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Five Ailments Effectively Treated with Medical Marijuana

By Chris Bond
Published: April 28, 2021 | Last updated: May 25, 2021
Key Takeaways

While cannabis is becoming more and more accepted throughout society, it’s medicinal uses have long been touted by people suffering from a variety of ailments. While more clinical research is being conducted, many people still use cannabis to ease their suffering. Check out these five ailments that are treated by medical marijuana.

There is almost universal acceptance in the scientific community that marijuana can be an effective treatment for many diseases and conditions. We have known for decades about the anecdotal benefits such as increased appetite and pain reduction, but serious, wide-spread studies into the full potential of this plant commenced in earnest after the turn of the current century.

Every day researchers, scientists, and medical professionals are making new discoveries on cannabis’s healing potential. Fortunately for folks who live in areas where medical marijuana is an option, there are several ailments that are routinely treated by medical professionals with some form of cannabis, as there is indisputable proof of its effectiveness in treating at least the symptoms of these afflictions, if not the causes.

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Epilepsy, Seizures, and Motor Control Diseases

Cannabis treatments are effective to varying degrees for a wide range of individuals of all ages suffering from epilepsy. For children up to age 16 suffering from epilepsy or a related syndrome, medication containing cannabidiol (CBD) has led to a decrease in both the severity and frequency of their symptoms. Studies have shown CBD medications effectively eliminate seizures altogether in 11-14 per cent of patients and to reduce the frequency and/or severity of seizures in 84-85 per cent of patients using the medical marijuana treatment.

Medical cannabis did not just help with the seizures, though. Like patients with multiple sclerosis, children with epilepsy or related ailments who received medical marijuana as a seizure medication found several other beneficial side effects. Patients reported better sleep, mood, and appetite when taking CBD.

(Read also: Treating Epilepsy with CBD-A from Live Leaves)

Medical marijuana seems to be most helpful for young sufferers of epilepsy, but studies show some benefit to adults. However, CBD medication for adult epileptics does not seem to be as helpful as it is for children. It has been found that adult male epileptics who use CBD medications within 90 days of hospitalization have a significantly lower risk for a new seizure than men who did not use cannabis.

Other studies of adult epileptics taking medical marijuana have found similar results to those of the studies on child epileptics in that there is a reduction in severity and frequency of their seizures, but data suggesting there are some adult epileptics who are seizure-free because of CBD medication is currently anecdotal.

A lack of significant double-blind studies on adult epileptics using either CBD or a placebo makes reporting definitively on the benefits of CBD for adults challenging, but it is promising. It should be noted that other studies have shown consuming marijuana by smoking is not as effective at controlling epileptic symptoms as with oral CBD medication.

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Hand holding a jointCannabis has been known as an effective pain reliever for at least 5,000 years.

Pain and Inflammation

Individuals have been using marijuana to deal with pain for hundreds of years. In recent years and decades, there is clinical evidence to support its prescribed use for individuals with both chronic pain and neuropathic pain. The THC in cannabis has been clinically shown to produce analgesic and antihyperalgesic effects in mice, but studies on thousands of human patients have shown definitively higher reduction in pain measures with cannabinoids when compared with placebos.

Evidence for marijuana’s ability to reduce and treat various types of pain is strong enough that the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine of the United States has reported there is “conclusive or substantial evidence” that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective treatments for chronic pain.

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Complications from AIDS and Cancer Treatment

Individuals both within and outside of the medical community have known marijuana helps increase appetite, reduce nausea, and helps patients in need of gaining weight to do so. As such, medical marijuana is often used in conjunction with several treatments administered to individuals suffering from AIDS/HIV and various types of cancer.

Among individuals afflicted with AIDS/HIV, up to 45 per cent report using some form of marijuana to help reduce some of their symptoms. Research shows medical cannabis also significantly reduces neuropathic pain in AIDS patients, but both the patient and caregiver must weigh the potential of decreased cognitive function during late stages of the disease.

(Read also: The Powerful Role CBD Plays in Relieving Multiple Chemotherapy-Induced Symptoms)

The prolonged and intense nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy has been shown to be reduced by patients using various forms of prescribed cannabinoids. Studies have found medical marijuana is superior in suppressing these symptoms compared to many other commonly prescribed medications. This is true for medications administered orally and intramuscularly.

Of perhaps even greater importance to cancer sufferers is evidence in lab trials of mice where it has been shown that some marijuana extracts can kill certain types of cancer cells. Other studies on mice show that it may stop the progression of cancer growth. Further research on lab mice shows that radiation to kill cancer cells is more effective when used in conjunction with THC. More studies on all are still required but the prospect for medical marijuana stopping some forms of cancer is real.

For patients in advanced stages of both cancer and AIDS, there is some evidence to suggest medical marijuana can have negative effects on a patient’s already compromised immune system, but researchers note more in-depth studies are still necessary.

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Woman adding drops of cannabis tincture to her coffeeWhen ingested, cannabis can provide anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects.

PTSD and Mental Illness

Prescribing medical marijuana for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is becoming more commonplace. Cannabinoids, particularly CBD, are often given to PTSD patients to help control various symptoms. Some of these include hyper-arousal, inability to sleep, and intrusive thoughts. One study reported PTSD patients using medical marijuana found their symptoms reduced by up to 75 per cent of their pre-cannabis episodes. These results are typical for individuals who are categorized as having mild to moderate PTSD. Studies involving individuals diagnosed with severe PTSD have not thus far been as successful at showing such high levels of relief from medical cannabis.

(Read also: Canadian Soldier, Doctors Embrace Cannabis for PTSD)

Often hand-in-hand with PTSD, but certainly not isolated to those with that diagnosis, are the ravages of various mental illnesses, including clinical depression. The antidepressant properties of cannabis, as well as the interaction between antidepressants and the endocannabinoid system, has been clinically evaluated and reported to have a positive effect. In studies with mice and humans, significant antidepressant and antidepressant-like effects have been reported with relatively low levels of delta-9 THC.

Multiple Sclerosis

Numerous, random clinical trials have been undertaken to explore the potential of cannabis as a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). The success of these trials has led the American Academy of Neurology to accept cannabis as a treatment for those afflicted with MS, specifically to prescribe cannabis for the treatment or prevention of spasticity, pain tremors, stiffness, and sleep disturbances.

Sublingual treatments containing just THC and those containing both THC and CBD can alleviate the aforementioned symptoms, but they also have been shown to help treat other afflictions associated with MS such as vesical (bladder) dysfunction and urinary incontinence. One small study has shown that the potential downside to treating MS with marijuana is it may impair memory, but more studies are needed to confirm.

Other Ailments

There are dozens of other afflictions and ailments, both minor and major, that may respond on some level to medical marijuana. It has been prescribed with varying degrees of success for diseases like glaucoma, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, anorexia, and to lessen withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction.

Medical marijuana may prove yet to be a panacea. As more restrictions on its use are lifted, more and more studies are being conducted on the body’s interactions with the numerous cannabinoids found within cannabis and its extracts. There are still some afflictions where medical marijuana may not be the best available option for treatment, but it may still offer some comfort to the sufferer.

(Read next: Finding Calm: Cannabis and Anxiety)

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Written by Chris Bond | Certified Permaculture Designer, Nursery Technician, Nursery Professional

Profile Picture of Chris Bond

Chris Bond’s research interests are with sustainable agriculture, biological pest control, and alternative growing methods. He is a certified permaculture designer and certified nursery technician in Ohio and a certified nursery professional in New York, where he got his start in growing.

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