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How Can Medical Marijuana Treat Arthritis?
Arthritis is the inflammation of the body’s joints leading to pain and swelling, among other symptoms. The term ‘arthritis’ does not refer to a single condition, but rather to over 200 different conditions causing inflammatory responses in joints, the most common being Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Osteoporosis (OA). Arthritis can affect anyone but is especially prevalent among seniors. Government statistics indicate that roughly 15% of Canadians and 23% of Americans over the age of 12 suffer from some form of arthritis. However, for seniors in Canada, those numbers jumped to approximately 33% for males, and 50% for females.
Medical marijuana can provide arthritis patients with an alternative method of treating their symptoms. Arthritis is typically treated with medications such as Analgesics, Biologics, Corticosteroids, Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARD’s), and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s). These medications can cause a range of unpleasant side effects such as nausea, hair loss, heart complications, and stomach ulcers. Patients who have experienced difficulties with their prescribed arthritis medication, and who reside in Canada, should know that medical marijuana may be an effective alternative treatment option for them.
Yet medical marijuana is more than just an alternative to medications that cause side effects. Studies show that THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol), the two most active compounds in the cannabis plant, are particularly effective in treating arthritis-related pain and inflammation.
A 2009 study on the potential use of cannabinoids as anti-inflammatory drugs found that they could constitute a “potent treatment” against inflammatory disorders. The study found that cannabinoid receptors that exist on the immune system cells of mice could be manipulated through the administration of the cannabinoids THC and CBD. These cells can be compelled into shutting down inflammatory responses and providing relief from inflammation and inflammation-related pain.
Medical marijuana relieves joint pain by communicating with the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the joint. A 2014 human study found that the activation of CB2 receptors through the administration of CBD was successful in promoting a local anti-inflammatory response. The study concluded that non-psychoactive drugs derived from medical marijuana (like CBD oils) can be effective in the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Similarly, a 2012 study on inflammation suppression through the endocannabinoid system found that CB1 receptors could be manipulated to produce an anti-inflammatory response. The study concluded that many of the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids are mediated via CB1 receptors and that the cannabinoids found in marijuana were capable of producing these effects.
A 2006 study on medicating with medical marijuana found that a cannabis-based medicine named Sativex was very effective in treating pain related to Rheumatoid Arthritis. After
receiving a daily dose of the oral-mucosal spray, patients were reported to have achieved “significant improvements” in the areas of “pain on movement, pain on rest, quality of sleep” and in the present. Moreover, adverse effects were reported to have been “mild to moderate”, and there were no “adverse effects-related withdrawals”. The study concluded that the medical cannabis-derived spray displayed a “significant analgesic effect”, and was successful in the suppression of inflammation related to Rheumatoid Arthritis.
A 2000 laboratory study on mice showed that CBD may even be effective in blocking the progression of arthritis. CBD was used to treat mice that were infected with Murine Collagen-Induced Arthritis (CIA) after the first onset of symptoms. Researchers found that the CBD treatment “effectively blocked the progression of arthritis”. The CBD administered was successful in protecting the joints against significant damage and was able to treat CIA through a combination of immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory actions.
CBD and THC have both shown promise as individual treatments for arthritis. However, many patients find the most relief when consuming both. Medical marijuana can not only reduce inflammation and eliminate pain but potentially even slow or halt the progression of arthritic conditions. Patients suffering from arthritis have a range of options when medicating with medical marijuana. From creams and topicals to oils and distillates, many different methods of consumption are effective in treating the pain and discomfort caused by arthritis.
How Can Medical Marijuana Treat Epilepsy?
In 2013, Charlotte Figi, an 8-year old from Colorado suffering from Dravet Syndrome, a rare and debilitating epileptic condition, made international headlines by successfully treating her condition with CBD, a cannabinoid derived from the marijuana plant. Since then, CBD has not only gained popularity as a treatment for epilepsy but has inspired a wide range of research initiatives into the potential uses for medical marijuana. Some of this research has confirmed that medical marijuana is successful in the treatment of certain epileptic conditions. Remarkably, this was true even in cases such as Charlotte’s in which the epileptic condition is considered to be largely untreatable.
A 2015 study on the effects of CBD on epilepsy saw patients suffering from treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy such as Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome treat their conditions with an extract containing a CBD content of 99%. The study found that CBD treatment reduced motor seizures at rates similar to other medications. Remarkably, 2% of test subjects reported being completely cured of all symptoms. Moreover, only 3% of test subjects felt that they needed to discontinue treatment due to adverse effects. As such, researchers concluded that CBD extracts can be safely used as a treatment for these conditions, not just by adults but also by children.
A 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed these findings. Moreover, it found that the success of CBD in the treatment of these rare forms of epilepsy could be achieved with lower doses than previously recommended. These studies do not encourage patients to abandon their current medications, but rather encourage patients to supplement their medical regimens with a CBD extract.
Other studies have confirmed the ability of CBD to treat epilepsy in humans. In a study from 1980, 8 human volunteers suffering from secondarily generalized epilepsy with a temporal focus were administered a daily dose of CBD for 30 days. 4 out of 8 test subjects remained free of convulsions throughout the duration of the experiment, and another 3 out of 8 reported a considerable improvement in their symptoms.
A more recent study from 2017 sought to use CBD in the prevention of refractory seizures in patients suffering from Sturge-Weber Syndrome. 3 out of 5 subjects who participated in the study reported a decrease in seizure frequency of at least 50%, an increased quality of life, and chose to remain on CBD for some time after the study.
Medical marijuana has also been successful in treating epileptic symptoms in laboratory mice. A 2016 study found that, when used as a pre-treatment to the onset of epilepsy, CBD was successful in delaying “the chronic phase of epilepsy”. Moreover, administration during the chronic phase of epilepsy resulted in “significantly diminished seizure scores”. When administered as a post-treatment following the chronic stage, CBD demonstrated a protective effect, meaning that it could have a use as a long-term preventative solution, as well as an immediate treatment.
Research has repeatedly and consistently concluded that CBD is effective in the treatment of a range of epileptic conditions. Moreover, for some patients, CBD has been particularly effective in treating certain rare forms of the condition such as Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Some treatment programs have been so successful that a number of patients were able to stop convulsions altogether, even when suffering from conditions that were widely considered to be untreatable.
CBD is not necessarily a replacement for other epileptic medications but should be considered in addition to other medication. One of the most remarkable findings that has emerged from research on the effects of CBD on epilepsy, is the fact that very few people report adverse effects. Moreover, rarely are the side effects experienced enough to convince patients to stop treatment. This means that, at least for test subjects, the benefits of treating epileptic conditions with medical marijuana have outweighed the negatives.
Lastly, CBD is a noteworthy treatment because it is effective in both children and adults. CBD has produced no differences in efficiency or side effects between age groups or demographics. Moreover, because CBD is non-psychoactive, patients can medicate without the inconvenience or stigma of ‘getting high’.
How Can Medical Marijuana Treat Anxiety?
Cannabidiol (CBD) has recently gained a reputation as a potential treatment for some of the most common mental disorders currently affecting Canadians - anxiety, and depression. While research on CBD and depression is still ongoing, much has been completed on the ability of the cannabinoid to treat anxiety. CBD is a particularly interesting treatment for
anxiety because it produces effects that are able to treat other conditions stimulating anxiety, such as substance addictions, chronic pain, and sleeplessness.
CBD has been clinically proven to have anxiolytic properties in both animals and humans. A recent review of available animal studies concluded that CBD had both “anxiolytic-like” and “antidepressant-like” properties. In addition, animal models have given researchers clues as to the neurochemical basis for the anti-anxiolytic and anti-depressive properties of CBD, and the way in which neuro-receptors interact with the CB1 and CB2 molecules.
Medical marijuana has seemingly been just as successful in treating anxiety in humans as in laboratory mice. A 2011 study placed patients suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in social speaking situations designed to induce anxiety and fear. What researchers found was that pre-treatment with a single dose of CBD “significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in speech performance”, and “significantly decreased alert” in their speech. By comparison, the placebo test group overwhelmingly showed higher levels of anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels.
A 2016 single patient study looked at the potential of treating PTSD-related anxiety and insomnia in humans with CBD. The test subject, a young girl with PTSD, was administered CBD oil orally as a substitute for her usual medications. The pharmaceutical sedatives usually prescribed to the patient were causing discomfort from severe side effect. Researchers concluded that CBD oil is “a safe treatment for reducing anxiety and improving sleep”. Moreover, the study implies that, compared to some other medications, CBD is a safer and more convenient option for treating PTSD in the long-run.
Another study from 2017 sought to give more depth to the conclusions of previous human studies. What researchers found was that anxiety disorders as expressed through nervous behaviors were triggered by negative memories from the past. One of the ways in which CBD provides relief from anxiety is by “reducing learned fear”, thus allowing individuals to return to a calm and functional present state. Researchers believe that there are further implications for these findings in the field of substance addiction, where CBD is showing clinical progress as well. Doctors believe that CBD is not just able to eliminate negative memories, it can also dampen the intensity of positive memories related to the euphoria or relaxation caused by addictive drugs such as opiates or benzos.
CBD has shown promise in the treatment of conditions that have been known to exist alongside anxiety. For instance, some opioid withdrawal clinics in the United States have begun administering treatment plans that rely on THC and CBD to the eliminate the cravings, stress, depression, and anxiety that addicts suffer from. For these patients, medical marijuana does not just eliminate anxiety, but also similar symptoms and conditions that may exacerbate it.
CBD has also been clinically proven to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, CBD has been especially efficient in the treatment of inflammation-related pain that may cause unnecessary stress or anxiety, and may even prevent individuals from falling asleep, or getting a full night’s rest.
Medical marijuana’s contributions to relieving anxiety do not stop at CBD. THC has also had reported success in reducing sensations of anxiety and depression. Those who prefer to medicate with a mix of THC and CBD find that the combination of relaxation produced by the CBD, and the mild euphoria produced by the THC are an optimal treatment for anxiety or depression. Most patients who smoke marijuana or consume edibles as a form of medicating have found that some medical marijuana strains work better than others. Typically, patients find relief in Indica strains that still maintain some Sativa genetics. These strains provide a pleasant mix of relaxation and euphoria that is very effective in treating their conditions.
How Can Medical Marijuana Treat Sleep Disorders?
Sleep disorders are some of the most common conditions among medical marijuana patients and dispensary customers. These kinds of disorders are much more common than people think. According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders every year, and up to 30% of Americans will suffer from insomnia at some point in their lifetime.
When it comes to sleep disorders, medical marijuana patients typically benefit the most from products or strains that are high in THC content. THC is known to induce sleep and is responsible for the drowsiness or fatigue that patients experience near the end of their high. This sensation is perfect for allowing patients to fall asleep, and stay asleep. A ?2004 studyon the effects of THC and CBD on sleep patterns found that 15 mg of THC was conducive to inducing sleepiness and drowsiness in test subjects.
However, CBD has also been clinically proven to help some individuals fall asleep. The difference is in the root of the insomnia. Those who are most successful in treating insomnia with CBD are typically suffering from psychological conditions or physical pain that prevents them from falling asleep. The clinically proven ability of CBD to eliminate anxiety and reduce pain allows these patients to fall into sleep much easier. By comparison, those who gain the most from using THC as a bedtime aid have typically been diagnosed with neurochemical or physical ailments.
A 2017 review of recent studies on medical marijuana’s effects on sleep found that CBD has the ability to play a significant role in sleep regulation. The review found that CBD is capable of regulating REM sleep patterns, as well as reducing sleepiness throughout the day when taken during the daytime.
When using medical marijuana to treat sleep disorders, remember that a little goes a long way. Consuming marijuana before bed has the potential to significantly alter sleep cycles and affect REM sleep. As such, many patients achieve the most benefit by medicating lightly for sleep disorders. In addition, some patients have found that timing is very important for treating sleep disorder with medical marijuana. Patients who have trouble falling asleep have had success medicating 2-3 hours before bedtime. Patients who have trouble staying asleep may need to consume medical marijuana closer to bedtime but should be careful so as not to disturb their sleep patterns and circadian rhythm too much.
How Can Medical Marijuana Treat Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are conditions that primarily affect young, healthy, able-bodied individuals. According to a 2002 survey conducted by the federal government of Canada, roughly 1.5% of Canadian women between the ages of 15 and 24 suffered from some kind of eating disorder. Moreover, according to a 2004 survey, 29% of grade ten girls engaged in weight-loss behaviors, and according to a 2008 survey, 40% of grade ten girls perceived themselves as being too fat.
However, eating disorders do not just arise as psychological disorders. Many medical marijuana patients seeking relief from loss of appetite are undergoing other treatments, or are suffering from other conditions. For instance, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy have been well known to cause a loss of appetite. Moreover, many diseases and conditions, like HIV or kidney failure, have similarly been known to cause a loss of appetite.
Researchers believe that medical marijuana changes the way in which the brain processes thoughts and signals related to eating. A recent study exposing laboratory mice to marijuana vapor found that medical marijuana encouraged temporary changes in the areas of the brain related to eating. Researchers found that marijuana can stimulate appetite by triggering the release of hunger hormones and even shifting certain regions of the brain to ‘hungry mode’.
A 2014 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience provides even more insight into how medical marijuana manipulates the brain into stimulating appetite. During this study, researchers found that THC directly interacts with the olfactory bulb - the part of the brain that regulates smell and taste. When administered THC, the mice in the study suddenly gained a heightened ability to smell food. The study concludes that the same process takes place in the human brain. When exposed to marijuana, food simply smells and tastes better, making it more appetizing and desirable. When combined with the release of hunger hormones stimulated by THC, it is not hard to see why medical marijuana is so effective in treating loss of appetite.
How Medical Marijuana Can Treat Chronic and Neuropathic Pain
Medical marijuana is gaining popularity as an alternative to opioid painkillers. According to the government of Canada, in 2016 there were 2,861 opioid-related deaths in Canada. Many opioid addictions begin as legitimate prescription treatments for various types of chronic pain. Moreover, many more begin when prescription medication makes it into the hands of friends or relatives. As the opioid crisis continues to worsen in North America, doctors have become more hesitant to prescribe opioid painkillers. As a result, medical marijuana is becoming more accepted as a treatment for chronic pain conditions, and as one of many ways to slow down the opioid epidemic.
One of the conditions that opioids are prescribed for is neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain can occur due to a host of conditions that affect the nervous system such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and HIV, among others. Additionally, it can also be caused by
the side effects of medication or alcoholism. Studies show that opioids are not a blanket solution since they are not capable of treating all kinds of neuropathic pain. A recent study from the University of Alberta found that opioids do not improve physical function in patients suffering from neuropathic pain, and may in fact actually be harmful when it comes to recovery.
By comparison, a 2018 study supported the “safety and efficacy” of low-dose marijuana compounds for the treatment of neuropathic pain. Moreover, the results indicate that marijuana “may be as tolerable and effective as current neuropathic agents”.
An earlier study from 2017 found that medical marijuana in the form of oral spray or capsules (pills) was effective in treating stiffness and muscle spasms in patients with Multiple Sclerosis. The study also found that medical marijuana was effective in treating numerous other types of neuropathic pain, though not all kinds.
An even earlier study from 2007 conducted by the University of California looked at the effects of medical marijuana on patients suffering from nerve damage as a result of HIV. The study concluded that medical marijuana was effective in reducing the pain caused by damaged nerves in these patients, allowing them a higher quality of life.
While THC is effective in providing relief from certain kinds of neuropathic pain, CBD is just as valuable in minimizing nerve pain. A 2007 study administered patients a daily dose of roughly 22-32 mg of THC and 20mg of CBD. The results indicated that this combination was “efficacious and well tolerated” in the treatment of nerve pain caused by Multiple Sclerosis.
Providing Canadians with an alternative to opioid painkillers is a positive development in the de-escalation of the opiod crisis. As legalization continues to provide researchers and distributors with a profit motive for developing new marijuana-based products, medical marijuana patients are expected to benefit from new products appearing on the market. Moreover, as medical research into marijuana continues, new compounds and dosing methods are expected to better help medical marijuana patients in Canada treat their conditions.