Marijuana is an illegal drug. Most people use it to get high. In some instances, marijuana is used for medical purposes. Medical marijuana is legal in certain U.S. states. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana for treating any health conditions. Medical marijuana contains THC. This substance (cannabinoid) affects your brain. It’s what makes you high. Different varieties of medical marijuana have different levels of THC. This can cause different reactions.
Medical marijuana is consumed by:
- eating (added to foods)
- drinking (added as a liquid extract to drinks or applied to the tongue)
The effects differ from whether it is smoked or eaten.
Medical marijuana is sometimes used for:
- Pain relief. It is used for serious chronic diseases and conditions. That might include pain from nerve damage or cancer.
- Nausea control. It is often used by people receiving chemotherapy for cancer. The treatment causes severe nausea and vomiting.
- Appetite improvement. This is important for people with HIV/AIDS and cancer.
Some studies suggest medical marijuana can help ease the symptoms of:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Glaucoma (not a long-term solution)
Path to improved well being
The FDA has approved some medicines that contain THC or cannabidiol (CBD):
- Dronabinol and nabilone. These pills contain THC. They are used to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and increase appetite in patients with HIV/AIDS.
- This liquid medicine contains CBD. is for the treatment of two forms of severe pediatric epilepsy. This includes Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
This medicine has not been approved by the FDA but is available to purchase.
- This is a mouth spray. It contains both THC and CBD. It’s used to treat muscle problems caused by MS. This medicine is not FDA-approved.
If you live in a state where marijuana is legal, you will need a health professional’s statement to buy it. This statement must include your medical condition and side effects. Your name will then be added to a state list that lets you buy marijuana from an authorized provider.
Things to consider
The physical and emotional side effects of medical marijuana are similar to recreational use. They include.
- Fast or irregular heartbeat.
- Slowed response time.
- Lung irritation.
- A false sense of happiness or well-being.
- Memory loss (short-term).
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Decreased or increased anxiety.
Certain types of risky behavior are tied to the use of marijuana, including:
- Dangerous driving.
- Addiction to marijuana.
Some people should not use medical marijuana. These people include:
- People with heart disease.
- Women who are pregnant.
- Anyone with a history of mental illness.
Also, keep in mind that marijuana is not FDA approved or regulated. As a result, the amount of THC/CBD is not confirmed and may be different from what is stated by dispensaries. There may be other substances in the sold product, too, because they are not inspected by the FDA.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Can children use marijuana for medical purposes?
- Can I use it in a state where it is illegal if I have a written statement?
- Is it dangerous to drive or operate machinery when using it?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.