Cannabis – otherwise known as hemp or cannabis Sativa – is a specie of the cannabinaceae family of plants. This plant naturally contains delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis that results in the ‘high’ experienced by users. Cannabis also has several other components though not every component of cannabis is psychoactive.
Cannabis is actually loaded with several active chemicals, including hundreds of cannabinoids. This has resulted in the development of medical cannabis, a broad term encompassing cannabis-based medicine used in relieving symptoms. But how effective is medical cannabis in treating health conditions? This is one of the topics that will be covered at the two-day MedCann summit in the next few days.
This article discusses everything you should know about medical cannabis, including its side effects, tips, and regulations guiding its use.
Medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, is cannabis and cannabinoids that physicians or healthcare professionals use to prescribe for their patients. It is used for easing symptoms that specific medical conditions cause.
Due to government and production restrictions, it must be mentioned that using cannabis as a medicine has not been rigorously tested. This has resulted in highly limited clinical research that will define the efficacy and safety of using cannabis for treating diseases.
Don’t confuse hemp with cannabis. According to legal standards, hemp has incredibly low levels of THC, approximately 0.3 percent. However, hemp and cannabis contain cannabinoids such as:
- CBG (cannabigerol)
- CBDV (cannabidivarin), etc.
Cannabis is not legal under federal law in the United States. It is classified as a Schedule I substance, unlike hemp. But a few states have decriminalized or legalized the recreational use of cannabis. More on this will be highlighted later in this article.
Uses of medical cannabis
According to several clinical studies, medical cannabis offers several health benefits. In addition, it is used for treating a few health conditions.
Note that state laws vary regarding the medical conditions that qualify people for treatment. Therefore, if you’re considering cannabis for medical use, check your state’s regulations to prevent legal trouble.
You can qualify for treatment with medical cannabis if you meet specific requirements. But this depends primarily on the state. If you are battling the following health issues, you may meet the qualifying criteria:
- Crohn’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic and severe pain
- ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
- Muscle spasms and multiple sclerosis
- Seizures and epilepsy
- Severe vomiting or nausea triggered by cancer treatment
Here are some crucial tips to follow when it comes to using medical cannabis:
Talk with your physician about medical cannabis
Medical cannabis can readily interfere with other medications or drugs you are taking, just like any regular drug. This is highly crucial and must never be taken for granted. Therefore, ensure you talk with your physician about medical cannabis.
For instance, your physician may need to check the blood levels of other medications. It is also necessary to check or adjust the doses of medications you’re currently using to avoid adverse or severe side effects.
Medical cannabis can also significantly impact your body in many other ways. For instance, inhaled medical cannabis – the vaped product or whole plant – causes dry mouth. This can significantly boost your risk for cavities or other severe dental issues.
Start low, stay low, and go slow
You can avoid unpleasant side effects by starting medical cannabis at a low dosage. Then you can slowly increase the dosage over time until whatever symptoms you’re battling are relieved or side effects unceremoniously develop.
According to medical studies, there is an upper limit to the overall effects of medical cannabis. Therefore, patients are advised not to go beyond 50-100 mg per day for CBD and 20-40 mg per day for THC. If the prescribed dose is exceeded, there will be zero additional benefits from higher dosages.
Therefore, talk with your physician to determine how to increase your dosage of medical cannabis, whether or not it is necessary, and what you should do if side effects begin to develop or appear.
New patient tip
If you’re a new patient, you may need to buy less than a 30-day supply of medical cannabis during the first few visits to your physician or local dispensary. This is crucial, so you have time to learn how you respond to a specific medical cannabis product.
Pregnant or breastfeeding
If you’re pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or currently breastfeeding, you should avoid medical cannabis. Scientific evidence reveals that using medical cannabis while pregnant might be connected to early delivery or a low birth rate.
However, differentiating between the harms cannabis causes and tobacco is pretty difficult. In addition, using medical cannabis while pregnant can be linked to brain changes that occur while the fetus develops. This could result in attention, behavioral, and memory problems such as impulse control and aggression which the child would exhibit during its early years of adolescence.
Children whose parents used medical cannabis during pregnancy are at high risk of psychotic experiences, especially during adolescence.
Mental health conditions
Recreationally using cannabis can cause psychotic episodes, which can be potentially dangerous and unpleasant.
Therefore, if you have a history of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder, or have schizophrenia, you should never use medical cannabis. In addition, stay away from medical cannabis products loaded with high THC levels.
Dependence and addiction
Using medical cannabis may result in cannabis addiction and dependence. The risk of cannabis addiction is usually higher for those who have experienced other addictions or those who use large doses of drugs/products with high THC levels.
That is why it is highly recommended you don’t use medical cannabis. However, if you must, ensure you use it with extreme caution, especially if you have an addiction disorder to other substances such as nicotine/tobacco.
However, if you are a heavy, regular user of medical cannabis, stopping its use suddenly can bring about severe and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that last several days. Withdrawal symptoms are usually associated with large doses of cannabis-derived products laden with high THC content.
Severe liver or heart disease
People with severe liver or heart disease shouldn’t use medical cannabis. However, if they must, they should use it with extreme caution.
Clinical evidence showcases the use of medical cannabis can trigger a heart attack in those with severe heart problems. Moreover, severe liver disease can cause issues with how your body metabolizes medical cannabis.
Medical cannabis has side effects, though it varies from patient to patient. Here are some you should take note of:
Dry mouth – known as xerostomia – is one of the common side effects of using medical cannabis. But you can control this by drinking lots of water before taking your regular dose of medical cannabis. Always stay hydrated while the positive effects of medical cannabis take place.
Anxiety or paranoia
Medical cannabis can cause anxiety or paranoia when consumed in large doses. However, this is not a side effect that will occur every time. Your mindset and current life situation may also impact the dose and strain of the cannabis product used.
Medical cannabis can be used to combat insomnia. However, a few strains may cause staying or falling asleep almost impossible.
If you find yourself struggling with insomnia as a side effect of using medical cannabis, avoid energizing Sativa strains. Instead, go for an Indica strain to promote sleep, especially when close to bedtime.
Short-term memory loss
If you’ve suddenly experienced short-term amnesia or your train of thought in the middle of a sentence, it could be a side effect of using medical cannabis.
Although this short-term memory loss will wear off when the cannabis wears off, it can be annoying to manage or deal with. Try taking omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins to reduce short-term memory loss.
Fatigue and drowsiness are two common side effects linked with medical cannabis. Therefore, do not operate equipment or machinery or perform any hazardous activity to avoid adverse effects while using medical cannabis.
Do not consume alcohol while using medical cannabis, as this may significantly increase drowsiness.
Regulations on the use of medical cannabis
Most states have duly legalized the use of cannabis for treating medical conditions. A few have even legalized cannabis just for adult recreation. As a result, the government does not generally regulate the content and potency of cannabis products in those states where cannabis has been legalized. Thirty-three states within the United States, including Washington D.C., have medical cannabis programs. Eleven states, including Washington, D.C., permit the use of cannabis for adult recreation.
Nevertheless, the federal government considers the use of cannabis illegal. But healthcare practitioners and patients who act under state laws on the use of medical cannabis are not likely to be prosecuted.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only one cannabis-based medical product, known as Epidiolex. This cannabis product is derived from cannabidiol. Three synthetic cannabis-linked products are also in the market:
- Cesamet® (nabilone)
- Syndros® (dronabinol)
- Marinol® (dronabinol)
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved every other cannabis-derived medical product. Therefore, more clinical studies of medical cannabis for most medical conditions are required to fully understand its appropriate role in comprehensive health care.
Medical cannabis products and relieving symptoms
Medical cannabis may or may not relieve whatever symptoms you’re battling. According to existing clinical studies on medical cannabis, symptom relief varies from one patient to another.
Side effects of using medical cannabis are common, and they can be moderate or mild. These side effects usually stop pretty quickly, though severe side effects are not uncommon. If you experience any side effects from medical cannabis or any cannabis-derived product, talk to a healthcare professional at a medical cannabis dispensary.
The use of medical cannabis is not legal in every state, though a few have decriminalized it. However, more clinical research is required to fully ascertain the health benefits of medical cannabis. Ensure you talk to your physician before using medical cannabis. Adhere to every tip or information shared above.