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Marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) has been used both medically and for recreation for many centuries. Today we know that its active components (cannabinoids) act in the body through specific receptors (cannabinoid receptors) that are normally activated by endogenous molecules (endocannabinoids) and critically regulate neurotransmission in many regions of the central nervous system. ksfkswl
These findings have contributed to a revival of the study of the possible therapeutic applications of cannabinoids, which is nowadays a subject of wide scientific, clinical and social debate.
Some of the conditions that Medical marijuana can treat (non-exhaustive list)
The Effects of Medical Marijuana on Alzheimer’s Prevention
A preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana, can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, thought to be a hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s.
The study, published in 2014, is among others to support the effectiveness of THC in prohibiting the growth of toxic amyloid plagues.
Co-author of the study, Neel Nabar, cautions against drawing quick conclusions from their study saying:
“It’s important to keep in mind that just because a drug may be effective doesn’t mean it can be safely used by anyone. However, these findings may lead to the development of related compounds that are safe, legal, and useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Another study from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California has also found that tetrahydrocannabinol and other compounds found in marijuana may reduce the amount of beta amyloid in the brain. Beta amyloid is a hallmark characteristic of Alzheimer’s and is commonly thought to cause the neurodegenerative disease.
While the findings are preliminary, researchers are optimistic about their findings. David Schubert, professor at the Salk Institute and senior author on the study says, “Although other studies have offered evidence that cannabinoids might be neuroprotective against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids affect both inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells.”
The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in the control of emotions, and its dysregulation has been implicated in several psychiatric disorders. The most common self-reported reason for using cannabis is rooted in its ability to reduce feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety. Nevertheless, there are only few studies in controlled clinical settings that confirm that administration of cannabinoids can benefit patients with a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are considerable encouraging preclinical data to suggest that endocannabinoid-targeted therapeutics for anxiety disorders should continue.
Data supporting a role for the endocannabinoid system in preventing and treating anxiety-like behavior in animal models and PTSD patients. Cannabinoids have shown beneficial outcomes in rat and mouse models of anxiety and PTSD, but they also may have untoward effects that discourage their chronic usage, including anxiogenic effects. Hence, clinical and preclinical research on the endocannabinoid system should further study the effects of cannabinoids on anxiety and help determine whether the benefits of using exogenous cannabinoids outweigh the risks. In general, this review suggests that targeting the endocannabinoid system represents an attractive and novel approach to the treatment of anxiety-related disorders and, in particular, PTSD
Scientists at Meir Medical Center in Israel wanted to examine the effects of Cannabis sativa on patients with severe Crohn's disease, relying on the underlying drug's anti-inflammatory effects in treating other ailments, such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
"The marijuana plant Cannabis sativa has been reported to produce beneficial effects for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, but this has not been investigated in controlled trials," the researchers wrote. "We performed a prospective trial to determine whether cannabis can induce remission in patients with Crohn's disease."
Twenty-one people with severe, intractable Crohn's comprised the study. Out of those 21, 11 subjects smoked two joints a day for eight weeks. The other 10 made up the placebo group.
The results were particularly telling, according to the researchers. In total, five of the 11 subjects smoking marijuana daily achieved total remission of their Crohn's. They reported greater appetites and sleep patterns. (People with severe cases of Crohn's sometimes defecate 20 times per day, and may even wake up at night to do so.) Moreover, "a clinical response" was found in 10 of those 11. Only four of the 10 placebo subjects reported any improvements.
These findings, argued the researchers, demonstrate how "THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 11 patients with active Crohn's disease, compared with placebo, without side effects."
The researchers were hesitant to call the study a total success, however, saying that the "primary end point of the study (induction of remission) was not achieved," despite the five of 11 people who reported those effects.
Still, they noted that their findings merit further attention. "Further studies, with larger patient groups and a nonsmoking mode of intake, are warranted," they wrote, pointing to the potentially diminished effects of smoking marijuana, as opposed to extracting the anti-inflammatory drugs directly from the plant.
Endocannabinoids are natural compounds found within all humans that happen to act in a similar way as plant-derived cannabinoids such as THC. Along with cannabinoid receptors, they make up what is known as the endocannabinoid system.
Cannabinoid receptors have been identified in the pancreas, heart, blood vessels, nervous system and many other organs – all of which suggests a potential role for cannabinoids in treating diabetes.
Interestingly, large-scale surveys have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes mellitus among marijuana users compared with non-users, suggesting the potential for cannabinoids to affect this disorder.
Studies have also identified higher endocannabinoid levels (anandamide and 2-AG) in diabetic patients compared to healthy individuals.
A 2014 review of research on marijuana for treating fibromyalgia, as well as the related conditions irritable bowel syndrome and migraine, suggested:
Endocannabinoid deficiencies play a role in these conditions. Marijuana has the ability to block mechanisms of spinal, peripheral and gastrointestinal pain
Clinical experience corroborates these findings
Studies suggest that marijuana can significantly:
Reduce pain (including nociceptive pain, which is a component of fibromyalgia)
Lower inflammation (including myofascial inflammation, which may play a role in fibromyalgia)
Increase feelings of well-being
One study also saw that cannabis users had a significantly higher mental health score than non-users. Another one, which looked at the effect of a synthetic cannabinoid called nabilone, suggests that a low dose at night can improve sleep in fibromyalgia and can be considered an alternative to the popular antidepressant amitriptyline.
A 2012 study looked at the prevalence of marijuana use in fibromyalgia. Researchers found that about 13 percent of participants were using the drug to help relieve their symptoms.
Research suggests that cannabis is effective in treating the symptoms of these GI disorders in part because it interacts with the endogenous cannabinoid receptors in the digestive tract, which can result in calming spasms, assuaging pain, and improving motility. Cannabis has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and recent research has demonstrated that cannabinoids are immune system modulators, either enhancing or suppressing immune response.
Cannabis has a long documented history of use in treating GI distress, going back more than a century in western medicine, and far longer in the east. While clinical studies on the use of cannabis for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders have been largely limited to investigations on nausea suppression and appetite stimulation-two conditions for which cannabis has been consistently shown to be highly effective – the evidence in support of cannabis therapy for other gastrointestinal diseases and disorders is also strong. There is now extensive anecdotal evidence from patients with IBS, Crohn’s disease and other painful GI disorders that cannabis eases cramping and helps modulate diarrhea, constipation and acid reflux. Recent laboratory research on the endogenous cannabinoid system in humans has identified that there are many cannabinoid receptors located in both the large and small intestines.
Medical marijuana is promoted as a treatment for many diseases, including glaucoma. And now that the sale and possession of marijuana has been legalized in states like Colorado and Washington, it can be easier than ever to self medicate as a glaucoma treatment without consulting your ophthalmologist. But does it really work?
Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve becomes damaged over time, reducing side vision. It sometimes leads to blindness. One cause of optic nerve damage in glaucoma is higher-than-normal pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure or "IOP").
Currently, the only way to control glaucoma and prevent vision loss is to lower your IOP levels. Your ophthalmologist can treat glaucoma with medication, such as prescription eye drops, or surgery, depending on the type of glaucoma and how severe it is.
The idea that marijuana can be helpful in treating glaucoma dates to the 1970s. Studies conducted then showed that smoking marijuana lowered the IOP of people with glaucoma. As a result of this research, additional studies were conducted examining whether marijuana or its active ingredient, a compound known as THC, could be used to keep IOP lowered. This research was supported by the National Eye Institute, a division of the federal National Institutes of Health.
The research found that when marijuana is smoked or when a form of its active ingredient is taken as a pill or by injection, it does lower IOP. However, it only lowers IOP for a short period of time—about three or four hours.
This short period of time is a major drawback for the use of marijuana as a glaucoma treatment. Because glaucoma needs to be treated 24 hours a day, you would need to smoke marijuana six to eight times a day around the clock to receive the benefit of a consistently lowered IOP. Because of marijuana's mood-altering effect, smoking so much of it daily would leave you too impaired to drive, operate equipment or function at the peak of your mental ability.
During a migraine attack, the gut loses its ability to absorb, which is why tablets taken during this time are usually thrown straight back up again. Some modern medications – particularly the triptans – are now administered by dissolving them under the tongue to bypass this problem. This method of administration also means that relief is rapid.
Even more rapid relief is achieved by inhalation of the medicine into the lungs – exactly what happens when marijuana is taken using a vaporizer or smoked. And cannabis is an anti-emetic, that is, cannabis stops you from vomiting.
The cannabinoids in marijuana also have both anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Cannabis also relaxes tense muscles; a well documented symptom frequently accompanying migraines is cramping of the neck and shoulder muscles.
As far as dosage is concerned, this is very much dictated by patient need. It must be said, however, that some patients gain four-to-six hours relief from just 1 gram of bud.
Cannabis works best when combined non-drug relief, such as restricted light and sound during attacks, and avoidance of known triggers.
A study published in 2012 by researchers at the University of California documented the effects of low (1.3% THC) and medium (3.5% THC) doses of vaporized cannabis on patients suffering from central and peripheral neuropathic pain. The study involved a group of 39 patients who were assessed for pain relief as well as cognitive performance (eg. attention, memory, learning and fine motor skills) after being administered cannabis.
The results showed that cannabis was effective in providing substantial pain relief in a large portion of the patients – 57% of the low dose group and 61% of the medium dose group. This translated to a NNT (number needed to treat) score of 3.2 and 2.9 for the low and medium dose groups respectively.
The NNT is an important measure of a drug’s effectiveness and represents the average number of patients that need to be treated in order for one patient to benefit – the ideal NNT is 1.
Surprisingly, these NNT scores are comparable, even appearing to be slightly better, than those of traditional pain medications (NNT for pregabalin = 3.9, NNT for gabapentin = 3.8).
Previous studies have also proven the effectiveness of cannabis in treating neuropathic pain. Two consecutive trials conducted by Dr. Donald Abrams and his research team found that cannabis relieved approximately half of patients suffering with pain from HIV-associated peripheral neuropathy.
Evidence suggests that cannabis could be beneficial in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease by inhibiting its progression and managing its associated symptoms. Studies have found the cannabinoids possess neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the health of brain cells. These neuroprotective effects are shown in the form of excitotoxicity suppression, glial activation, and a reduction in oxidative injury — all of which are processes responsible for the degeneration of dopamine-releasing neurons. Studies also indicate that cannabinoids improve the function of cell’s mitochondria and activation of cellular debris clearance, which further promotes the health and viability of neurons21. These neuroprotective effects have been found in the two most abundant cannabinoids — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the well-known psychoactive compound, and cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound.
Research also shows that cannabis is potentially beneficial for helping patients with PD manage their symptoms. Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system’s cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, to modulate the release of dopamine. Significant improvements in well-being and quality of life scores were found in PD patients after they were given daily doses of CBD for one week.
In another study, smoking cannabis significantly improved tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, motor impairments, sleep, and pain in PD patients10. Additional studies have confirmed cannabis’ ability to reduce bradykinesia and tremors. Most recently, a clinical trial found that cannabis significantly reduced pain and motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients after 30 minutes.