The Plant Behind the Renown
The number of research projects on marijuana’s chemical structure, and possible benefits have grown over the past decade. The newly manifested interest has led to the plant’s integration in the formulas of numerous products such as concentrates or capsules. Experts are currently conducting studies to assess once and for all marijuana’s mechanism of action, non-psychotropic properties, and benefits.
The Marijuana Plant
After planting, producers wait for about five months before harvesting. This period is enough for releasing the psychotropic and non-psychotropic compounds. THC, the most popular, is responsible for the way people regard the plant. Another important compound, cannabidiol, has started presenting more interest for researchers.
Marijuana’s Main Compounds
Studies conducted on marijuana’s chemical composition indicate that the plant has no less than 500 active compounds known to this date. The majority is constituted by psychotropic constituents such as THC. Around 113 of them are cannabinoids. Additionally, about 2000 compounds such as sugar or amino-acids are released into the air during smoking. While there is data on pretty much every major constituent, researchers have focused more on THC and CBD. Data shows different and even contrasting manners of action of the two substances upon interaction, in spite of being compounds of the same plant.
Marijuana is known as a sedative, analgesic, tonic and intoxicant plant. Indians convert the narcotic into edible substances such as bhang or ganja. Both seeds and leaves have been employed in treatments for cancer patients. Experts believe that marijuana might be successfully integrated with medication for ulcers, asthma, depression, epilepsy, inflammation, insomnia or rheumatism.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health deem the plant as toxic due to the presence of elements such as nicotine and piperidine in its composition. It also contains a series of about 120 terpenes and sesquiterpenes like myrcene or alpha-terpinolene that offer it its aroma.
An overdose of non-processed marijuana might lead to cardiac failure and even death. However, medical marijuana is generally regarded as safe. The impact on the human body is different because of this aspect.
THC is the primary active constituent found in marijuana. Whereas many people use it as a recreational substance, studies point towards multiple side effects due to its pharmacological nature. If the use is prolonged, it can cause addiction. In marijuana, THC is involved in the self-defense mechanism. Data asserts that the element interacts with the body via the CB1 receptor of the endocannabinoid system found in humans. It also acts on the CB2 receptor but to a lesser extent.
The psychoactive properties are the result of mesolimbic dopamine system activation following adenylate cyclase inhibition. In rodents, the compound leads to dependence and triggers the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms due to an increased tolerance to CB1 agonists. In one study, monkey subjects expressed an aggressive behavior after an induced substance withdrawal.
In human models, the psychological response seems to be even more severe with anger, anxiety, weight loss, and cravings as a consequence.
The status of THC as an illegal drug does not impede it from having certain benefits. The substance might protect neurons against the risk of oxidative stress following interaction with the CB2 receptor of the immune system. There is information according to which it might provide relief from nausea in cancer patients following chemotherapy. Later discoveries attribute it a significant role in various treatments, ranging from those for bladder dysfunctions to Alzheimer’s disease and even Tourette syndrome.
Even so, experts have noticed in many of the examined subjects various adverse reactions such as dizziness, disturbed perception, and even hallucinatory experiences. Additional research is needed for the mentioned data to be reliable.
It appears that THC is most potent when inhaled, with the first signs being noticed within thirty minutes from the first inhalation. The degree of bioavailability seems to be lower in the case of oral ingestion. Extended use of tetrahydrocannabinol affects the lungs and liver.
Indirect exposure can occur in the case of people being passive smokers. The substance was also found, albeit in small doses, in the blood and urine of children who drank the milk of cows fed naturally growing cannabis vegetation. Such is the situation of infants whose mothers smoked joints while breastfeeding.
The relevant research concludes that CBD could be successfully integrated with treatments for people with anxiety and depression. Clinical studies suggest that oral administration might lead to different results in the case of rodents and humans due to higher doses being used in the animal ones.
Reduced fertilization is among the reported consequences. Some reviews imply that CBD might impede the activity of drug transporters and inhibit the hepatic drug metabolism. Cannabidiol has been tested in a number of experimental models with autoimmune medical conditions such as hepatitis or multiple sclerosis. Results have shown that it suppresses the body’s inflammatory response by acting on multiple anti-inflammatory pathways at the same time.
How Marijuana Works Inside the Body
Experts have tried integrating medical marijuana in numerous treatments, from those for cancer to those for irritable bowel disease ones. Legalization might be a key aspect in increasing the number of studies on the substance’s chemical structure and benefits.
Can Medical Marijuana Help Diabetes Patients?
It appears that marijuana could be successfully employed in therapies for alleviating neuropathic pain. Smoking marijuana might protect against type 2 Diabetes mellitus (DM) to some extent.
- Past users
- Light current users
- Heavy current users
In another study, experts have shown that usual marijuana use is associated with reduced prevalence of both DM and obesity. The substance’s action was established based on a trial conducted on patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The results suggested a decreased incidence of DM in users (52%) compared to non-users (15%). This does not change the fact that most population-based studies are either inconclusive or not quite detailed. It would be unsafe to draw conclusions on the marijuana use- NAFLD relationship.
Marijuana could be useful in DM patients suffering from neuropathic pain. In a 2-week clinical trial, sixteen subjects aged 18 and older with painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy were exposed to two compounds, namely placebo and either low, medium and high THC doses. Analysis showed possible analgesic effects in most models. Patients confessed to having noticed symptoms such as sleepiness and euphoria after administration.
There are numerous other projects pointing towards no association between marijuana and DM. Additionally, others suggest the substance might actually contribute to diabetes’ occurrence. A case-control study showcased marijuana’s action on past and present smokers, associating it with adipose tissue insulin resistance. There was no difference between smokers and non-smokers regarding insulin insensitivity and glucose tolerance.
Obesity and increased appetite were noticed in animal figures, but it appears that marijuana does not exhibit the same properties in humans. However, existing data links the substance use with a higher risk of diabetes in adults. Controversial conclusions are an item in this domain as well. More research on the association between marijuana and Type 2 diabetes is needed in order to clarify the current pieces of information.
Efficacy in the Case of Cancer Patients
The pharmacological importance of marijuana and its compounds, the cannabinoids, was studied for years before being regarded as promising in the case of people who have cancer.
Recent in vitro studies have shown positive influence on an entire array of tumors such as prostate carcinoma, neuroblastoma, skin carcinoma or thyroid epithelioma. Preclinical projects indicate that THC and CBD are involved in the apoptosis process, and might be helpful in targeting cancerous cells. Notably, CBD is believed to block certain pathways responsible for angiogenesis. Treatments of skin carcinoma revealed the properties it has on cell proliferation and migration. It is worth noting that by acting on the endocannabinoid system’s receptors, CBD exhibited visible anti-tumorigenic properties in rodents.
Cannabinoids could also provide relief from certain chemotherapy-induced symptoms such as insomnia, nausea, vomiting or drastic weight loss.
As of today, synthetic THC is included in therapies for neuropathic pain. In six preclinical trials, experts have found evidence regarding the action of cannabinoids on neuropathic pain. Mice models registered decreased pain levels following a cannabidiol pretreatment. In most animal subjects THC presented an analgesic effect when coupled with moderate doses of morphine. Such was the case with several trials involving patients with cancer-induced neuropathic pain.
In another train of thoughts, one project led by the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research concluded that marijuana might be helpful in neuropathic pain triggered by various diseases. Participants (HIV patients) confessed to having experienced an improved life quality after smoking marijuana cigarettes on a daily basis. Dronabinol (synthesized THC) decreased the pain intensity in most subjects by the end of the research.
On the other hand, a single study conducted on a period of almost 40 years showed that people smoking marijuana were twice as likely to suffer from lung cancer at some point in their lives.
In spite of presenting many benefits, generalized consumption might trigger the emergence of severe adverse effects.
A Non-Conventional Therapy for Bone Problems
The active components in marijuana might play an essential role in bone cell activity. It was shown that via activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors, the substance could stimulate bone formation and inhibit the osteoporosis process.
Experts have reached an opposite conclusion in many other projects. In one study it was shown that massive marijuana smokers had a lower bone density than cigarette smokers. This implies the fact that the substance might actually prepare the onset of osteoporosis in spite of various trials stating otherwise.
Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
Marijuana is a broad-spectrum illegal drug with massive evidence in the domain of psychological research. The mind-altering property of THC is what led to the substance’s status as psychotropic, but researchers have investigated its other compounds as well. It appears that CBD, aside from owning potent stress relieving properties, can counteract THC’s negative manner of action, and act on the nervous system in a positive way.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fourth edition), anxiety disorders are grouped into five main categories:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Each of them has particular traits, but their base seems to be the same: changes on a neurobiological level. Older, as well as recent data, involves the use of marijuana in a series of therapies, the ones for anxiety disorders included. The majority of it emphasizes THC’s action on the CB1 receptor found in the central nervous system. While standardized studies show effects such as euphoria or somnolence in most patients, research suggests that marijuana’s productiveness might be connected to certain factors such as genetics, dosage or underlying medical conditions.
One 3-year population-study conducted on some 8598 Swedish men and women led to the conclusion that cannabinoids and marijuana use might actually increase the incidence of either anxiety or depression. Given the information we have at the moment, it remains uncertain whether marijuana could play a role in the onset of anxiety disorders.
Cardiovascular Health and Marijuana Use
Most preclinical studies show a mild increase in blood pressure following marijuana use.
In contrast, stimulation of the endocannabinoid system via cannabinoid – CB1 receptor interaction seems to contribute to the modulation of various vascular functions. In addition, it appears that regular use, be it in high or low doses, leads to tolerance. Still, this does not diminish the substance’s effects in the least.
In vivo administration in rodents attenuates myocardial dysfunction, and might modulate cardiovascular response in models dealing with stress factors. In healthy individuals, it has an analgesic action; in a single study, researchers have noticed decreased blood pressure upon administration in non-smoking adults with no medical conditions.
Symptoms Relief in Patients With Fibromyalgia
Marijuana is believed to express relieving effects in people suffering from neuropathic pain.
In one study that experts from Arizona have conducted, it was shown that the substance decreased the painful sensations in up to 77% of the patients. Following their introduction to medicinal marijuana, some have admitted that they have experienced ‘a lot or almost complete pain relief.’
Additional information from a project involving 28 users and 28 non-users showed that inhalation and ingestion of medicinal marijuana led to a reduction in fibromyalgia symptoms.
Medical Marijuana and Pulmonary Function
There is evidence that regular use may influence lung function
Participants in various studies confessed to having experienced respiratory issues such as shortness of breath or wheeze. Experts have also noticed airway inflammation and epithelial damage on cells of regular users.
According to seven cases and ten reports, a number of 56 heavy marijuana smokers showed signs of bullous lung disease. No connection was made between substance use and lung cancer.
There is evidence that some smokers might experience chronic bronchitis, a condition often encountered in cigarette smokers. Cessation might improve the patient’s state. Existing data implies that habitual use of marijuana, be it light or frequent, does not bring about the severe implications of cigarette smoking.
In contrast, one study on the effects the substance has on asthma sufferers showed a reduction of exercise-induced asthma following a marijuana and isoproterenol mix administration.
Nonetheless, marijuana as any other illicit substance should be avoided by individuals with pulmonary troubles.
Marijuana and the Treatment of Lupus
When orally ingested, marijuana was shown to reduce lupus’ inflammatory action and provide relief from neuropathic pain.
Marijuana can also help in inflammatory response modulation. Evidence suggests that upon interaction with the CB2 receptor of the immune system, the cannabinoids present in marijuana might increase interleukin-10 levels (an anti-inflammatory cytokine) and decrease interleukin-2 levels (a pro-inflammatory protein).
Research must provide more specific information regarding this domain of action.
Marijuana’s Role in Disruptive Behavior Disorders
Disruptive behavior disorders such as ADHD or ODD are are at the same time an element of concern and stress, both for the one suffering and those close to him. While depressive symptoms are seen in some marijuana users, it appears that exactly this condition represents the link between marijuana use and DBD. The majority of individuals exhibiting signs of DBD suffer from depression.
- Most of the participants indicated the presence of DBD and depression symptoms simultaneously
- There was an alleged correlation between DBD, especially ADHD, and marijuana use
In another online survey, people with ADHD have confessed to experiencing an improvement in their train of thoughts, adding that they regard marijuana use as helpful and therapeutic.
Some adults with ADHD who tried self-medication with cannabinoid-based substances saw a reduction of symptoms.
There is data on marijuana’s side effects on ADHD as well. In a 25-year longitudinal research project, patients with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder who were marijuana users showed increased ADHD symptoms. Contradictory data is further offered to the general public. In another trial, experts have stated that the substance’s impact on persons with the disorder might be more severe than previously thought. Brain development trajectories in young individuals who have tried marijuana could be affected if the consumer does not cease.
A Parkinson’s Disease Therapy
Most clinical trials have concentrated on marijuana’s role in multiple sclerosis patients. Lately, increasing interest in the substance’s employment as part of other neurodegenerative disorders has emerged.
Marijuana might be successfully employed as an additional therapy in people with brain diseases. Whereas more evidence is required, experts suggest that cannabinoids might act on and even help in the recovery of the same neurological pathways that Parkinson’s disease affects. Additionally, medicinal marijuana provides relief from neuropathic pain, might have muscle-relaxing properties and improves the patient’s general state. In a 2014 study, people who have smoked marijuana have experienced a decrease in tremors and pain within 30 minutes from administration.
Complementary projects point towards adverse effects as well. The endocannabinoid system, among other physiological functions, is known to modulate mood and motor control. People with Parkinson’s disease who were usual smokers showed impaired movements and mood changes. Moreover, supplementary health concerns such as memory issues, hallucinations or cardiac problems may occur at any time. Approved use of medicinal marijuana in patients who have Alzheimer’s disease is long awaited as well.
Marijuana Cannabinoids and the Digestive Tract’s Health
The marijuana plant has grown in popularity in the recent years due to its status as possible anti-inflammatory bowel disease agent. Evidence on the cannabinoids’ mechanism of action shows modulation of the human endocannabinoid system and ulterior therapeutic value. The digestive tract contains a considerable amount of endocannabinoids and synthesizing enzymes.
Therapeutic use has been noticed in patients suffering from Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Medicinal marijuana use led to a certain remission of inflammatory bowel disease symptoms. People with IDB have noticed a decrease in abdominal and joint pain, a better appetite and less nausea. The substance might be effective as an additional treatment for cancer patients. More research is compulsory to justify the existing data.
Medicinal Marijuana: Side Effects
Although a handful of clinical studies pinpoint marijuana’s benefits on health and well-being, there are critics of the substance who claim that the negative aspects have prevalence when it comes to medical treatments.
Like many other illegal drugs, marijuana can lead to addiction; moreover, users tend to overdose, something which could be life-threatening. Increased mortality rate due to heavy marijuana consumption is a main topic of discussion these days.
We have listed a series of side effects below, ranging from lighter to more severe:
- Memory issues
- Poor sleep
- Lack of appetite and subsequent weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety and even paranoia
- Impaired thinking and physical movement
- Respiratory tract infections
- Irritation of the bronchial tissue
- Higher risk of lung cancer
Research shows a connection between marijuana use and development of antisocial behavior, increase in anxiety and depression rates and even suicidal thoughts.
Issues of Administration
Is Medical Marijuana Taxed?
As of 2017, the Canadian federal government proposed a plan according to which both patients and cultivators should pay an excise tax on medical marijuana. The tax is supposed to be around 10% of the final retail price. In the U.S., numerous states have done the same. In 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health approved use in patients with severe medical conditions and required growers to pay a 5% tax on the sale of marijuana. California regulated marijuana use in the same year, demanding payment of a 15% excise tax. Massachusetts, Nevada, and Colorado are few of the states that followed its example.
On the other hand, the European countries seem to be more permissive and aware of its effects on one’s health and well-being.
Nowadays, an increasing number of European leaders, including those of Germany or Italy, deem medical marijuana as safe to use. There were some problems related to its recent legalization in France, which might sound weird, judging by the high number of people who have confessed to using it, although there was no legal basis for them to do so. Moreover, several French governors used a term that is far from the actual truth when they were referring to marijuana: “ the devil’s plant”. What is so evil about it? We have yet to find out.
Numerous research projects show that its powerful compounds can treat a series of severe diseases of which we shall name a few: migraines, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, inflammation or brain tumors.
In addition, researchers are currently conducting studies to see if medical marijuana can alleviate symptoms of or even treat HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease or numerous other mental disorders.
What makes medical marijuana so efficient? Its structure is comprised of more than 100 cannabinoids. They are compounds which the body naturally produces as a means to fight pain. This might be one of the reasons why specialists assume legalized marijuana is fully safe. The most important such constituent is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) a pain-relieving ingredient as well as marijuana’s main compound.
THC’s mechanism of action is a rather clear one: once the body absorbs it, THC attaches to certain receptors responsible for pleasure, movement, sensorial perception and concentration. By altering the mind’s understanding in regards to the degree of pain, medical marijuana stimulates the dopamine production, inducing a state of relaxation. Often times, how one feels following administration depends on the dosage.
As more countries from all over the world have decided that legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana is the best choice, it is only normal for the number of studies conducted on its structure to increase.
Inappropriate use of dangerous drugs can hardly be restricted, given there is an entire million-dollar market behind it. Even the abusive consumption of marijuana can lead to severe issues, if not used for medicinal purposes. Properly-conducted research projects could be the primary factor in deciding if medical marijuana is truly useful.
Buying Medical Marijuana
Often, buying online might be misleading. Buyers can receive products that are dangerous concerning dosage and composition. People who have never tried the substance before might make mistakes in picking the right quantity, something which might put one’s health and life in danger. Additionally, the CBD content on the label of some products might not be the same as the one it actually contains. One study showed higher CBD concentrations than indicated on the label.
On the U.S. territory, there are numerous regulated marijuana dispensaries from which one can buy marijuana. They can be found anywhere in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut to California, Colorado, and Arizona. The stores are not FDA approved nor are they legally registered by the federal government.
Most people who buy medical marijuana, as well as those cultivating it need a card which allows them to do so in spite of uncertain safety status. The card has a 12-month validity and can be used in all areas where marijuana has been legalized in spite of being issued by a certain state.
In terms of economic impact, it seems that buying marijuana brought about changes on a national level, at least on the U.S. territory. In Colorado, tax revenue hit the $70 million mark in 2015, while in Washington it exceeded $380 million. Legalization of the substance has led to the creation of new jobs, increased tourism and decreased criminality rate by 10% only in 2017.
Currently, there is an array of products containing marijuana, although their purpose is rarely medicinal. They include concentrates, vapor pens, topicals, capsules, and edibles.