Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco also increases the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine and experiencing withdrawal symptoms from nicotine as well as cannabis if you cut down or give up.
Cannabis contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. 2 of these – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – are the active ingredients of a prescription drug called Sativex. This is used to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.
Trying to give up cannabis?
A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that are not really there) and delusions (believing things that are not really true).
Cannabis use may affect fertility. Regular or heavy cannabis use has been linked to changes in the female menstrual cycle and lower sperm count, or lower sperm quality in men.
Regular cannabis use increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia.
More than 600,000 Americans turn to cannabis for relief from chronic pain — and the scientific evidence for its effectiveness is substantial. In gold-standard randomized clinical trials of people who had agonizing health concerns — peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain from diabetes), spinal cord injury, HIV or complex regional pain syndrome, cancer, chemotherapy, muscle and joint problems, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis — cannabis reduced pain by 40 percent, according to the 2017 NASEM report.
Nearly 1 million Americans, including many 45 and older, live with the debilitating muscle spasms and pain of multiple sclerosis. Up to 66 percent of them may be using medical marijuana, a 2017 survey found. It’s likely they’ve cut back on MS medications, too. In fact, people with MS are the second-largest group of medical marijuana users in the U.S., behind chronic pain sufferers. There’s substantial science for cannabis’ ability to reduce MS muscle spasms. Meanwhile, others are looking at a potential cannabis-based drug for MS. The cannabis research and development company MMJ International Holdings Corp. hopes to test an experimental medication — a highly purified, liquid plant extract with THC and CBD in a gelatin capsule — for MS in the U.S. soon.
BOTTOM LINE: It seems to help
Lifting low moods and calming chronic tension brought 1 in 5 older adults in a recent survey to medical cannabis. More than 90 percent said it helped. Meanwhile, treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is emerging as another top use.
Quantity matters: A little bit (7.5 milligrams of THC, less than the content of many edibles) reduced stress in a 2017 study. But 12.5 milligrams (what you’d get from a few puffs of the popular pot strain GSC (formerly Girl Scout Cookies) increased anxiety.
The National Academies rate scientific proof for better sleep on cannabis as only “moderate” in people with health conditions that interfere with slumber. But that’s not slowing down older users. More than 1 in 3 people in a Colorado survey tried it for sleep; 86 percent said it helped. By plugging into cannabinoid receptors on brain cells, THC and CBD could possibly team up for better sleep, at least in the short term, in people with insomnia due to pain, obstructive sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and anxiety.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Drug Facts: Is Marijuana Medicine?” “Is Marijuana Addictive?”
The agency did, however, agree to support additional research on marijuana and make the process easier for researchers. “Research is critically needed, because we have to be able to advise patients and doctors on the safe and effective use of cannabis,” Bonn-Miller says.
Researchers are studying whether medical marijuana can help treat a number of conditions including:
Which states allow medical marijuana?
But it’s not yet proven to help many of these conditions, with a few exceptions, Bonn-Miller says.
He shared some background on medical marijuana’s uses and potential side effects.
The cannabidiol Epidiolex was approved in 2018 for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. In addition, the FDA has approved two man-made cannabinoid medicines — dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros) and nabilone (Cesamet) — to treat nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. The cannabidiol Epidiolex was approved in 2018 for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
Why hasn’t more research been done? One reason is that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers marijuana a Schedule I drug, the same as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, and likely to be abused and lacking in medical value. Because of that, researchers need a special license to study it, says Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, a substance abuse specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.