A Boon to Pharmacy
The recent years have seen a tremendous rise in the use of medical cannabis. Although still not recognized as a medicine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and illegal in many countries, the consumption of medical cannabis or medical marijuana is on a steep rise.
There have been many clinical studies on rats which confirm the benefits of marijuana. However, the lack of clinical trials on human subjects to determine the risks and the benefits of using cannabis as medicine has prevented it from earning an approval badge from the FDA.
With more and more states legalizing the use of medical marijuana, it's high time we know what really is medical marijuana, how it's different from recreational marijuana, its health benefits, and why it is considered as a boon to the pharmacy.
What is medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana or cannabis is the whole unprocessed plant or some distinct chemicals contained within the plant’s stalks, seeds or flowers that are extracted and used to alleviate the symptoms of many conditions. This seven pointed leaves green plant contains over 400 different chemicals compounds out of which around 70 are cannabinoids. These cannabinoids have different effects on the body. The two most well-known cannabinoids that are used in the medical application of cannabis are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is psychoactive in nature and produces the euphoric effect famously called “the high”. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and does not make you euphoric.
The major difference between the medical and recreational marijuana is that medical marijuana has higher CBD content whereas recreational marijuana has higher THC content.
How does it work?
Our body has a large network of cell receptors and compounds like Anandamide and 2-AG which are very similar to chemicals found in cannabis, which are known to influence the mood, appetite, pain, sleep, immune system etc. This whole network is known as endocannabinoid
system (ECS). The two main receptors in the ECS are CB1 and CB2. CB1 is mostly found in the central nervous system and CB2 are found in the body’s periphery.
The cannabinoids present these medical seeds, namely THC and CBD are known to engage with these receptors and change the way our body regulates the aforesaid bodily functions.
THC is anti-inflammatory so it helps in decreasing the pain and inflammation in many conditions. It is also known to increase appetite and reduce nausea, thus it is quite effective in alleviating the symptoms caused in the patients undergoing cancer treatment. CBD is also anti-inflammatory and a powerful antioxidant. It also reduces pain and inflammation and is found to be helpful in controlling conditions like epileptic seizures.
Benefits of Cannabis as or in medicines
The root cause of most of the diseases is inflammation, and THC and CBD have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This anti-inflammatory property makes medical marijuana beneficial in pain management and treatment of various conditions. Due to this reason, many modern doctors have started to prescribe medical marijuana as an alternative treatment or along with other prescribed drugs for the treatment of many diseases.
It is beneficial in treating scores of conditions, some of them are mentioned below:
● Epileptic seizures: According to a study published in Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, when the ingredients in marijuana interact with the CB1 receptors found in the central nervous system, it modulates the body’s endocannabinoid and helps in controlling the seizures in epilepsy. ● Cancer: Cannabis is being used to ease the discomfort caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients for a long time. Due to the antiproliferative and anti-metastatic properties of THCA present in cannabis, it comes out as a possible new promising drug to treat cancer. These properties prevent the cancer cells from growing further and prevents them from spreading to the other parts of the body. ● Arthritis: A study shows that the anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana make it an effective alternative in the treatment of Arthritis. Other than the above-mentioned conditions cannabis is effectively used in conditions like anxiety, Glaucoma, Dravet Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, PTSD, AIDS and many more.
The effectiveness and the popularity of medical marijuana is proven by the drastic increase in the number Legal Medical Marijuana Patients in the US.
According to the United Nations, Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) medical marijuana is the most widely consumed drug around the world. It estimates showed that there were whopping 183 million consumers of medical marijuana in the year 2015.
If you are wondering what kind of cannabis-infused medicines are available out there, following are some popular cannabis-based medicines:
● Sativex- It is a mouth spray effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain and spasticity in patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. It contains both THC and CBD. It was approved on June 21, 2010, in the UK and is the first cannabis-based prescription medicine to get approval.
● Dronabinol / Marinol- This medicine is FDA approved in the United States, it contains Synthetic Delta-9 THC. It is effective in managing the symptoms-such as nausea and vomiting, caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients.
● Nabilone / Cesamet- This is an approved medicine and is used for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. It contains synthetic cannabinoids that are similar to THC.
● Dexanabinol- Though not approved yet, but this drug seems promising as an anti-cancer drug. It's currently in the first phase of the study to test its possible use in the treatment of brain cancer. It contains synthetic non-psychotropic cannabinoid.
● Cannabinor- This drug contains synthetic chemicals and might be useful in the treatment of chronic pain, and bladder control. It's undergoing clinical trials.
● CT-3 (ajulemic acid)- This medicine is currently under phase two study to test it’s pain relieving properties in patients suffering from neuropathic pain.
These medicines and all other cannabis infused medicines are available at the government cannabis dispensary in most of the legal states. Along with the above-mentioned uses of cannabis, it's worthy to note that till date there is not even a single death caused by the overdose of marijuana. Moreover, marijuana does not have any side effects as compared to the life-threatening side effects caused by the long-term use of NSAID or opiates.
The future of this green stuff looks promising and it is indeed a boon to the pharmacy and countless people suffering from pain worldwide.
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