Your Guide to Medical Cannabis

Posted on: 30 June 2020

Many states allow medical grade cannabis to be used to treat certain chronic conditions that have not responded well to more conventional treatment. Doctors do not have to agree to prescribe or recommend medical cannabis, but there's a growing interest in the drug and its efficacy at controlling or resolving certain symptoms, such as nausea, joint pain, and seizures.

What is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis uses some of the naturally occurring chemicals found in cannabis plants. These chemicals are synthesized into a few varieties of medical cannabis. Each variety is slightly different in its chemical make-up, but the main chemicals used are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Taking medical cannabis that contains THC will produce the "high" feeling that's most commonly associated with marijuana, and this form of medical cannabis is often recommended for pain relief, seizure control, and to reduce chemotherapy-induced symptoms. Medical cannabis that contains CBD as its main active ingredient is often recommended for muscle tension, anxiety and joint inflammation, and it does not give you the sensation of being "high."

How is It Taken?

Medical cannabis can be inhaled through a vaporizer, applied to the skin as an oil or cream or added to edible products. It can also be taken sublingually as drops, which allows for rapid absorption into the bloodstream. The method that works best for you will likely be influenced by the symptoms you are treating, so you may have to experiment with the delivery method when you first start taking the medicine.

What Conditions Can It Be Used For?

Medical cannabis can be used to treat the symptoms of a wide variety of conditions including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer's disease. However, state law dictates what conditions the drug can be used to treat, so you would need to determine if your specific health condition would qualify for treatment by discussing the rules of your state with your doctor or insurance provider.  

Are There Side Effects?

Medical cannabis is a relatively new treatment available to patients with chronic conditions, and there's currently lots of research on the potential side effects caused by taking this medicine. Patients have reported a number of possible side effects, and these include dizziness, increase in appetite, rapid heart rate, low mood, and impaired concentration. The drug is also considered to be contraindicated with certain prescription medications.

If you're interested in trying medical cannabis to help reduce or manage symptoms of a chronic illness, discuss the suitability of the drug with your doctor.