Medical conditions and the health benefits of cannabis
Some patients have found the following to be true
Some patients have found the following to be true
Cannabinoids appear to regulate eating behavior at several levels within the brain and the intestinal system. Appetite stimulation by cannabinoids has been studied for several decades, particularly in relation to cachexia and malnutrition associated with cancer. The overwhelming evidence of hunger-inducing properties of cannabinoids in the physical condition of appetite loss known as cachexia is well-established. Marinol (dronabinol) is FDA approved for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with HIV/AIDS. Early studies of dronabinol in this population showed promising increases in caloric intake and stabilization or gains in weight, and many patients with AIDS continue to use medical marijuana as an appetite stimulant.
Cannabinoids may have minimal appetite stimulation effect in cases of classic anorexia nervosa.
Very few trials have studied cannabinoids for this condition. A pilot study of nine outpatients with anorexia nervosa treated with THC showed a significant improvement in depression and perfectionism scores without any significant weight gain. It is unclear whether the physiologic response to cannabinoids differs in anorexia nervosa patients from the normal response, or whether the effect of cannabinoids is insufficient to overcome the strong drive for weight loss that these patients have.
When marijuana is used to stimulate appetite, often one puff, smoked or vaporized is enough to be effective. It is important to take regular breaks from marijuana use, of a few days, so that your body does not become dependent on cannabis to tell it when to be hungry.
Research has shown that cannabinoids act as neuroprotective agents and anti-oxidants for nerve cells. The effect of cannabinoids on Alzheimer’s Disease has been studied in several laboratories globally in the past few years. Their findings concur that cannabinoids may slow the progression of AD. In addition, marijuana has also been shown to help appetite and weight gain in Alzheimer’s patients with anorexia.
Scientists at Scripps Institute have found that THC inhibits the formation of amyloid plaque, the primary pathological marker for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the study said, THC is “a considerably superior inhibitor of [amyloid plaque] aggregation” to several currently approved drugs for treating the disease.” THC inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which acts as a “molecular chaperone” to accelerate the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of Alzheimer patients. The use of cannabis in Alzheimer’s Disease should be used with caution, as it’s psychoactive properties can be disorienting. High CBD stains would be the best choice to avoid this.
There are as many varied responses to using marijuana for anxiety as there are solutions. A successful treatment for Anxiety or Panic Disorder seems to be more dependent on the individual than the therapy. In fact, some patients report marijuana causing anxiety rather than alleviating it. The 1999 Institute of Medicine report on Marijuana and Medicine repeatedly acknowledges the anti-anxiety affects of marijuana. The anxiety relieving mechanism of marijuana is still unclear and needs further steady. What is clear is that the marijuana relieves some symptoms that are caused by a anxiety or panic disorder. Studies indicate that it is the CBD (cannabidiol) in marijuana and not the THC has anti-anxiety properties.
Clinical research shows that THC acts as a bronchial dilator, clearing blocked air passageways and allowing free breathing. In one study, marijuana, “caused an immediate reversal of exercise-induced asthma and hyperinflation.”
Although smoking is not a good idea for anyone with asthma, smoking cannabis has been found to not be a cause of lung cancer. According to Dr. Donald Tashkin and his colleagues at the University of California in Los Angeles results from a 2006 case-controlled study of 1200 participants demonstrate that even heavy smoking of cannabis is not associated with lung cancer and other types of upper aerodigestive tract cancers. Vaporizing is a preferred method of delivery as it provides direct medicinal action to the lungs upon inhalation. Numerous cases of asthma have been treated successfully with both natural and synthetic THC. Some patients find that they can reduce their use of inhalers with vaporized cannabis.
The use of marijuana to treat this disorder in young people has to include a consideration of the risk/benefit ratio of the effects of cannabis on youth. The efficacy of marijuana to help ADD/ADHD has mixed reviews. There are many factors that are involved in causing an individual’s symptoms beyond whether hyperactivity is or is not part of the picture. For example, if hyperactivity is present, then a calming effect may be helpful, yet for simple ADD a stimulant effect may be more appropriate. Further, there is often the complication of a patient currently taking pharmaceutical medication, or having to adjust to recently stopping his/her medication. In addition, there are many variable effects of marijuana depending on the strain used and preparation method. No wonder it’s hard to know whether marijuana can help in an individual case. If you can understand your own physiology and what your body needs to be balanced then you may know how to choose an appropriate cannabis product to help. Finally, there is always caution in recommending cannabis to youth. This is a personal decision, but it may be fair to say that cannabis would be recommended more to treat adult ADD/ADHD than for a childhood diagnosis. Nevertheless, when faced with the effects of a stimulant versus the effects of marijuana, a more prudent choice may be the herbal compound.
The benefit of cannabis for cancer patients has traditionally been centered upon its relief of nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite that may be a consequence of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In fact, cannabis has often proven more effective than any other medication, and has long been prescribed in the form of Marinol, the only federally approved form of THC. In addition, marijuana is used to treat the chronic pain or depression that may accompany cancer treatments. But, recent scientific research has found that cannabinoids can affect tumor growth as well.
It is generally agreed that if anything, cannabis does not cause cancer, rather in some cases, it may inhibit the growth of tumors. This has best been studied in the case of Gliomas, where cannbinoids have been shown to decrease the growth of these tumors in experimental animals. In a recent (2006) article on the effects of CBD on breast cancer cells, the authors comment,
“To date, cannabinoids have been successfully used in the treatment of nausea and vomiting, two common side effects that accompany chemotherapy in cancer patients. Nevertheless, the use of cannabinoids in oncology might be somehow underestimated since increasing evidence exist that plant, synthetic, and endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) are able to exert a growth-inhibitory action on various cancer cell types.“
Currently researchers are investigating the effects of cannabinoids on several forms of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, skin, and the brain.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a mononeuropathy, a specialized type of neuropathic pain accompanied by swelling and inflammation. Cannabis has been known to be effective for nerve pain since the 1800s. Patients often report that they achieve better control of neuropathic pain with cannabis than with many other medications and can often decrease or eliminate their need for Neurontin or Lyrica. It is also helpful used topically for Carpal Tunnel, applied directly to the inflamed area for pain relief and as an anti-inflammatory without psychoactive effects. Many medical marijuana patients report faster resolution of Carpal Tunnel symptoms by incorporating cannabis into their treatment program.
Cannabis is especially helpful for neuropathic pain, such as that caused by the pressure of a disc upon a nerve, as well as pain and inflammation. It can provide relief from the pain itself, often reduce the amount of opiate medication used, as it has a synergistic effect with pain medications, and it can help with the side effects of other medications, such as nausea, dizziness or gastrointestinal upset. It can be used internally and/or topically, applied directly to the affected area, to provide relief without psychoactive effects.
In a 2005 study of the therapeutic role of cannabis for back pain due to degenerated discs done in the UK, it was found that “64.7%of the patients stated the symptoms of their illness to have‘much improved’ after cannabis ingestion, 29.4%stated to have ‘slightly improved’. 76.4% statedto be ‘very satisfied’ with their therapeutic useof cannabis.”
Some recent studies have linked depression to chronic use of cannabis (several times/day for several years). This idea remains controversial. A 2005 Australian study reviewed thousands of such cannabis users and found normal rates of depression once other factors such as alcohol use, gender, illness, etc. were accounted for. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience published in 2007 showed that cannabinoids elicit antidepressant effects and activate serotonergic neurons at low dose levels. There is currently a debate as to which “strain” of cannabis is most appropriate for the adjunctive treatment of depression. Strain selection is important, because strains that are too sedating may contribute to the lethargy of depression, and could accentuate dysfunctional symptoms. Since symptoms are so individualistic it is hard to determine what strain is right empirically. In general Sativa dominant strains are more uplifting.
Cannabis use has also been used as a method of harm reduction, to substitute for a more detrimental substance use. Rates of depression in substance abusers are three times higher than the normal population. While many substance abusers are self-medicating a depression, studies show that chronic substance abuse itself leads to brain changes and depression.
British researchers reported in the 2003 that the peripheral administration of a synthetic cannabinoid agonist significantly reduced experimentally-induced itch in 12 subjects. In 2006, German researchers reported that 22 patients with prurigo, lichen simplex and pruritus who applied an emollient cream with a cannabinoid agonist the average reduction in itch was 86.4%. “Topical cannabinoid agonists represent a new effective and well-tolerated therapy for refractory itching of various origins. Creams with a higher concentration may be even more effective with broader indications.”
In a 2007 articles entitled “New frontier for medical cannabis — topical pot”, topical THC was reported to act as an anti-inflammatory and help mice heal faster from skin allergies. The use of topical cannabis for skin disorders ranging from itching, to scaling, swelling and redness has been gaining popularity among medical marijuana patients, and often can substitute for steroid creams or other medications.
Cannabis has been shown to be helpful for fibromyalgia in 2 scientific studies. The first randomized, controlled-access trial to evaluate nabilone for pain reduction and quality-of-life improvement in fibromyalgia patients was published in the Journal of Pain in 2006. Nabilone is a cannabinoid drug, available in Canada. The results showed
that the nabilone group had significant reductions in pain and anxiety. In the July 2006 issue of the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, investigators at Germany’s University of Heidelberg evaluated the analgesic effects of oral THC in fibromyalgia patients. Among those participants who completed the trial, all reported a significant reduction in daily recorded pain and electronically induced pain.
As fibromyalgia is a syndrome consisting not only of pain and muscle tension, but also may include insomnia and depression, cannabis is proving to be an efficient single medicine, providing relief otherwise requiring up to 4 pharmaceutical medications. It can be used internally and topically, applied directly to areas of pain.
As far back as 1978 it was shown that acute and long-term cannabis treatment reduced the rate of gastric ulceration in rats subjected to restraint-induced stress. A review of the gastrointestinal effects of cannabinoids in 2001 states “The digestive tract contains endogenous cannabinoids (anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol) and cannabinoid CB1 receptors can be found on myenteric and submucosal nerves. Activation of CB1 receptors inhibits gastrointestinal motility, intestinal secretion and gastric acid secretion” and conclude “The enteric location of CB1 receptors could provide new strategies for the management of gut disorders. In addition to affecting stomach acid, the muscle relaxant properties of cannabis make it useful for GERD, in that the stomach sphincters become more relaxed, thereby reducing reflux. A tincture is a good method of delivery to treat upper digestive disorders as it is absorbed directly into submucosal tissues upon swallowing.
In 1971, during a systematic investigation of its effects in healthy cannabis users, it was observed that cannabis reduces intraocular pressure. It was found that some derivatives of marijuana lowered the intraocular pressure when taken intravenously, by smoking or orally, but not by topical application to the eye. One problem with taking marijuana to treat glaucoma was that it required constant inhalation, as often as every three hours and the ensuing side effects significantly outweighed the benefits. Cannabis decreases intraocular pressure by an average 25-30%, occasionally up to 50%. Some non-psychotropic cannabinoids, and to a lesser extent, some non-cannabinoid constituents of the hemp plant also decrease intraocular pressure.
The mechanism of action to lower IOP is not known.
Based on reviews by the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the Institute of Medicine and on available scientific evidence, the Task Force on Complementary Therapies believes that “no scientific evidence has been found that demonstrates increased benefits and/or diminished risks of marijuana use to treat glaucoma compared with the wide variety of pharmaceutical agents now available.”
The most significant use of cannabis for glaucoma has been in combination with eye drops, as the effects seem to be additive, in that they operate most likely by different mechanisms. A non-psychoactive extract of cannabis was tested in combination with Timolol eye-drops in patients with high IOP in 1980. They found that the effects of the two medications were complementary and were even effective in some cases where other medications had failed. More testing needs to be done to determine how and when cannabinoids are indicated in the treatment of glaucoma.