Several hundred thousand Americans are using medical marijuana for such a panoply of ailments that critics cannot stop themselves from labeling the trend “a joke”. Fact is, humans have used cannabis medicinally for thousands of years. First legalized in 1996 in California, almost every state in the U.S. is now addressing medical marijuana’s legality. Below, Smell the Truth collects the most common, well-studied indications for medical pot.
Appetite Stimulation and Weight Gain
Cannabis produces substantial increases in food intake and body weight without uncomfortable levels of intoxication or impairing cognitive function, according to studies designed to provide a comprehensive assessment of smoked marijuana versus oral Dronabinol (eight times the standard/recommended dose) effects in HIV-positive marijuana smokers. The data demonstrated that over four days of administration, smoked marijuana and oral Dronabinol produced a similar range of positive effects.
A significant analgesic effect was observed and disease activity was significantly suppressed following the first-ever controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in rheumatoid arthritis conducted by D. R. Blake of The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases. The cannabis-based treatment used was GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex. While the differences are small and variable across the population, the results are encouraging as these differences represent the benefits of clinical relevance and show the need for more detailed investigation.
Studies verify smoking marijuana (a blend of Mexican varieties) lowers both IP (intraocular pressure) and BP (blood pressure) in a heterogeneous glaucoma population. Evidence supports that subjects with essential hypertension after a single dose administration of marijuana experienced greater decreases in IOP and BP.
Chemotherapy Induced Nausea and Vomiting
Cannabinoids were found to be useful as mood-enhancing adjuvants for controlling chemotherapy-related sickness in select patients during a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral and smoked delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main active ingredient in marijuana — as an antiemetic. It appears to have significant antiemetic properties when compared with placebo in patients receiving high-dose methotrexate. In selected patients, cannabis was more effective than antiemetics like prochlorperazine, metoclopramide, chlorpromazine, thiethylperazine, haloperidol, domperidone, or alizapride.
Cancer-Induced Cachexia (wasting)
Studies show that a starting dose of 2.5 mg of Dronabinol twice daily can stimulate appetite and promote food intake in cancer patients. A North Central cancer treatment group trial concluded that Dronabinol improved appetite in almost 50% of patients. Several studies of THC in advanced cancer-associated anorexia have shown some improvement in mood and appetite.
An initial report on the therapeutic application of delta 9-THC (THC) (Dronabinol, Marinol) by Lorenz R. suggests the possibility of THC-induced effects on ion channels and transmitters explaining its therapeutic activity seen in epileptic patients. Marijuana compound cannabidiol is also used as an anti-seizure medication.
A double blind, placebo-controlled crossover study concludes that Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, alleviates spasticity in people with spinal cord injury (SCI).
A study carried out by researchers from McGill University, Canada shows that low-dose vaporized cannabis (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-1.29%) significantly improves neuropathic pain. This placebo-controlled trial found that cannabis containing 9.4% THC could reduce neuropathic pain compared to the placebo.
In a prospective placebo-controlled study, a short course (8 weeks) of THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits in patients with active Crohn's disease, compared with placebo, without side effects. A report published by The Institute of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Meir Medical Center that is affiliated Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel indicates that cannabis may have a positive effect on disease activity, as reflected by reduction in disease activity index, and in the need for other drugs and surgery.
A significant number of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) currently use marijuana. Most patients find it very helpful for symptom control, including patients with ulcerative colitis. Experimental evidence suggests the endogenous cannabinoid system may protect against colonic inflammation, leading to the possibility that activation of this system may have a therapeutic role in IBD.
The Institute of Medicine report on cannabis and medicine concludes that cannabinoids likely have a natural role in pain modulation, control of movement, and memory. Smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy. The findings are comparable to oral drugs used for chronic neuropathic pain.