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Cannabis is highly effective for cancer pain and the side effects of cancer treatment — nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss, says Donald Abrams, an oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco and a longtime advocate of medical marijuana. “There’s no question in my mind, it works,” Abrams says. “I was on the NASEM committee that reviewed the evidence.”

by Sari Harrar, AARP, September 3, 2019 | Comments: 0

More than 600,000 Americans turn to cannabis for relief from chronic pain — and the scientific evidence for its effectiveness is substantial. In gold-standard randomized clinical trials of people who had agonizing health concerns — peripheral neuropathy (nerve pain from diabetes), spinal cord injury, HIV or complex regional pain syndrome, cancer, chemotherapy, muscle and joint problems, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis — cannabis reduced pain by 40 percent, according to the 2017 NASEM report.

Cancer pain

For now, small studies and surveys hint at benefits and problems — especially for depression. The good news: In a 2018 Washington State University online survey of 3,151 medical marijuana users with depression, in-the-moment symptoms improved by 50 percent after just two puffs of generally low-THC, high-CBD pot. As with any drug, dosage matters: More wasn’t better. The bad news: Over time, their ongoing depression worsened somewhat. Regular use may change cannabinoid receptors in the brain, boosting vulnerability to dark moods, the researchers note. Stopping can reverse it.

Note: Potency varies by strain and form, and it can often be tough to gauge a patient’s tolerance. So before a patient engages in a cannabis-based medical treatment, he or she should consult their doctor and approach with caution; there’s limited scientific research and, as with any medication, the effects vary by user.

En español | Evaluating medical marijuana research disease by disease is not easy, hampered as it is by the federal government’s ban on government-supported data collection. Observational studies — in which users simply report their experiences — may look rosy. Animal and test-tube studies also can sound promising. But plenty of stuff that helps mice or a clump of cells in a petri dish may not help us humans. Despite these obstacles, there are some conditions and diseases for which cannabis is clearly a useful treatment. Others, not so much.

Cannabis has potential for people with PTSD. THC and CBD may soften “fear memories” that flood the brain in response to PTSD triggers (such as a sudden loud noise), say researchers from the National Center for PTSD in Palo Alto, California. Taking THC at night meant fewer and less intense nightmares for 47 people with PTSD in a 2009 clinical trial in Canada.

Researchers are studying whether medical marijuana can help treat a number of conditions including:

States that allow restricted use only include: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina,South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

How does it help?

Limited research suggests cannabinoids might:

Drug Enforcement Administration: “Drug Schedules.”

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia:

Marijuana is currently legal, on the state level, in 29 states, and in Washington, DC. It is still illegal from the federal government’s perspective. The Obama administration did not make prosecuting medical marijuana even a minor priority. President Donald Trump promised not to interfere with people who use medical marijuana, though his administration is currently threatening to reverse this policy. About 85% of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, and it is estimated that at least several million Americans currently use it.

This is not intended to be an inclusive list, but rather to give a brief survey of the types of conditions for which medical marijuana can provide relief. As with all remedies, claims of effectiveness should be critically evaluated and treated with caution.

Marijuana without the high

Patients do, however, report many benefits of CBD, from relieving insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and pain to treating potentially life-threatening conditions such as epilepsy. One particular form of childhood epilepsy called Dravet syndrome is almost impossible to control but responds dramatically to a CBD-dominant strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web. The videos of this are dramatic.

My advice for patients is to be entirely open and honest with your physicians and to have high expectations of them. Tell them that you consider this to be part of your care and that you expect them to be educated about it, and to be able to at least point you in the direction of the information you need.

Along these lines, marijuana is said to be a fantastic muscle relaxant, and people swear by its ability to lessen tremors in Parkinson’s disease. I have also heard of its use quite successfully for fibromyalgia, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and most other conditions where the final common pathway is chronic pain.