Even experts have been changing their minds too — recently, CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta reversed his opinion on medical marijuana. While recreational pot usage is controversial, many people agree with Gupta’s new stance, and believe that the drug should be legal for medical uses.
And even though the benefits of smoking pot may be overstated by advocates of marijuana legalization, new laws will help researchers study the drug’s medicinal uses and better understand how it impacts the body.
There are at least two active chemicals in marijuana that researchers think have medicinal applications. Those are cannabidiol (CBD) — which seems to impact the brain without a high— and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which has pain relieving (and other) properties.
Weed can be used to treat Glaucoma.
Marijuana use can be used to treat and prevent the eye disease glaucoma, which increases pressure in the eyeball, damaging the optic nerve and causing loss of vision. Marijuana decreases the pressure inside the eye, according to the National Eye Institute: “Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma.” These effects of the drug may slow the progression of the disease, preventing blindness.
Weed may help reverse the carcinogenic effects of tobacco and improve lung health.
According to a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2012, marijuana does not impair lung function and can even increase lung capacity. Researchers looking for risk factors of heart disease tested the lung function of 5,115 young adults over the course of 20 years. Tobacco smokers lost lung function over time, but pot users actually showed an increase in lung capacity. It’s possible that the increased lung capacity maybe due to taking a deep breaths while inhaling the drug and not from a therapeutic chemical in the drug.
Weed can help control epileptic seizures.
Marijuana use can prevent epileptic seizures, a 2003 study showed.Robert J. DeLorenzo, of Virginia Commonwealth University, gave marijuana extract and synthetic marijuana to epileptic rats. The drugs rid the rats of the seizures for about 10 hours. Cannabinoids like the active ingredients in marijuana,tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC), control seizures by binding to the brain cellsresponsible for controlling excitability and regulating relaxation.
A chemical found in Weed stops cancer from spreading.
CBD may help prevent cancer from spreading, researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco reported in 2007. Cannabidiol stops cancer by turning off a gene called Id-1, the study, published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, found. Cancer cells make more copies of this gene than non-cancerous cells, and it helps them spread through the body. The researchers studied breast cancer cells in the lab that had high expression levels of Id-1 and treated them with cannabidiol. After treatment the cells had decreased Id-1 expression and were less aggressive spreaders. In “WEED,” Gupta also mentioned a few studies in the U.S., Spain, and Israel that suggest the compounds in cannabis could even kill cancer cells.
Weed may decrease anxiety.
Medical marijuana users claim the drug helps relieve pain and suppress nausea — the two main reasons it’s often used to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy. In 2010, researchers at Harvard Medical School suggested that that some of the drug’s benefits may actually be from reduced anxiety, which would improve the smoker’s mood and act as a sedative in low doses.
Beware, though, higher doses may increase anxiety and make you paranoid.
THC slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Marijuana may be able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a study led by Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute suggests. The 2006 study, published in the journalMolecular Pharmaceutics, found that THC, the active chemical in marijuana, slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that makes them. These plaques are what kill brain cells and cause Alzheimer’s.
Weed eases the pain of multiple sclerosis.
Marijuana may ease painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in May suggests. Jody Corey-Bloom studied 30 multiple sclerosis patients with painful contractions in their muscles. These patients didn’t respond to other treatments, but after smoking marijuana for a few days they were in less pain. The THC in the pot binds to receptors in the nerves and muscles to relieve pain. Other studies suggest that the chemical also helps control the muscle spasms.
Weed lessens side effects from treating hepatitis C and increases treatment effectiveness.
California dispensaries have been the subject of federal raids Reuters Treatment for hepatitis C infection is harsh — negative side effects include fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and depression — and lasts for months. Many people aren’t able to finish their treatment course because of the side effects.
But, pot to the rescue: A 2006 study in theEuropean Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 86% of patients using marijuana successfully completed their Hep C therapy, while only 29% of non-smokers completed their treatment, possibly because the marijuana helps lessens the treatments side effects.
Marijuana also seems to improve the treatment’s effectiveness: 54% of hep C patients smoking marijuana got their viral levels low and kept them low, in comparison to only 8% of nonsmokers.
Weed relieves arthritis discomfort.
Marijuana alleviates pain, reduces inflammation, and promotes sleep, which may help relieve pain and discomfort for people with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers announced in 2011. Researchers from rheumatology units at several hospitals gave their patients Sativex, a cannabinoid-based pain-relieving medicine. After a two-week period, people on Sativex had a significant reduction in pain and improved sleep quality compared to placebo users.
Weed keeps you skinny and helps your metabolism.
A study published in the American Journal Of Medicine on April 15 of last year suggested that pot smokers are skinnier than the average person and have healthier metabolism and reaction to sugars, even though they do end up eating more calories because of the munchies.
The study analyzed data from more than 4,500 adult Americans — 579 of whom were current marijuana smokers, meaning they had smoked in the last month. About 2,000 had used marijuana in the past, while another 2,000 had never used the drug. They studied their body’s response to eating sugars: their levels of the hormone insulin and their blood sugar levels while they hadn’t eaten in nine hours, and after eating sugar. Not only are pot users skinnier, but their body has a healthier response to sugar.
Weed improves the symptoms of Lupus, an autoimmune disorder.
Medical marijuana is being used to treat the autoimmune disease Systemic Lupus Ertyhematosus, which is when the body starts attacking itself for some unknown reason. Some chemicals in marijuana seem to have a calming effect on the immune system, which may be how it helps deal with symptoms of Lupus. The rest of the positive impact of the marijuana is probably from the effects on pain and nausea.
Weed soothes tremors for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Recent research from Israel shows thatsmoking marijuana significantly reduces pain and tremors and improves sleep for Parkinson’s disease patients. Particularly impressive was the improved fine motor skills among patients. Medical marijuana is legal in Israel for multiple conditions, and a lot of research into the medical uses of cannabis is done there, supported by the Israeli government.
Weed helps veterans suffering from PTSD.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently signed off on a proposal to study marijuana’s potential as part of treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Marijuana is approved to treat PTSD in some states already. In New Mexico,PTSD is the number one reason for people to get a license for medical marijuana, but this is the first time the U.S. government has approved a proposal that incorporates smoked or vaporized marijuana, which is currently classified by the government as a drug with no accepted medical applications. Naturally occurring cannabinoids, similar to THC, help regulate the system that causes fear and anxiety in the body and brain.