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ADHD is a condition which encompasses a wide range of symptoms including inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Research on the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of ADHD is limited however a number of preclinical studies have provided evidence of marijuana’s potential as a treatment for this disorder. The strongest evidence comes from research which shows that the endocannabinoid system can influence dopamine levels in the brain which may be altered in patients with ADHD. A study published in 2009 found that anandamide levels (one of the cannabinoids that are naturally found in humans) were higher in patients with ADHD. This seems to indicate that the human body may naturally produce more endocannabinoids in an attempt to counter the symptoms of ADHD, leading researchers to believe that the endocannabinoid system could be effective in the treatment of this disorder. Furthermore, studies show that cannabinoid receptors are found in higher density in areas of the brain that are linked to ADHD, specifically the amygdala and hippocampus regions.
It’s no secret that marijuana helps to increase appetite, but its potential to treat anorexia is not that simple. Research suggests anorexia leads to changes in the brain, specifically pathways which are part of the endocannabinoid system. A recent study in Belgium concluded that change in the brain’s cannabinoid system likely takes place as an effect, rather than a cause of anorexia. Specifically, their findings suggest that the body creates more receptors to compensate for a “chronically hypoactive” endocannabinoid system in cases of anorexia. But these changes may only be temporary, since receptors rebounded to normal levels after the experiments stopped. The endocannabinoid system acts as a regulator of appetite. Some scientists believe that the body may produce lower levels of cannabiniods in order to improve the ability to survive during prolonged starvation or anorexic states. Therefore, patients with anorexia may experience a natural decrease in appetite because of changes that occur in the brain.
Scientists now understand that a cannabinoid molecule known as cannabidiol, or CBD, is responsible for many of the anxiety-relieving effects of marijuana. CBD, like the more well-known cannabinoid THC, is one of over 100 such molecules found in the marijuana plant. CBD has been shown to act on natural receptors that are found in our nervous system known as CB1 receptors. Marijuana can reduce anxiety because of its effect on the cannabinoid receptors compensating for the reduction in the production of natural endocannabinoids, specifically in the amygdala which is the part of the brain that is involved in regulating anxiety and the fight-or-flight response. A study led by Dr Sachin Patel and published in The Journal Neuron, showed for the first time how nerve cells in this part of the brain make and release their own natural ‘endocannabinoids’. The natural endocannabinoid system regulates anxiety and the response to stress by dampening signals in the brain.
Marijuana contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds as well as natural analgesics making it a very beneficial treatment for arthritis. In 2000, researchers found that cannabidiol "effectively blocked progression of arthritis" in animal trials. In a 2005 study, THC and cannabidiol were found to produce improvements in pain and reduce disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in 2008 was able to show for the first time that cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are present in the knee joints of patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The study identified the presence of two endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in the synovial fluid of arthritis patients, but not in samples taken from healthy volunteers. Endocannabinoids are known to be synthesized and released by the body in response to inflammatory conditions, suggesting that activity of the endocannabinoid system may be one of the body’s natural mechanisms for fighting arthritis.
Patients with asthma take extra caution when it comes to smoking anything, since asthma is a potentially life-threatening disorder that can severely disrupt one’s breathing. While it may seem logical for asthmatics to avoid marijuana, research seems to support the opposite – that is, marijuana could be an effective treatment for asthma. Research has shown marijuana to be effective at reversing the bronchoconstriction in patients with asthma. Studies have identified CB1 receptors on nerve cells of the airway, suggesting a role of cannabinoid receptors in the contraction of airway muscles. Naturally occurring cannabinoids which mimic the effects of THC, such as anandamide, may also be able to control the contraction of airway muscles by activating CB1 receptors. THC provides the same therapeutic benefits as natural cannabinoids, but with a stronger and longer-lasting effect. THC has shown to elicit similar effects on the airway regardless of the route of administration.
There are few things in life more frightening than receiving a cancer diagnosis. The benefits of marijuana for cancer patients are clear when it comes to increased appetite, reduction of pain, wasting, vomiting and nausea, and depression. Although its anticarcinogenic effects are not quite as clear, ongoing research further points to the possibility that marijuana may have anti-tumor properties. Research in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells. When given along with chemotherapy, cannabidiol may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells.
Research shows marijuana is a safe and effective way to ease chronic pain from various medical conditions. Studies in chronic pain of both neuropathic and inflammatory origin have found marijuana to be effective treatment. Cannabinoids are involved in the release of endogenous opioids which moderate pain. The pain mediation responses of marijuana are related to the location of CB1 receptors in central nervous system and peripheral nerves. CB2 receptors are active in both acute and chronic pain, especially that of inflammatory origin. While some studies have suggested that cannabis is no more effective than codeine in controlling pain, the side effect profile of marijuana versus narcotic pain relievers shows that marijuana is a safer option to control chronic pain.
Depression is a medical illness that can lead to a variety of emotional as well as physical problems. It is a chronic condition that often requires long-term treatment. Depression may be treated in a variety of ways, most commonly with psychological counseling and prescription drugs. Unfortunately, antidepressant medications are associated with a wide variety of very serious side effects that make them unacceptable to many patients. These side effects range from blurred vision and constipation to fatigue and impaired thinking to headaches and sexual problems to liver failure and suicide. As a result of their frustration with these pharmaceutical drug side effects, many patients seek out a safer, more natural alternative, such as medical marijuana.
Marijuana has had a long history in the prevention and treatment of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition in which increased pressure in the eyeball, damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. The pressure lowering effects of marijuana have been thought to be through the action of the central nervous system. More current research has shows that there are cannabinoid receptors within the eye which suggests that the endocannabinoid system may have dictation over the aqueous humour outflow and production. Other research findings have shown that the vaso-dilatory effects of marijuana in the eye are helpful for aqueous humoural outflow. Marijuana significantly reduces the pressure inside the eye and may slow the progression of the disease, preventing loss of vision.
Insomnia means having a hard time getting to sleep, staying asleep, or both. Many patients report that when compared to conventional sleep medications, marijuana works better, is not habit-forming, and leaves them having less side effects the next day. Although most adults have experienced these types of symptoms at one time or another, an estimated 30%–50% of the general population has some degree of insomnia, and 10% have chronic insomnia. Research shows that the cannabinoid CBD helps with sleep better than THC. When using marijuana for insomnia, it is important to keep in mind which strain to use. Most patients find that Indica strains are more relaxing with a pronounced sedative quality. Inhaled cannabis – preferably smoke-free vapor – generally provides an immediate effect and lasts for about 3–4 hours. Edible or ingested cannabis, on the other hand, takes up to an hour to have an effect, but lasts for up to 6–8 hours. Therefore, an edible marijuana product, taken about an hour before bedtime, can work very well to help get a full night sleep.
Migraines are a severe form of headache that are estimated to affect 15% of the worldwide population. Patients describe the attacks as throbbing sensations in a specific area of the head, usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. The effect of marijuana on cannabinoid receptors has been shown to have a positive impact on a wide range of factors involved with migraine headaches such as inflammation, pain, and nausea. It also affects blood vessels by reducing muscle cramps that can accompany migraines; and it lessens anxiety which can worsen the symptoms of migraines. Experts have also suggested that a lack of endocannabinoids may contribute to the development and severity of migraine attacks. Many patients report that the other benefits of marijuana, like improved sleep and less anxiety, reduce the frequency of their migraines. THC binds to the
It has been proven by various research time and time again, that marijuana is a highly effective in the treatment of nausea and vomiting regardless of the cause. Nausea and vomiting may prove to be more harmful to the body in prolonged cases. It may cause severe dehydration as well as loss of appetite thus leading to malnutrition. THC binds to endocannabinoid receptors in the brain to provide relief from nausea, smoking (preferably vapor) marijuana provides superior treatment for vomiting when compared to THC ingested orally. Even though there are around 10 standard antiemetic drugs for nausea and vomiting, it has been found that nine of them are ineffective in a specific situation or result in intolerable side effects. A 2008 review published in the European Journal of Cancer Care analyzed 30 clinical studies using cannabinoid drugs synthesized in the lab (such as Marinol) and concluded that they were better than standard anti-nausea drugs in alleviating the nausea and vomiting that accompanies chemotherapy. Despite all the above-mentioned drugs that are available, marijuana is still the best medication as it provides fast and safe relief.
Neuropathic pain often feels like a tingling, burning, stabbing pain. Neuropathic pain can be difficult to diagnose and tricky to treat. It's most often a symptom of an underlying problem like diabetes, alcoholism or autoimmune disease. Neuropathy can also be caused by vitamin-B deficiency, tumors, infections, cancer treatments and certain hereditary disorders. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, reported in The Journal of Pain that patients with neuropathy who used marijuana were more likely to have significant relief than those taking a placebo. The cannabinoids in marijuana affect cell receptors in the brain, reducing pain and making it an alternative for patients who are unresponsive to standard drug therapies. Patients often turn to marijuana as a pain reliever that doesn’t possess the harmful side effects of other prescription neuropathy medications which can be addictive.
PERSISTENT MUSCLE SPASMS
Spasms may affect many different types of muscles in the body, leading to many different symptoms and presentations. THC has each been found to relieve a broad range of muscle spasms in a number of human and animal studies. A 1990 double-blind trial comparing THC with codeine demonstrated that while they both displayed an analgesic effect in comparison with a placebo, “only delta-9 THC showed a significant beneficial effect on spasticity” meaning that medical marijuana has positive benefits for muscle spasms. Unlike marijuana, powerful barbiturates and muscle relaxers currently in use for treatment of severe muscle spasms are known to have serious and life-threatening side effects. Medical marijuana patients suffering from severe spastic conditions have reported that marijuana significantly improves their quality of life.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event in which grave physical or emotional harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. Individuals with PTSD may have persistent frightening thoughts and memories, experience sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or be easily distracted. Researchers found that people with PTSD had lower levels of anandamide, an endogenous (naturally occurring) cannabinoid compound, compared to those who did not show signs of PTSD. Endogenous anandamide triggers the same receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana, therefore providing an effective and safe treatment for PTSD.
CHRONIC ABDOMINAL PAIN
The effectiveness of marijuana for treating symptoms related to gastrointestinal disorders is widely recognized and researched. The most common gastrointestinal disorders are Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis) which effect millions of people. The disorders are different, but each causes a great deal of discomfort and distress and both can be disabling. Painful cramping, chronic diarrhea or constipation, nausea, and inflammation of the intestines are all symptoms of these GI disorders that can be alleviated by marijuana. Research suggests that marijuana is effective in treating the symptoms of these GI disorders in part because it interacts with the endogenous cannabinoid receptors in the digestive tract, which can result in calming spasms, reducing pain, and improving motility. Marijuana has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which may aid in the pain relief of chronic abdominal pain.
Epilepsy is a persistent condition of the brain. It involves unpredictable abnormal electrical discharges or misfiring of brain cells (neurons). This misfiring in the brain can cause episodes of bodily convulsions, loss of coordination, loss of consciousness or altered sensory states. These episodes are commonly called seizures. People with epilepsy have persistent and recurring seizures. One may be born with epilepsy, or may acquire it because of disease or injury. Marijuana has anti-convulsant properties mainly due to Cannabidiol (CBD), a compound found at higher levels in some strains of marijuana (most notable is the Charlotte's Web strain), make cannabis an excellent candidate for controlling the spasms associated with Epilepsy. Evidence is continuing to grow that marijuana may indeed be a better anti-convulsant than standard prescription medications.