Medical marijuana is proving effective for at least managing horrific diseases such cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. Twenty U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana use for doctors to write prescriptions. Not all states honor all conditions. This is just a sampling of the diseases permitted. There are many more. Here are 10 diseases you didn’t know are treated with marijuana.
As baby boomers continue to age, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is set to triple in the next 50 years, the World Health Organization reports, making prevention of this unpreventable brain disorder an important priority. Cannabis is the only remedy so far that has shown any promise in early research studies in preventing the disease. In a 2006 study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics, University of Connecticut researchers reported that THC — the active ingredient in cannabis — could be “considerably better at suppressing the abnormal clumping of malformed proteins that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease than any currently approved prescription.” The scientists went so far as to say that cannabinoid-based medications “will be the new breakout medicine treatments of the near future.” Further evidence this theory is real? Ironically it is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which owns the patent for cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectives.
The U.S. federal government doesn’t exactly promote this link on the National Cancer Website stating there is real evidence that THC has an anti-tumor effect. Government websites aside, many people have reported using a daily oral dose of concentrated THC cannabis oil to cure cancers from the skin to the lung. This treatment has also been tested in dogs (although canines require much lower doses, and giving too much can have serious adverse affects). Cannabis is approved in all 20 medical marijuana states and Washington, D.C. for the treatment of cancer pain, to help increase appetite and decrease nausea following chemotherapy.
Smoking pot can help with breathing issues? That just seems contradictory, but according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, THC’s anti-inflammatory properties actually help dilate respiratory passages. This is the opposite of what tobacco smoke does — it constricts, rather than expands, the bronchial passageways. Plus asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease and cannabis is a proven anti-inflammatory, so it does kind of make sense. Moderation is key, however. Take one or two puffs, don’t sit there and smoke all day. There is yet to be a single case of lung cancer tied to cannabis use.
This one is less controversial, and has been on the medical marijuana conditions list in many states since the laws were first passed. Even the National MS Society is giving it a tentative thumbs up on its website. Studies have shown that THC can help control spasticity in patients with MS, and that this works best by taking a controlled amount orally.
Again cannabinoids’ ability to act as a powerful anti-inflammatory make them a seemingly obvious solution for chronic conditions involving inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and bowels. So much so that the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America released this statement to the medical marijuana website ProCon.org:
“Several small studies have shown that a significant proportion of patients with IBD report smoking marijuana to relieve IBD-related symptoms, particularly those patients with a history of abdominal surgery, chronic abdominal pain, and/or a low quality of life index. However, the medicinal use of marijuana is limited by potential side effects, the risk of smoking, and the lack of direct scientific evidence of clinical effectiveness for intestinal inflammation.”
It’s true what they say about the munchies… marijuana stimulates the part of your brain that controls appetite, and certain strains in particular are known for making you want to eat everything in sight. As a result, for those who really need to gain weight, this can be a blessing rather than an adverse side affect. Cachexia is the loss of weight and weakness that can occur in cancer and AIDS patients as well as people with chronic diseases such as anorexia. California, which was the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana back in 1996, specifically lists anorexia as an approved condition.
In Colorado they are known as medical refugees — families that are moving there in droves from across the country to seek effective treatment for their kids’ uncontrollable seizures. Unlike cancer, seizures do not need a high THC content (that’s what gets you high) to be curtailed. Instead they respond well to one of the other cannabinoids — a chemical compound known as cannabidiol, or CBD. CBD is not psychoactive and therefore provides the perfect natural solution for children suffering from epileptic disorders. What is more difficult than stopping seizures, however, is accessing a marijuana strain that has been bred to decrease THC levels and increase CBD content. The best-known variety is Charlotte’s Webb, named after Charlotte Figi (pictured above), the first child it helped treat. Currently this type of cannabis strain is only available with regularity in Colorado.
Although it hasn’t been studied as much as other disorders — nor is it approved for use in all states — there have been several important clinical trials investigating the use of cannabinoids as a valid treatment for a reduction of involuntary vocal tics associated with the neuropsychiatric disorder known as Tourette’s Syndrome. The most recent study was published in the 2003 Expert Opinions in Pharmacotherapy, reviewing data published in the original American Journal of Psychiatry in 1999. It confirmed that smoking pot decreased the study subject’s total tic severity score from 41 to seven within two hours and that this improvement lasted for up to seven hours.
Medical marijuana has also proven to effective in treating neuropsychological issues beyond Tourette’s Syndrome. It has been studied in the treatment of depression, anxiety and particularly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. New Mexico, for instance, allows doctors to prescribe it for PTSD specifically. In other states, however, psychological conditions do not qualify for prescriptions despite studies proving effectiveness.
The Hepatitis C virus causes inflammation of the liver and affects around 4 million Americans each year. Because the virus causes inflammation, it is believed that cannabis therapy can be effective in relieving symptoms. It is also believed to work in conjunction with traditional drug therapy for improved effectiveness, according to a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology in Oct. 2006.
Cannabis oil can reduce inflammation that irritates thyroid conditions, as well as suppress the body’s autoimmune response. Though it hasn’t been proven yet that cannabis can cure a thyroid problem, cannabis has been proven to relieve symptoms that come with thyroid disorders like digestive issues, mood problems and sleep problems.
Studies have found that those recovering from alcoholism successfully used cannabis to curb their cravings for alcohol. One study done by the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System found that cannabis can eliminate dependence on harder substances like opiates.
Studies have suggested that men who suffer from erectile dysfunction caused by high cholesterol could be helped by marijuana. High cholesterol is one of the most important factors in erectile dysfunction, and according to studies marijuana can reduce the effects of high cholesterol.
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Bell’s Palsy is a form of paralysis that causes the facial muscles to droop. Surgeons have found that there is inflammation present at the site of the condition, which cannabis can help regulate. In a sense, cannabis attacks Bell’s Palsy symptoms the way an allergy medication treats allergy symptoms, controlling them before they get out of control.
Cannabis contains natural anti-inflammatories plus natural analgesics (painkillers) so it can do wonders for someone with arthritis. Studies have found medical marijuana use can improve sleep quality in those suffering from arthritis and even slow down the progression of the condition.
Anorexia is characterized by limited food intake, an irrational fear of gaining weight and a distorted self-perception. Studies have found that cannabis can regulate the parts of the brain that deal with memory regulation, addiction and cognition—all of which are affected by anorexia and cause the aforementioned symptoms.
Psoriasis is a chronic immune-mediated disease that causes discoloration of the skin. Essentially the condition causes your immune system to tell your body to grow skin cells too quickly. Cannabis inhibits the production of keratinocytes, one of the predominant cell types in your skin, so it can help slow doesn’t symptoms of psoriasis.