Benefits and Cautions of Medicinal Cannabis

Stephen Andrews
11 May 2022

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 35 states around the U.S., and over 3.5 million people use it for therapeutic reasons. Cannabis is used for a variety of health conditions. There's no doubt about it there has been a boom! Like any other medical supplement, cannabis also comes with a list of advantages and disadvantages, and some users may experience side effects. Below is an overview of the benefits and cautions of using medicinal cannabis.

Medical cannabis is basically the same product as recreational marijuana, but it's taken for medical reasons. Depending on the health condition that is being treated, sometimes a physician will recommend a special regime on how to proceed with consumption. 

The marijuana plant contains hundreds of different compounds known as cannabinoids, and each has a different effect on the human organism. The two most famous chemicals extracted from marijuana plant material are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main constituent that gives users the high, and cannabidiol (CBD), which does not have mind-altering properties. However, both THC and CBD, as well as other minor cannabinoids such as CBN and CBG, have therapeutical applications and come with a number of health benefits. Below are the main advantages of using cannabis products.

Benefits of Using Medical Cannabis 

Reduces Anxiety, Stress and Depression

Cannabis is much-cherished because it soothes the mind and body and offers relief to individuals struggling with anxiety and depression. Cannabis improves mood and lifts the spirit. It relaxes the muscles and releases tension. Therefore, it can work particularly well for people struggling with mental health, including conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Improves Sleep

Some cannabis strains are ideal medication for those who struggle to shut their brains and get a decent night's sleep. Cannabis can also help treat sleeplessness and restlessness when it's a symptom of another medical condition. All thanks to its relaxing, sedative properties.

Safer Choice for Pain Management than Opioids 

Cannabis can relieve neuropathic pain, which is caused by nerve damage as well as other types of chronic pain such as back pain or neck pain. While other medications such as opioids are often prescribed for pain management, marijuana appears to be a safer option. Opioids are highly addictive, with the opioid overdose death rate keeping a steady course in the U.S. every year. Opioids kill over 130 Americans every day. Marijuana kills zero. 

It Helps with Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects among cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy treatment. One of the benevolent effects of marijuana is that it can offer relief from nausea and vomiting. Cannabis medicines such as dronabinol and nabilone, which contain THC, and are available for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, are scientifically proven ways to reduce this side effect of the cancer therapy and work incredibly well among patients who do not respond to other conventional treatment. 

Cannabis Stimulates Appetite

While recreational users may be well familiar with munchies—the hunger sensation that overwhelms the stomach shortly after smoking—medical users can also benefit from improved appetite if their medical conditions affect their appetite. Loss of appetite is common among patients with HIV/AIDS or certain types of cancers, and cannabis can certainly help them put in more nourishing foods and strengthen the body.

May Help with Epilepsy Significantly

Cannabis in the form of Epidiolex is one of the most potent medicines to treat seizures associated with epilepsy, including severe types such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Epidiolex offers much-needed relief to children who suffer from severe seizures and can greatly comfort their families and caregivers. 

benefits and cautions of medical cannabis.

Cannabis Can Counteract Inflammation

Besides cannabis having superior anti-analgesic properties, i.e., it can offer relief from pain and tension in the body and muscles, it also has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Therefore it is used for several conditions where the underlying cause of the disease is inflammation, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. 

It May Help Treat Other Health Conditions

Cannabis has shown promise to help alleviate symptoms of other serious diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and dementia. Medical research is ongoing for these and other diseases—and hopefully, in the near future, we will have more effective medicines, based on cannabinoids, to treat these debilitating conditions.

You Can Consume It in Various Forms

You do not need to smoke cannabis to feel the benefits from it. Thanks to modern technologies, cannabis is now available in various forms, including oils, tinctures, pills, capsules, powders, edibles, etc. Basically, it can be consumed as any other prescription pill and in a way that is the most convenient for the user. 

You Won't Necessarily Get High

As previously mentioned, not all compounds extracted from the cannabis plant will induce a cerebral high. Cannabis in its isolated forms, such as CBD oils, can aid medical conditions without the mind-altering effect caused by cannabinoids such as THC.

It's Natural and Has Been Around for Centuries

Above all, cannabis is a natural supplement. And just like other herbs found in nature, people have been using it for millennia. Various cultures and civilizations, including ancient India, China, and Egypt, have used cannabis as medicine, in cooking, and in ceremonial practices. According to Thai medicine, where marijuana is also a traditional health ingredient, a bit of the plant helps the ill person recover faster from any disease.

benefits and cautions of medical cannabis.

Disadvantages of Using Cannabis

Cannabis has numerous benefits, but it also has its share of drawbacks. Below are some reasons why some people oppose its use, even when it's for medicinal purposes solely. 

Prolonged Use Can Hurt Memory 

It is no secret that frequent use of marijuana can affect short-term memory in users. There's more blur, and usually for the little things. Like, what did I have for dinner yesterday? Did I finish watching that movie? Did I send that important e-mail for work? The good news is that when you stop or pause marijuana use, memory function will recover quickly.

It Can Impair Cognition and Motor Skills

One of the negative sides of cannabis is that it affects judgment and motor skills, and some users might even experience psychotic episodes and hallucinations. So, just like alcohol, those under the influence of marijuana should refrain from driving or operating any machinery that requires full attention and fast reaction until the effect wears off. 

Misuse May Lead to Other Health Issues

Cannabis is no different from other stimulants (except it's much safer in most cases). Take alcohol for example. Having a glass or two at the end of the work week, during the weekend, is totally fine. It helps with the stress. It makes you laugh. However, abusing alcohol and getting drunk every day may have consequences on the person's health. The same is with cannabis. One specific condition that might develop with long-term use of cannabis is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). The condition is characterized by extreme vomiting, stomach pains, and nausea. Only a small portion of people will develop CHS in their lifetime.

Cannabis May Cause Lung Damage

Everyone knows that smoking is harmful. Whether it's tobacco or marijuana, the smoke that you inhale can hurt the soft tissue of the lung, causing cough and even more severe problems with the respiratory system. Fortunately, the cannabis industry has grown significantly over the last decade, and there are now various other goods and products that are much safer to consume than dried flower

It Remains Illegal Under Federal Law

The plant and any of its derivatives continue to classify as a Schedule I drug under The Controlled Substances Act. This means that basically cannabis, although far less harmless, is classified in the same category as hard drugs such as heroine, ectsasy and LSD. And until this doesn't change, you are never utterly safe to transfer and possess marijuana, regardless if you come from a state where it is legal to do so. This may depend on the quantity you carry with you, or if you try to cross state borders having a stash—this is something that may cause you trouble with the law and even land you in jail. 

Other Side Effects and Cautions

Cannabis will cause psychotic reactions, hallucinations, or paranoia in some users, however, let's say that you are safe from this specific side effect. There are still a few other things that can go wrong when using cannabis, and it's good to be aware of them in order not to overuse cannabis or avoid it entirely. 

  • Cannabinoids will interact with other drugs you might be taking, including beta-blockers, benzodiazepines, SSRIs, SNRIs, and antipsychotic medications. And those interactions may not work out well in your body.
  • Although research is ongoing to find new cannabis-based medicines to treat psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, cannabis might not be recommended for those susceptible to developing such severe mental illnesses. 
  • Cannabis can cause palpitations and increased blood pressure, and it may not be recommended for older people and those with existing heart conditions, even if it's CBD in question. 
  • Combined consumption of cannabis and alcohol may lead to other health issues. As two stimulants, the substances augment their effects on the body and enter separate chemical interactions. For instance, alcohol will fire up the amount of THC in the blood, making you feel extra high or green out. 

While it is ultimately up to each person to decide for themselves whether they want to medicate with cannabis, in some cases, it is more than recommended to also consult with a physician. Hopefully one who has knowledge of cannabis medicines. 

Stephen Andrews