Marijuana: Is It Safe And Beneficial As A Medicine?

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana (also known as weeds, herbs, pots, grass, buds, ganja, Mary Jane, and other slang) is a green-gray mixture of dried cannabis flowers. Some people smoke marijuana with a hand-rolled cigarette called a joint, pipes, bongs, or blunts (marijuana wrapped in cigar wrapping paper). Marijuana can also be used to make tea, especially if sold or consumed for medicinal purposes, such as foods (edible) like brownies, cookies, or candy. Vaporizers are also increasingly being used to consume marijuana. More powerful forms of marijuana include the active ingredients of marijuana, honey-like hash oils, waxy sprouts, and hard amber-like shatter. It contains concentrated resin contained in high doses. These resins are becoming more and more popular among people who use them for both entertainment and medicine.

Marijuana’s main psychoactive (psycho-altering) chemical is Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for most of the intoxicating effects people seek. This chemical is found primarily in the resin produced by the leaves and buds of female cannabis plants. The plant also contains over 500 other chemicals, including over 100 compounds chemically related to THC called cannabinoids.

Is Marijuana Safe And Effective?

The potential medicinal properties of marijuana and its ingredients have been the subject of research for decades. THC itself has proven medical benefits with certain formulations. THC-based drugs are prescribed in the form of a pill to treat nausea in patients receiving cancer chemotherapy and stimulate the appetite of patients with wasting syndrome for AIDS approved by The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Moreover, several other marijuana-based medicines have been approved or are in clinical trials. For example, Nabiximols (Sativex®), currently available in the UK, Canada, and several European countries for the treatment of spastic and neuropathic pain. It is associated with multiple sclerosis including THC and another chemical found in marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD).

The FDA has also approved a CBD-based liquid drug called Epidiolex® for the treatment of two forms of severe childhood epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. It is delivered to the patient in a reliable dosage form via a reproducible route of administration, ensuring that the patient receives the expected benefits. 

Researchers generally believe that such drugs derived from or based on marijuana plants are more therapeutically promising than using whole marijuana plants or their crude extracts. Developing pharmaceuticals from plant products such as marijuana plants presents many challenges. Plants can contain hundreds of unknown active chemicals, and it can be difficult to develop products at accurate and consistent doses of these chemicals. The use of marijuana as a drug also causes other problems such as the adverse health effects of smoking and cognitive impairment due to THC. Nevertheless, more and more states are legalizing the issuance of marijuana or its extracts to people with a variety of medical conditions.

Additional concerns about “medical marijuana” are the long-term effects of its use by the elderly and people with health and/or age-related vulnerabilities such as cancer, AIDS, cardiovascular disease, and multiple sclerosis. Little is known or other neurodegenerative diseases. Further research is needed to determine whether people whose health is compromised by the disease or its treatment (such as chemotherapy) are at increased risk of adverse health effects from the use of marijuana.

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