Understanding cannabis for medical use

For many, cannabis remains a taboo topic. But as more and more states legalize medical cannabis, people are beginning to explore how this plant-based medicine can be used therapeutically to treat a variety of ailments. From chronic pain to nausea, cannabis is a powerful tool that can help patients manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Let’s take a closer look at how cannabis is being used today in medicine and what potential benefits it may hold for patients. 

What is cannabis? 

Cannabis is a type of plant that produces two main compounds: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the compound that produces the well-known “high” or psychoactive effects associated with recreational cannabis use. CBD, on the other hand, does not produce any psychoactive effects and instead has calming, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anxiolytic properties.

Is cannabis for medical use legal in the US?

The legal status of medical cannabis varies from state to state. Despite the fact that many states permit THC to be used for medical reasons, federal law still bans marijuana (Cannabis sativa) and its derivatives from being utilized in any capacity. Currently, 33 states and Washington D.C. have legalized the use of medical cannabis in some form or another. The remaining 17 states still maintain restrictions on its use for medical purposes.

Fortunately, CBD derived from hemp – containing less than 0.3% THC – falls outside of this regulation. Unfortunately however, people may still find themselves facing legal consequences if they are caught with marijuana in an area where it is deemed illegal by state or federal law enforcement agents.

What medical conditions does medical cannabis treat?

Medical cannabis is used to treat a variety of medical conditions. However, state laws vary which conditions qualify people for treatment with medical marijuana. Cannabis may be used to treat the conditions like:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic pain
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Cancer-related symptoms
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • Epilepsy and seizures
  • Mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Sleep issues

In some cases, it can even be used as an alternative or supplement to traditional medications like opioids.

How cannabis works as medicine 

Cannabis has become a popular treatment option because of its ability to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system—the body’s own internal system that helps regulate homeostasis—in order to produce therapeutic effects. This system is made up of receptors throughout the body that respond to certain compounds found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD.

The compounds in cannabis interact with receptors throughout the body to produce therapeutic effects, including relief from pain, inflammation, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and more. Different combinations of cannabinoids can be used to target specific symptoms or conditions in order to provide relief without the psychoactive effects associated with THC. For example, high CBD strains are often recommended for those who suffer from chronic pain or anxiety but do not want the “high” associated with THC-heavy strains. 

Understanding the different types of cannabis products 

Cannabis can be consumed in a variety of ways, including smoking and vaping, consuming edibles or beverages infused with cannabis oils, as well as topical applications. Each method has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to understand which is best for your individual needs.

Smoking and vaping cannabis are two of the most common methods of ingestion, as they provide quick relief from symptoms. Edibles and beverages, on the other hand, provide more lasting effects but can also take longer to kick in. Topical applications are another option that some patients find helpful for localized pain.

How is medical cannabis administered? 

Medical cannabis can be taken in a variety of forms, including smoked or vaped buds, edibles such as gummies, oils and tinctures that can be taken orally, topical creams and lotions for localized pain relief, and capsules. Depending on the type of cannabis being used and the symptoms that need to be treated, different forms may be more or less effective.

Methods for taking cannabis include:

  • Inhalation: Smoking or vaping cannabis is the fastest way for it to enter into the bloodstream and provide relief.
  • Oral: Edibles, capsules, and tinctures are ingested orally and take longer to take effect than inhalation methods. Cannabis-infused foods such as gummies, brownies and lollipops, along with beverages, are also becoming increasingly popular.
  • Topical: Lotions, salves, balms, and other topical applications can be applied directly to the skin for localized relief.

Talk to your doctor about which methods and strains of medical cannabis are best suited to your individual needs.  With the right knowledge, you can make an informed decision when it comes to using cannabis as part of your treatment plan.

Is medical marijuana available as a prescription medicine?

Medical marijuana is not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescription medication, but it can be legally prescribed in some states with medical cannabis programs such as New York’s medical marijuana program. However, it’s important to note that the FDA does not regulate the safety or purity of cannabis products and recommends caution when using any form of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Patients should talk to their doctor to ensure they’re getting the best possible care.

Who should not use medical cannabis?

Medical cannabis should not be used by anyone under the age of 18, and it is important to discuss all possible risks with your doctor before using. People who have certain medical conditions such as heart, liver or kidney disease; a history of substance abuse disorder; or are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use medical cannabis. It is important to always consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any form of medical cannabis treatment.

What are the risks? 

As with any drug, there are risks associated with medical cannabis use. These include potential adverse side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and drowsiness. It’s also important to note that cannabis use can be addictive and may interact with other medications. Before beginning any treatments, it is essential to talk to a doctor or healthcare provider to ensure the best outcomes.

Medical cannabis has potential therapeutic benefits, but it’s important to understand its risks and seek professional guidance before starting any treatment. By understanding the science behind medical cannabis and its effects, patients can work with their healthcare providers to make informed decisions about how best to use this plant-based medicine.

How to qualify for cannabis for medical use?

In order to qualify for medical cannabis, you must have a chronic condition that has been diagnosed by a qualified doctor. Depending on the state in which you live, the list of qualifying conditions may vary. Common conditions include cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. Once your condition is verified, you will need to apply for a medical cannabis card from the state health department or a licensed dispensary.

The process for getting a medical cannabis card varies by state, but generally includes providing proof of residency and medical records showing your diagnosis. Once you have been approved, you will be able to purchase medical cannabis products at a licensed dispensary. Before buying any product, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider and make sure that it is right for you.

Work with your doctor

When considering medical cannabis, it is important to work with your doctor to find the best treatment plan for you. Your doctor can help you determine the most effective forms of cannabis and provide guidance on dosage and usage. They will also be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Working closely with your healthcare provider is essential to ensuring that medical cannabis is used safely and appropriately.
Medical cannabis can be an effective way to manage the symptoms of chronic conditions, but it is important to understand its risks before starting any treatment plan. Talk to your doctor about using medical cannabis as part of your healthcare routine so you can make the best decision for yourself. With the right knowledge and guidance, you can make an informed decision about how to use cannabis for your medical needs.

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Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered, construed or interpreted as legal or professional advice, guidance or opinion.

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