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Cannabis: The Benefits and Side Effects You Need to Know

Update Date: Dec 02, 2019 01:12 PM EST
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Cannabis has been used for thousands of years for health reasons, although it has only been introduced to western medicine more recently. The illegal status of the drug has resulted in issues with obtaining it. This has stifled research into health benefits, useful compounds, and side effects. 

We are slowly learning more about medical marijuana, and particularly the compounds THC and CBD. Many products containing cannabidiol or CBD are now legal to sell as nutritional substances. The first drug containing CBD has been authorized for epilepsy treatment. 

The changes in state laws mean that registered patients can now purchase cannabis sativa seeds for limited home growth. Alternatively, they can use their medical marijuana cards to obtain the drug from state-approved dispensaries. With this in mind, we decided to take stock of what we know about the drug.    

Research and Results

There haven't been as many studies as we would like into the health benefits of cannabis, but changes in the law are bringing a new focus to existing research. We can also expect new medical trials and studies to be carried out in the coming years. A recent review of over 100 studies gives us an overview of the findings. 

The report highlighted three areas where the positive effects of cannabis have been recorded. It has been used to reduce nausea and vomiting in patients receiving chemotherapy. There have also been recorded impacts on chronic pain. Patients taking medical marijuana experienced a significant reduction in pain. MS-related spasticity issues have also been shown to respond to the short-term use of cannabis.  

The compound CBD has been used as an active ingredient in an epilepsy medication. Epidiolex has been authorized by the FDA and is prescribed for severe epilepsy conditions, including Dravet Syndrome.

Uses and Anecdotal Evidence

Cannabis is used to treat many other conditions, but the information available is inadequate. This means it isn't possible to assess the effects and draw conclusions at the moment. There is currently limited evidence to suggest that consuming cannabis has anti-inflammatory effects. 

Medical marijuana has been prescribed for neuropathy, Huntington's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, PTSD, Parkinson's disease, and many other conditions. In the form of CBD, it is often used for anxiety and sleep issues. Anecdotal evidence shows that many people have found that medical marijuana or CBD oil or liquids have helped them.   

Side Effects

One of the most important things to be aware of if taking medical marijuana and CBD is the effect it can have on any other drugs you are taking. We recommend speaking to your doctor about how it might interfere. Cannabis may increase the effects of other drugs, resulting in side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired judgment.

THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, means that caution is recommended when used as a treatment for those with psychosis or bipolar disorder as it can exacerbate these conditions. There have been no conclusive links to smoking marijuana and impaired lung function. A study focusing on the pulmonary effects indicated that medicinal use in lower doses is not likely to be harmful to the lungs. 

Where We Are Today

It is clear that the health implications, both positive and negative, need to be explored further. Future studies into cannabis will likely focus on medical trials, as well as studies that look at the specific compounds THC and CBD. 

There are conclusive results regarding health benefits for several conditions. However, it remains important to check for interference with other medications. Speaking to your doctor about possible side effects is recommended.

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