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Medical Marijuana: A Guide for the Skeptics

July 09, 2021

medical marijuana guide for the skeptics

If you’ve lived in a rather progressive state, chances are that you’ve encountered medical marijuana dispensaries in the past or have at least seen more of these businesses appear as your state has further embraced marijuana usage. For those who are rather new to the concept of medical marijuana or its application for their own medical issues, however, the idea of smoking weed for health purposes can be rather foreign. You may approach it with skepticism and hesitation, even if you are curious as to whether or not it could help you. Is marijuana becoming more accepted in your area? Do you have a condition that you believe may be helped by marijuana? If so, here is a skeptic’s guide to medical marijuana to help you better understand what it is and how it can be used to your advantage. 

The other thing to remember about medical marijuana is renewing your MMJ card. Renewals exist to provide a process for doctors to determine if medical marijuana is working well for their patients and to ensure they are using the drug in a responsible way. .

What is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana can often be a confusing term. After all, you aren’t going to go to your doctor to get a prescription for cannabis! Medical marijuana is simply a term that refers to weed containing high amounts of THC. These high levels of the drug can be applied to certain conditions in order to alleviate the symptoms. Therefore, when marijuana is purchased with a medical purpose in mind rather than to enjoy the recreational benefits that it has to offer, it is called medical marijuana. Compared to states where recreational marijuana is legal, you will often need a referral to purchase from a dispensary. 

What Is Medical Marijuana Used for? 

While we still need to conduct further research on marijuana and its medical benefits, there are a wide variety of conditions that weed is known to help users deal with. Here are some of the most common illnesses and disorders that people purchase medical marijuana for. 

Pain

Marijuana is an excellent analgesic and helps to reduce both the pain that you are feeling as well as the awareness of the pain. People often hold weed in high regard when it comes to dealing with chronic pain as it lacks the addictive and dangerous qualities that come with frequent opiate prescriptions and other medications used to treat serious pain. From pain after surgery to pain within the body that is not treatable, medical marijuana is often a great resource to turn to if you need it. 

Nausea

Nausea is unpleasant and we all experience it from time to time. However, there are some people who are dealing with nausea that poses serious health risks or prolongs certain illnesses as they find themselves unable to hold in liquids and foods. Medical marijuana has been found to be able to combat the effects of nausea and make it so that your body doesn’t feel like it needs to expel its contents, which may prevent vomiting altogether. Nausea may also lead to weight loss, which medical marijuana is known to remedy as well. 

Side Effects of Chemo/Cancer 

Cancer treatment comes with many undesirable side effects. Nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, pain: all of these make it harder for the person to recover over time. Fortunately enough, some people are very responsive to medical marijuana as it helps them to improve their appetite, decrease their levels of pain, and allow them to hold in their food better. Before you use marijuana or any other substance for cancer, however, you should always make sure to speak to your doctor first to make sure that it is okay for you to take given your current course of treatment and overall condition. 

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness characterized by recurring flashbacks and intense feelings of anxiety and dread associated with a period of trauma that happened in a person’s past. When PTSD strikes, the effects can be terrifying to the individual experiencing them. Marijuana can often relieve the intense anxiety and depression that accompanies this disorder and make it easier for the person to deal with episodes when they come. 

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS

At the moment, there is no cure for AIDS and HIV but there are treatment options available that suppress the disease and make it near undetectable. During the stages prior to successful treatment, however, those suffering from this disease can deal with a number of unwanted side effects, including many of those listed here. Medical marijuana may be helpful in alleviating many of these side effects. 

Epilepsy 

Epilepsy is a condition characterized by seizures that can be life-threatening. These seizures stem from abnormal electrical activity in the brain that will often need to be controlled with prescription medication. Additionally, medical marijuana may help to reduce seizure activity by helping to heal and protect certain pathways in the brain. In fact, one cannabinoid present in marijuana, CBD, has received its own FDA-approved drug to treat certain epileptic conditions. 

Neurological Conditions

Beyond epilepsy, medical marijuana may help to heal and protect certain pathways within the brain that could cause other neurological conditions. To be clear, neurological conditions often refer to mental problems associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s Disease. Because neurological conditions are so serious, however, medical marijuana is often more of a supplementary treatment option rather than a main tool to utilize. If you are going to use medical marijuana for this purpose, approach it carefully and make sure that it is appropriate to use for the person receiving it. 

How Does It Help? 

Understanding the way weed works within the body means understanding a hidden system within the body that many are unaware of. Within each of our bodies, there exists a system of receptors attached to our nerves known as the endocannabinoid system. This system accepts chemicals from the brain known as cannabinoids that bind to these receptor sites and give our bodies cues to react a certain way, such as to trigger inflammation or to reduce pain. When we deal with conditions that are overwhelming or our system is not working the way it should be, however, we are more susceptible to certain problems and will require additional cannabinoids to help our body recover and deal with the condition. But what is a cannabinoid? 

Cannabinoids

Because there is a naturally occurring endocannabinoid system within each of our bodies, this means that we produce our own cannabinoids, known aptly as endocannabinoids. However, there are also cannabinoids found in nature known as phytocannabinoids. These cannabinoids are found in high quantities in hemp plants and can be introduced into our systems to provide the same benefits. THC, for example, is a cannabinoid but it is not the only cannabinoid and it is one that reacts differently than other phytocannabinoids. 

Endocanninboid System – CB1 and CB2 Receptors

This is due to the fact that there are different receptors within the endocannabinoid system: CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are largely present in the brain (but are also found throughout the body) while CB2 receptors are largely based within the body. Cannabinoids like THC will mostly affect the CB1 receptors, which produces the characteristic psychoactive properties that occur when you smoke weed, while other cannabinoids like CBD will affect CB2 receptors and lack the mental high. Understanding this system helps you to better understand how you can benefit from medical marijuana’s effects on your body. 

How Do You Get Medical Marijuana?

Getting medical marijuana depends on where you reside and what the laws are in that area. If you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, you will first need to get a written recommendation from a doctor for medical marijuana for your condition. You will then have to take that recommendation (and possibly a medical marijuana ID) to a dispensary near you. The dispensary will have a large selection of weed and weed-related products to choose from so that you can choose a marijuana experience best suited for your needs. 

If you live in a state where recreational use is allowed and you are of legal age, you may be able to skip the recommendation process entirely and simply use your ID to gain access to a local dispensary. Since marijuana is marijuana, you can then research an option that is high in THC and will provide the same experience and benefits for your condition. 

Is It FDA Approved?

In order to become FDA-approved, a potential medication must first undergo mass clinical trials to prove its efficacy in treating a certain disorder. Unfortunately, medical marijuana has not been put through this process and is, therefore, not something that can be medically prescribed. This poses an additional problem when it comes to receiving a recommendation as not all doctors may be willing to provide you with a recommendation. Know this when you attempt to start trying to purchase medical marijuana. 

Side Effects of Medical Marijuana 

The great thing about marijuana is that it is not something that you can overdose on and it is not a drug that comes with dangerous side effects. This is why it is often recommended in lieu of other prescription medications that are dangerous when used frequently over time. However, that is not to say that it doesn’t come with side effects. There are some side effects that may make it undesirable for certain people. Here are some things that you should know about before smoking medical marijuana or using THC-based products. 

Cognitive Effects

The most obvious side effect that comes with using marijuana is getting high. Depending upon the strain you use and how much THC you absorb, there are different kinds of highs. For example, Indica strains will provide you with a more relaxed, couch-lock high while strains like Sativa will provide you with an uplifting, energetic high. At any level, too much weed is not great and will leave you incapacitated at best. For some, getting high isn’t a concern because they may be at home and don’t have to do anything. For others, productivity in their daily lives is a must and getting high isn’t something that is possible for them. Some may not even like getting high at all! If getting high isn’t a possibility for you, it is doubtful that medical marijuana is the right treatment option to pursue. 

Perception

Although no one would describe marijuana as a hallucinogenic, there is no doubt that it has psychoactive effects and can change the way that you experience life. This both a beneficial and harmful side effects as it can impact certain people differently. For most, this may result in paranoia that can make it hard to enjoy the experience. For other individuals, smoking weed can result in higher anxiety or more depressive thoughts, which is not recommended for anyone dealing with a mental illness who has had a negative experience with drugs before or who is currently taking medication for their mental health disorder. As with getting high, some people may not like their thoughts when they smoke weed. This is another side effect that you should be wary of when you first smoke weed or consider using medical marijuana. 

Conclusion

Marijuana (as a recreational drug) often has a negative reputation in our society. As a medical drug, however, many are already well-aware of some of the benefits that marijuana has to offer and see it as a healing drug rather than as something that should be banned and criticized, such as true street drugs like cocaine or heroin. That said, the negative reputation of marijuana can often deter those who may need it from approaching the industry and trying to see what cannabis can do from them. 

If you are one of those individuals who want to learn more about the medical applications of cannabis and see how it could help you but are too concerned about its reputation or are too embarrassed to begin learning how you can get some weed yourself, use the guide above to learn more about whether or not marijuana is the right choice for you. If you find that it is, reach out to your doctor or visit a local dispensary to start your own healing journey.