Pharmaceutical drug addiction is at an all-time high across America. According to the CDC, 70% of adults aged 40-79 used at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days. Incredibly, up to 20% of people in this demographic used five prescription drugs.
It is no surprise to learn that the American pharmaceutical industry is the biggest in the world.
In 2017, over 70,000 people died from a drug overdose in the U.S. and 68% of these deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid. This is one of the reasons why an increasing number of people want to use marijuana. Perhaps it is an adequate replacement for some of the most addictive pills on the market?
The prohibition on weed means it is difficult to find detailed research. However, the studies to date show promise. Perhaps in a few years, medical professionals could discover extensive evidence of weed’s efficacy for specific conditions. In this article, we look at five medical conditions that cannabis could treat. So, drop the pills and take a look!
What Is Cannabis?
Possibly the most controversial plant in existence, cannabis is potentially millions of years old. Most experts now agree that humankind has used it for at least 12,000 years. While its uses have developed over time, the stigma remains attached in many parts of the world.
At one time, we used it to build materials. Today, cannabis and its cannabinoids are regularly used for the treatment of a variety of debilitating conditions. The cannabinoid, THC, is primarily responsible for the intoxicating ‘high’ that causes so much fear! However, research indicates that THC could also have therapeutic benefits.
Research is ongoing and may gather pace in the next few years. However, continued federal prohibition makes it tough for researchers to conduct clinical trials. Many of the most relevant studies take place in European nations. In these places, restrictions on research are less stringent.
At the time of writing, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states plus D.C. Bear in mind that California was the first in 1996. Since then, the public has changed their collective minds on weed. It is irresponsible to claim that marijuana treats or cures medical conditions. However, research is heading in that direction.
What Can Cannabis Help With?
Cannabis is accredited with helping dozens of conditions. However, we must await more substantial research. At present, there is at least some evidence that it relieves symptoms of the following conditions:
- Chronic Pain
- Crohn’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
The above are just a handful of what researchers are analyzing. It is already enough for marijuana advocates to begin calling for full legalization. The admittedly limited evidence is also plenty for those who want to swap prescription medication for weed.
Cannabis as a Replacement for Pills?
Research from Statista suggests that America holds an incredible 45% of the global pharmaceutical market. Remember, the U.S. comprises less than 5% of the world’s population! In 2016, experts valued this share at $446 billion! The global market was worth $934 billion in 2017. It will reach $1.17 trillion by 2021.
America will undoubtedly experience similar growth. It is equally assured that Big Pharma will do everything to stop marijuana legalization. Or, in the case of GW Pharmaceuticals, join the industry.
It is no secret that Big Pharma has millions of patients reliant on drugs to get through their daily routines. For some, it may start as a short-term treatment for a condition. However, it often turns into a long-term addiction, bringing with it a host of unpleasant side-effects.
The statistics surrounding some of the top prescribed drugs in America are frightening. Pharmaceuticals such as Zoloft, Ambien, Adderall, Xanax, and Vicodin are all mostly over-prescribed and over abused. The result is mass addiction, and in many cases, overdose and death.
Could marijuana provide a similar level of relief as prescription drugs?
Early research indicates that pot and its cannabinoids have the potential to provide the following therapeutic benefits:
It is mind-blowing to think one plant can produce such an impressive list of benefits. It could take years to prove these claims, of course. However, let’s take a look at the research so far.
Five Medical Conditions You Could Potentially Treat with Cannabis
Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system. It affects around 3.4 million Americans or 1.2% of the population. The condition is incredibly difficult to live with. It is often unpredictable and has a considerable impact on the sufferer’s daily life. Epilepsy is categorized by convulsions, loss of consciousness, and seizures.
Studies have shown that very few current epilepsy medications manage to suppress seizures. Indeed, these drugs often lead to adverse effects that can cause further distress to the patient. There is a strong possibility that marijuana’s safety profile is superior to that of most pharmaceutical drugs. Once again, we need more scientific evidence to strengthen this claim.
Fewer adverse effects are one of the primary reasons for using weed, according to its proponents. Epilepsy is one of the best-researched conditions concerning marijuana. It could reduce seizures more effectively than pharma drugs, with less severe adverse effects.
Cannabis as a Treatment for Epilepsy
Cannabis studies often look at conditions such as Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS) and Dravet Syndrome. Both are predominantly found in children. One of the main symptoms is a vast number of debilitating seizures.
The cannabinoid, CBD, appears to have the most significant promise. Cannabidiol is a non-intoxicating compound found in hemp and marijuana. As such, it is potentially a suitable treatment for children.
A study by Thiele et al., published in Epilepsia in March 2019, looked at how CBD affected Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome patients. They received 100mg of highly purified Epidiolex, to begin with. This pharmaceutical drug is the only CBD product approved by the FDA.
The researchers titrated the dose from 2.5mg/kg to 20mg/kg per day across two weeks. All but two of the 368 patients completed the study. 88% of patients/caregivers reported an improvement in the overall condition of the patient. The median reduction in seizures ranged from 48% to 57% over 12 weeks. The most common side effect was diarrhea.
2. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects around 400,000 Americans! Interestingly, the Multiple Sclerosis Society has addressed the use of the herb as a possible treatment. In particular, the focus is on the use of CBD in MS patients. The MSS says that around 20% of MS sufferers use cannabis to treat their condition. This figure is likely to increase as various states lift their restrictions.
Multiple sclerosis is highly unpredictable. It happens when the body’s immune system attacks the fibers of the central nervous system. Those who have MS tend to suffer from chronic pain throughout the body. Other symptoms include muscle spasms, dizziness, and balance problems, and weakness or fatigue.
Cannabis as a Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
Conventional treatments for MS include pharmaceutical drugs and physiotherapy. Once again, Big Pharma does little to aid the patient, and drugs often have a slew of side effects. The possible anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana could help MS patients, however. Potential positive effects include a dramatic reduction in stiffness and spasms.
It seems as if cannabis could combat the inflammation of neural tissue, which occurs in MS sufferers. It may also aid in digestive issues and depression, two widespread side effects of MS.
A study by Frenchin-Mallada, published in Neurodegenerative Disease Management in June 2018, looked at how THC could aid MS patients. The Spanish researcher evaluated the evolution in the activities of daily living (ADL) in MS patients. The patients used Sativex, an FDA-approved oromucosal spray that contains THC and CBD. Overall, almost 97% of patients reported a positive change in ADL across 32 months.
Anxiety is a blanket term that describes feelings of worry, nervousness, and tension. While it is reasonable to feel these things occasionally, it becomes a problem if your life is spent like this. There are multiple types of anxiety disorders, including GAD, PTSD, OCD, and phobic anxiety disorders.
Cannabis as a Treatment for Anxiety
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recently released data on anxiety disorders. It said that up to 18% of American adults have one! Treatment options include medication, therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants have the usual array of side effects.
This is why countless Americans now turn to cannabis as an alternative. The belief is that marijuana can help relax body and mind. Turna et al. conducted a survey that looked at weed use behaviors and the prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms. The research featured in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in April 2019. The Canadian team found that marijuana was potentially useful in anxiety disorders. Users also stated that they didn’t feel an inability to control their usage.
4. Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is an incredibly difficult and sometimes debilitating condition to live with. It is often overlooked as a serious medical condition due to its long-lasting nature. Furthermore, it is difficult to attribute to a specific injury or disease in many cases.
It is an incredibly common condition, however. This is mostly reflected in the dramatic increase in opioid use since 1999. 47,600 people died from an opioid overdose in 2018. Could marijuana provide benefits without the risk of overdosing?
Cannabis as a Treatment for Chronic Pain
Like epilepsy, there is ample research into cannabis’ effect on chronic pain. Marijuana could reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a common cause of chronic pain.
Dr. Donald Abrams, Chief of Oncology at San Francisco General hospital, backs cannabis as a potential treatment. He said:
“Given the safety profile of cannabis compared to opioids, cannabis appears to be far safer.”
A study by Boehnke et al., published in Health Affairs (Project Hope) in February 2019, looked at the qualifying conditions of MMJ license holders in the U.S. The researchers found that 65% of medical marijuana patients use the herb to combat pain.
Furthermore, a study by Palmieri et al., published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice in June 2019, looked at Bedrocan’s effect on pain. Bedrocan is a general cannabis preparation. The Italian study gave 20 patients the oil twice a day for three months.
From baseline to six months after treatment, the researchers found a reduction in pain amongst the patients. They concluded that marijuana is “potentially therapeutically effective and safe for the symptomatic treatment” of certain chronic diseases.
5. Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is an incredibly unpleasant condition. It affects the intestines, causing severe inflammation, which can cause debilitating side effects.
Often discussed alongside inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), 780,000 Americans suffer from the condition. Typical symptoms of Crohn’s are:
- Severe constipation
- Severe diarrhea
- Bloody stools
- Severe abdominal pain
There is much we are yet to understand about this condition. However, we know that the most apparent trigger is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. This often leads to further complications over time due to the body’s inability to absorb vital nutrients.
Cannabis as a Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
Once again, marijuana’s possible anti-inflammatory effects are useful. The herb is a common option for many digestive problems from IBD and IBS to Crohn’s. Traditional treatments for the condition aim to reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system.
However, the apparent side effects of these are often unbearable. With a consistently weak immune system, patients become vulnerable to a whole host of diseases! Cannabis could offer anti-inflammatory traits, with none of the risks that current treatments pose.
A study by Mbachi et al., published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences in October 2019, looked at marijuana use and complications related to Crohn’s. Researchers compared 615 marijuana users to those who did not use weed. The research team concluded that marijuana use could mitigate several of the best-known complications of the disease.
Final Thoughts On Cannabis as a Replacement for Pills
We appreciate that cannabis isn’t for everyone. Many patients may feel they get everything they need from their prescription medication. However, recent research provides an insight into the possible long-term benefits of switching to cannabis.
Studies are ongoing, but an increasing number of medical professionals prescribe marijuana to patients.
Do you have one of the conditions outlined above? Do you live in a legal state? If so, talk to your doctor about the possibility of using medical marijuana. Listen to what they say before making a decision. If you want to proceed, it is time to apply for an MMJ card in your state.