Can marijuana be an actual drug? How effective is it?

As legalization of Cannabis and related substances, is becoming more and more popular many people wonder how those substances perform as drugs. People tend to think that a lot of conditions can be treated with the use of cannabis like: neuropathic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), epilepsy; multiple sclerosis (MS), glaucoma; Crohn’s disease,; Parkinson’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; dementia-related behavioral disturbances, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety.

It has become easy to complain about basically anything just to request to use marijuana for “medical purposes”. Some people though really depend on such drugs to deliver an actual improvement on their lives. While we might be tempted to believe those claims, after all this drug is being used by a large percentage of the population for recreational purposes with little or sometimes none of the effects of more dangerous drugs (depending on use/abuse), we have to stay scientific and thus only proceed if experimental evidence supports our hypothesis.

Is then marijuana an effective drug for any condition?

Most studies (linked at the end) repeat the same thing, cannabis and its derivatives appear to show mixed results in all patients. Those mixed results do not give strong evidence for those drugs effectiveness.

From a 2018 study: “The evidence supporting improvement in appetite, Tourette syndrome, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy and a variety of neurodegenerative disorders was described as limited, insufficient or absent.

There are two main compound in marijuana, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). The synthetic alternatives for those substances appear to affect subjects in a more negative way with more side effects than THC and CBD. There are also two types of receptors for those substances, CB1 and CB2. CB1 is mostly expressed in the brain and CB2 in the peripheral tissues. Regarding receptors, CBD has little affinity for CB1 or CB2, thus little or no psychoactive effects, unlike THC. CBD appear to also have better pharmacological effects, helping with symptoms such as, anticonvulsant, anti-psychotic, neuroprotectant, and anti-inflammatory (including autoimmune conditions). The conclusion though remains the same, there needs to be more research supporting those claims and that those effects are indeed due to CBD and not other factors

Still some studies have found positive effects of cannabis on Anxiety, Tourette syndrome and epilepsy.

It is important though to keep in mind that the results have not been studied enough yet to make confident conclusions. More studies have to be done for such a conclusion to be made.

Legalization may be beneficial to research on this field and evidence from more people trying medical marijuana as a treatment for various disease will assist future studies. In the US it has been shown that in states where cannabis has been legalized, its use has increased.

Sources: Molecular and behavioral pharmacological characterization of abused synthetic cannabinoids MMB- and MDMB-FUBINACA, MN-18, NNEI, CUMYL-PICA, and 5-fluoro-CUMYL-PICA., The therapeutic effects of Cannabis and cannabinoids: An update from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report., The Use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Treating Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis: a Systematic Review of Reviews., Medical marijuana: Do the benefits outweigh the risks?, Medical marijuana laws in 50 states: investigating the relationship between state legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana use, abuse and dependence., Discovery of the Presence and Functional Expression of Cannabinoid CB2 Receptors in Brain., Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing.

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