Marijuana is the name given to the dried buds and leaves of varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant, which grows wild in warm dry climates around the globe. Marijuana is commonly known as weed, grass, pot, herb, green, cannabis, hemp, hash, ganja and dozens of others names. Marijuana has been used as a medicine for thousands of years but only in the past couple of decades have scientists begun to understand the specific medical benefits of the two main ingredients in marijuana. Marijuana has been considered a Schedule I controlled substance since 1970, which means that marijuana cannot legally be … sold under federal law.
Substances that have high potential for abuse, show no benefit for medical use and are proven to be unsafe under medical supervision are considered to be under the Schedule I umbrella. Heroin, LSD, ecstasy and bath salts are all classified as Schedule I substances. This raises huge controversies among researchers and patients, because marijuana has proven beneficial for medical use. In fact, the use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions is legal in many U.S. states. Many years and millions of dollars have been spent since 1970 on marijuana research and, as a result, many believe that categorizing marijuana under the same umbrella as heroin is illogical.
The active ingredients in marijuana and how they work
Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in marijuana. The human body has its own cannabinoid system known as the endocannabinoid system, where the brain and immune system produce cannabinoids and have specific cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. The endocannabinoid system is prominently located in the brain and immune system.
More than 60 types of cannabinoids exist, but two main types have been studied: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, and cannabidiol, which is commonly known as CBD. Both of these active ingredients in marijuana bind to the natural cannabinoid receptors in the brain and release neurotransmitters on different cells in the body.
A statement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave a summation of the medical effects of cannabinoids on the body: “In the past decade, the endocannabinoid system has been implicated in a growing number of physiological functions, both in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs … modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few.”
The medical benefits of CBD
CBD is the ingredient in marijuana that has been known to help cure diseases such as cancer, migraines, anxiety, arthritis and depression. Because this substance does not get individuals high, it is known as “the medical substance.”
Studies have shown that CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, helps prevent anxiety in patients diagnosed with social anxiety.
A recent study in 2014, published in the medical journal Molecular Cancer Therapies, has shown that CBD, when used in conjunction with radiation therapy, slows the growth of and shrinks cancer cells in these rapid-killing brain (glioma) tumors.
U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, M.D., stated in a CBS interview: “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, marijuana can be helpful.” CBD-only strains of marijuana are specifically used to treat medical conditions.
Studies have also shown that CBD can prevent inflammation and, therefore, can help relieve symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
The controversy over THC
THC is known as “the recreational substance,” since that is the ingredient in the marijuana plants that makes individuals high. This is the active ingredient that is responsible for the addictive properties associated with marijuana. THC can cause changes in visual stimuli, alter sense of time, change mood, cause delayed body movements and decrease short-term and long-term memory. This psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is responsible for the “munchies,” which is commonly known as the intense craving to eat anything and everything in sight.
On the other hand, THC has been shown useful as an appetite stimulus in patients who are trying to gain weight — for example, those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
Understand the difference
Compelling evidence confirms that marijuana does have medical benefits. However, it is a … substance that can harm recreational users. Therefore, it should not be used as a drug to get high, because evidence has shown that it can cause memory loss, especially in the developing brains of children and adolescents. In addition, those who smoke marijuana have an increased risk for developing lung cancer.
The topic of medical marijuana remains controversial among physicians, researchers, politicians and parents. As a result, consult a medical doctor before using this drug for potential medical benefits.
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