a member of the Cannabaceae family. The use of this substance (also known as marijuana) for medical purposes is on the agenda beyond the use of it for pleasure which actually comes to mind first. Cannabis is the most used illicit drug in 2014, according to data from the US National Institute of Drug Abuse. However, recent studies show that cannabis can also be used for medicinal purposes.
Medical cannabis gets this name when the cannabis plant or its chemicals are used to treat various diseases. It is basically the same drug that is taken for pleasure. It is taken for medical purposes only. The cannabis plant contains 100+ cannabinoids which are complex chemical molecules. Each one of them has a different effect on the human body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (tetrahydrocannabinol – THC) and cannabidiol (cannabidiol – CBD) are the basic chemicals used in the drug form of cannabis. THC also gives the “high” feeling people feel when they smoke marijuana or consume marijuana-containing foods.
Medical cannabis is used to treat many ailments, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Loss of appetite
- Cancer treatment
- Crohn’s disease
- An eating disorder such as anorexia
- Glaucoma (glaucoma) – eye pressure disease among the public
- Schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – MS disease
- Muscle spasms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain relief
- Cachexia – Severe weakness – skin weakness – poor general health
Although 100% certainty of the effects of medical cannabis in many of these diseases is not proven, the most convincing evidence among the therapeutic effects of cannabis is its effect on chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and muscle spasticity caused by MS. Cannabinoids are active chemicals in medical cannabis and are similar to chemicals that the body produces due to hunger, memory, movement and pain mechanisms. Studies show that cannabinoids can do the following.
- Relieve anxiety
- Reduce inflammation and relieve pain
- To control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy
- Killing cancer cells and slowing tumor growth
- Reducing muscle problems in people with MS
- Increasing appetite and helping people with cancer and AIDS gain weight
Medical cannabis gained a lot of attention in the United States a few years ago when parents said that a special form of the drug helps control epilepsy in their children. So far, research has not proven that it works. But some epilepsy centers have used a drug called Epidiolex made from CBD to test patients with epilepsy, which is very severe and difficult to treat. In these studies, some people had a high rate of reduction in pain after using this Epidiolex drug. This drug has not yet received FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approval.
Medicinal Use of Cannabis
According to a study conducted in an epilepsy clinic in the USA, half of the epilepsy patients using marijuana stated that the frequency of epileptic seizures decreased. Cannabis Sativa has been used as a recreational agent for over 300 years. An increasing number of scientific studies are being conducted on the use of this drug, whose medical use is gradually increasing, in multiple sclerosis, HIV, epilepsy, cancer, arthritis, glaucoma, and terminal diseases. Currently, over 300 clinical treatment studies related to marijuana are being conducted. Unfortunately, none of these are related to epilepsy.
There are many scientific publications on the use of cannabis in other neurological diseases. One of the most important of these is spasticity (stiffness in the arm and leg muscles) in patients with multiple sclerosis. In these studies, a 30% improvement was observed in 40% of the patients who took cannabis. Cannabis has been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of chronic pain and especially neuropathic pain. However, it has little or no effect on diabetes-related neuropathic pain. In a study on behavioral disorders observed in patients with dementia, it was revealed that it had no effect. Apart from MS and pain, it has been shown that cannabis use can give positive results in neurological diseases, spinal cord injuries, and Tourette syndrome.
There is conflicting scientific evidence that the drug both increases and decreases the epilepsy threshold in studies conducted with tetrahydrocannabinol in epilepsy patients. Epilepsy patients with increased epileptic seizures have also been reported after using marijuana. It is not clear whether this positive result in patients with reduced epileptic seizures is due to the epilepsy drugs they use or marijuana. It is well known that marijuana taken in the form of smoke has negative effects on health as it causes many unwanted toxic substances to enter the body. For this reason, a molecule called dronabinol, structurally similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana was produced.
About 25 years ago, the drug called Marinol, which contains dronabinol, was approved for nausea and vomiting during cancer treatment, and 15 years later for the treatment of anorexia in AIDS patients. It has a license for medical use of this drug in 10 states in the United States. and synthetic derivatives of cannabis use for medical purposes still are not legal in many countries. In summary, it is believed that the negative effect of smoking marijuana, especially in the form of smoke, is greater than the positive effect. Therefore, the use of cannabis in this way is not recommended for any disease, not just for epilepsy. Although there is scientific evidence that dronabinol, a tetrahydrocannabinol analog, has beneficial effects in its use as a drug, more controlled clinical studies are needed on this subject.
Can Cannabis Be Used for Medical Purposes? Potential Risks and Benefits
The use of cannabis is interesting and is currently legalized for medical use in various countries around the world, out of our eyes. For this reason, it has become more important than ever to understand and explain the consequences of cannabis use accurately. To meet this need, on January 12, 2017, the American National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine published a report that evaluates the results of more than 10 thousand scientific studies on cannabis and cannabis-derived products and provides remarkable information.
It is reported that approximately 22.2 million people in the USA used cannabis for 1 month. Despite this, the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been legalized in 28 states in the USA today. In some of these states, arbitrary use is even allowed. The medical use of cannabis, which has been used for recreational purposes all over the world for thousands of years (the first known use in China 4700 years ago) has been discussed in recent years. Dronabinol is most effective in the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and weight loss due to AIDS (FDA approved). If we talk about nabilone, although it has limited use in many cases, the best job of nabilone is actually the treatment of nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. Although Nabiximols is only in the clinical trial phase in the USA; It is used in the treatment of spasticity and pain due to multiple sclerosis (MS) in Canada and England.
The CBR1 receptor is usually found in nerve cells and CBR2 receptor defense cells. Although there are nearly 60 substances in cannabis, 2 of them are noteworthy, which are biologically active: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is the main delightful substance, while CBD has muscle relaxant properties. In the US, 2 forms can now be prescribed. Nabilone and dronabinol. The other drug is Nabiximol. This is also used in Canada and England. One of the medicinal uses of marijuana is in the treatment of chronic pain. Chronic pain is estimated to affect more than 25 million people in the US alone. In a recent study, it was reported that pain relief was more common in patients treated with cannabis or its derivatives in chronic pain than in those who were not treated.
Another study found that normal doses of cannabis reduced pain, but high doses increased pain. The US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that there is substantial evidence that cannabis is effective in treating chronic pain in adults. Many studies have shown that cannabis use negatively affects mental and cognitive health. Researchers have demonstrated important evidence that the risk of schizophrenia and other psychosis may increase, and that more drug use increases the risk. In addition, the team found evidence that daily cannabis use exacerbates the illness of those with bipolar disorder. In addition, there is moderate evidence that suicidal thoughts may be more frequent in frequent users of cannabis and that there may be an increase in the rate of social anxiety disease (social phobia) in regular users.
It was also found that cannabis use may slightly increase the risk of developing depressive illness. However, researchers concluded that there was limited evidence of a statistical relationship between bipolar disorder development and cannabis use. It is well known that tobacco use increases the risk of lung and head and neck cancers, and some studies suggest the same is true for cannabis consumption. However, the last report concluded that there is no evidence of a statistical relationship between cannabis smoking and the risk of lung and head and neck cancers. In this study, moderate evidence was found that there may be a relationship between cannabis use and seminoma type, one of the testicular cancers.
Some substances in cannabis have been tested with the claim that they may work for cancer treatment (anti-tumoral activity), but any substance found in cannabis has not shown efficacy in clinical studies for cancer treatment. It has been found that the active ingredients found in cannabis can be helpful for the treatment of nausea and vomiting, which can develop as a side effect due to chemotherapy. The extensive review by these researchers has revealed some of the risks and benefits of using cannabis and its derivatives, and it appears that further research on this topic is required in the future. This working group has made some suggestions for future studies. These studies should be more qualified and comprehensive clinical studies, and the potential benefits and harms of different forms of cannabis should be considered. The situations that hinder research on cannabis use need to be properly regulated. It should be ensured that politicians who decide on the regulation of research and policies related to cannabis are better informed about this issue.
Medicinal use of cannabis is very limited (nausea-vomiting due to chemotherapy, chronic pain). In addition, there are highly effective drug treatments in today’s medicine for these complaints. However, cannabis carries a serious risk of triggering mental disorders. It is also reported that e-cigarettes containing cannabis, again completely out of sight, are becoming widespread (especially among students). Although this issue seems remote to us under the conditions of our country, the legalization of cannabis use in the medical field is a striking situation in some countries. In fact, there is a process of transformation of a substance that is easily abused into a drug used in today’s medicine. Similar situations have also been the case for some drugs that are currently used with green and red prescriptions in medical history. Of course, the legal medical use of cannabis and the process of formulating the right policies will not be easy.
Cannabis Plant, the Ancient Remedy
The use of the cannabis plant as a medicine is not new. For medical purposes, cannabis has been used for thousands of years before the Prophet Jesus. The earliest evidence comes from a medicinal plant extract from China (Shennong pên Ts’ao ching) from 2737 BC. The Chinese emperor Shennong used the cannabis plant’s resin as a remedy. Examples include diseases such as constipation, gynecological diseases, gout, rheumatism, malaria, beriberi, and mental retardation. Further evidence on medical cannabis dates back to about 3500 years. Ebers, one of the oldest papyri texts found in Egypt, suggests that the cannabis plant is suggested for toenail.
Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) mentioned hemp as a medicine in his articles. Later, in Napoleon’s time, it is known that cannabis was used for pain relief, sedative, and contraction relief. Even then, cannabis was used as a medicine. As cough syrup, indigestion, pain reliever, or remedy for cornbread. Subsequently, medicinal cannabis suddenly disappeared from the market in the first half of the 20th century. Laws banning cannabis as medicine was passed. As there are allegedly better and more effective remedies and hemp is very dangerous. However, these were not the real reasons. The main reasons for the ban should not be the subject of this article. However, if you are still wondering, there is enough information to research on the internet.
The discovery and research of ECS together with its receptors and ligands has provided a better understanding of the effects of cannabinoids. To date, two cannabinoid receptors have been found, CB1 and CB2 receptors. In 1992, an endogenous substance called anandamide was discovered, which is particularly common in the central nervous system and binds to the CB1 receptor. Since 1998, the main active ingredient THC can be given as synthetic preparations. Plant parts such as cannabis can be used for medicinal cannabis production since 2011.
But there is still a lot to do with cannabis research, and the further the topic evolves, the more exciting it will remain. One thing is clear and unambiguous, it is no longer possible to conceive the world without the use of medical cannabis. For this, there are research results and studies on many positive effects of the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant contains more than 480 components, some of which are cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Cannabinoids are responsible for the positive effects of the cannabis plant. The best known and most researched cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC), which is known for its intoxicating effects, and cannabidiol (CBD), which is non-intoxicating and has an opposite effect on THC. For more information on the most important cannabinoids from the cannabis plant and their possible effects, take a look at our cannabinoid overview.
Cannabinoids affect and interact with ECS’s specific receptors in the body (brain, nervous system, organs, tissues, digestive system, etc.). They occupy CB1 and CB2 receptors and thus activate signal transduction in the respective cell. The difference between the body’s own cannabinoids is that the cannabinoids from the cannabis plant mimic just as they affect a specific messenger substance in the body. In addition, they affect the mesolimbic system, which plays a critical role in the development of a sense of “joy” as well as pain areas.
Plants cannot be patented, so the pharmaceutical industry is trying to artificially produce or rather synthesize chemical compounds and substances of plants. Thus, many chemical compounds of the cannabis plant have been successfully synthesized. These artificial cannabinoids are used in drug making. These medications are usually made not only from the synthetic components of the cannabis plant but also from other chemical compounds that have strong side effects. However, there are drugs that contain natural cannabinoids (derived from the plant), but here are also added artificially produced substances to match the drug with the specific disease. Also as an example, only trace amounts of medicinal cannabis are usually found in CBD oil.
Although plant compounds are available, why are the natural substances of the plant synthesized? The reason is very simple actually; the profitable greed of pharmaceutical companies. Naturally occurring plant substances cannot be standardized like artificially produced ones. Consumers prefer an artificial drug in which they are confident in the ingredients and the effects of the ingredients, rather than taking an entirely herbal remedy (the concentrations of the active ingredients may vary slightly). Hence, hemp as a medicine is different from medical hemp. The difference is that only the natural active ingredients of the cannabis plant are used and it is not from pharmaceutical hemp as it is produced from neither added chemicals nor toxic substances in planting (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers). Usually, medicinal plant substances (cannabinoids) are extracted slowly. The extracted extract can then be added to, for example, a tincture or an oil (mostly hemp seed oil). This ensures that all the ingredients in the plant are preserved and the medicine remains as natural as possible.
As a medicine, hemp can be consumed in many different ways. However, most of them are illegal and contain large amounts of psychoactive substance delta-9-THC. Delta-9-THC is subject to the Penal Code and therefore is prohibited. Only variants with less than 0.2% THC are legal. The following variants are available:
- Cannabis food items (cookies, etc.)
- Hemp oil
- Liquid tinctures, etc.
Use of Cannabis as a Medicine
Although there is already a lot of research on medical cannabis confirming the possible effects of cannabinoids, detailed and long-term clinical studies are still lacking in most diseases. Therefore, the title of this paragraph also mentions “potentially” positive effects. Our article on CBD oil has many references to cannabidiol (CBD) studies in various diseases. The following information is taken from Wikipedia.
As a medicine, hemp has many potential beneficial effects on the human and animal body (You can read more about CBD oil for animals). Chronic pain and muscle cramps (including epilepsy) are perhaps most often associated with medical cannabis use. Cannabis medication can even help with nausea (eg, chemotherapy), anorexia, and tics (eg Tourette’s syndrome) and is already recommended in diseases such as insomnia, anorexia, arthritis, migraine, glaucoma.
Here’s an overview of what diseases and complaints medical cannabis may cause to support or alleviate:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- movement problems
- Huntington’s Chorea
- Chronic pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Medical cannabis typically does not have any strong side effects. Medications containing cannabis have the following side effects: dizziness, fatigue, cardiovascular and psychoactive effects, and even vomiting. Still, the patient can get used to those side effects with continuous treatment. A car or machine should never be used before using cannabis as medicine. Side effects are also dose-dependent. They get weaker if the dose gets lower. In adults, the long-term cognitive impairment of medical cannabis is unlikely because normal dosages are inadequate.
However, when it comes to adolescents and children, the dosage should be weighed carefully because they are more prone to long-term treatment. Although medical cannabis can help with nausea and vomiting, it can cause these effects with long-term use. Other side effects that may occur very rarely include:
- Dry mouth
- muscle twitching
- Orthostatic irregularity
As a drug, cannabis is very safe and can have “tolerable” side effects. However, longer-term studies are needed to confirm this. However, the potential applications of medical cannabis to treat disease appear enormous. We can’t wait to see what medical research will find in the near future. However, when it comes to treatment, care should be taken not to buy laboratory-made and synthetic substances. More attention should be paid to pure herbal supplements. It is beneficial to use cannabis as medicine and avoid artificial cannabis drugs!
Medicinal Problems Caused by Cannabis Use
- Problems with the respiratory tract
Bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, rhinopharyngitis, mouth infection, sore throat, rhinitis, cough producing sputum, difficulty breathing, abnormal breathing sounds. Inhaled smoke damages the epithelial tissue lining the airways and the tissue of the lung. It also negatively affects the immune cells in the lungs. All of these make the lungs more susceptible to infection and can reveal or complicate respiratory disorders. Marijuana and smoking tobacco are chemically similar, those seen in smokers also occur in marijuana smokers. The consumption habits of these two groups are not similar, cannabis users smoke less but inhale deeper, do not use filters, and smoke the cannabis cigarette to the bottom. Marijuana smoking has the potential to cause lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory disorders caused by smoking.
The acute effects of marijuana smoking on respiration are dose-dependent. Low doses stimulate respiration, also increase metabolic rate and increase the response to CO2. However, high doses have the opposite effect: Cannabis smoke is a powerful bronchodilator. This bronchodilation continues even 60 minutes after smoking. Contaminated marijuana can lead to respiratory infections or other illnesses. Cannabis can also be transmitted by infectious agents. For example, aspergillus organisms. Aspergilli can cause severe respiratory infections. Lung capacities of cannabis users show 15-40% below normal. Marijuana smoke is mutagenic and therefore can be carcinogenic. Chemical analysis of marijuana includes many known carcinogenic substances. Cellular anomalies are more pronounced in those who smoke together with cannabis compared to those who only use cannabis.
- Cardiovascular problems
Marijuana smoking results in sudden increases in heart rate and blood pressure. This can worsen pre-existing heart failure or hypertension. The increase in heart rate takes about 1 hour. It causes changes in the ECG. Heart rate increases by 30% after smoking marijuana, blood pressure increases slightly. These changes in cardiac function are not permanent, returning to normal shortly after quitting in long-term users. It can lead to arrhythmias or create conditions that result in myocardial infarction in those with coronary heart disease. Marijuana also causes hypotension. It causes the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the bloodstream like tobacco smoking and thus the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood decreases.
- Neurological problems
In animal models, following the administration of cannabinoids, decreased activity such as aimlessly looking into space, apathy, and reluctance in humans are described. In animals, mild behavioral deviations following small doses and symptoms of neurotoxicity manifested by tremors and convulsions following very large doses are the most common responses to cannabinoids. Chronic contact causes lethargy, sedation, depression, and aggressive irritability in monkeys in most species. A clear sign of neurotoxicity in rats, called the “popcorn reaction”, is a sudden vertical jump pattern in rats exposed to cannabinoid for 5 weeks or more. Several studies of prenatal contact have shown that animals given cannabis have delays in their offspring at various stages of postnatal development, such as opening eyes, various reflexes, and open space exploration. Long-term learning disability and hippocampal dysfunctions may occur. There is evidence that cannabinoids impair working memory via a cannabinoid receptor mechanism.
- Neurochemical problems
Cannabinoids can alter the activities of neurochemical systems in the central nervous system by acting on the synthesis, storage, release, or metabolism of these mediators, by altering their synaptic concentrations and/or by regulating mediator-receptor interactions. After the short-term administration of cannabinoids, numerous neurotransmitter complexes have been reported. However, cannabis use has no chronic effect on brain monoamines.
- Electrophysiological problems
As determined by EEG recordings, cannabis has the ability to make significant changes in brain electrophysiology. Long-term anomalies of the cortex and hippocampus have been demonstrated on EEG in cats, rats, and monkeys exposed to cannabinoids. Such changes can lead to decreased learning and memory function and generally impaired cognitive performance. In addition, some sleep EEG changes were also observed. Cannabis has been reported to reduce REM sleep and increase REM sleep above the threshold as use continues. Despite these, there is clear evidence that cannabis may be beneficial in treating convulsions.
- Problems with cerebral blood flow (CCA)
While SCA increased in both hemispheres, primarily in the frontal and left temporal regions in the experienced users, acute cannabis intoxication caused a global decrease in SCA in inexperienced users. While the increase in SCA in the experienced users is attributed to the behavioral effects of cannabis, the decrease in SCA in susceptible individuals is attributed to the individuals’ increased anxiety after cannabis use. The highest increase in SCA occurs 30 minutes after smoking cannabis.
- Problems with brain histology and morphology
Human studies have revealed acute changes in the central nervous system following cannabis administration. After acute and chronic use in humans, altered brain function and metabolism have been demonstrated with EEG, CSF (Brain-spinal fluid), and PET (Positron emission tomography) techniques. Human studies of brain morphology have often yielded negative results regarding ‘brain injury’ after chronic cannabis exposure. However, the results of most studies show milder brain dysfunction. Although individuals using cannabis have mild neurological deficits, there are no major structural or neurological deficits.
Best Books About Medical Cannabis You Can Buy Online
- Medical Cannabis Handbook for Healthcare Professionals (Kindle) – Comprehensive Handbook on Medicinal Marijuana
- The Cannabis Prescription: How to Use Medical Marijuana to Reduce or Replace Pharmaceutical Medications