The social use of cannabis has been a topic of debate for many years. But now that an increasing number of countries are legalizing medicinal cannabis, what are its benefits?

What is cannabis or marijuana – the basics

Marijuana is a natural mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. The marijuana plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids. The body also produces its own cannabinoid chemicals. They play a role in regulating pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, body movement, awareness of time, appetite, pain, and the senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight).

When used recreationally, many people experience a pleasant euphoria (or high) and a sense of relaxation. Other common effects can include heightened sensory perception, laughter, increased appetite and altered perception of time.

Marijuana can be smoked in hand rolled cigarettes, used in vaporizers, mixed and eaten in foods or brewed and drunk in tea. The noticeable effects of smoked marijuana generally last from 1 to 3 hours. Marijuana consumed in food or drink can last for many hours.

 

Pleasant experiences with marijuana are by no means universal. Instead of relaxation and euphoria, some people experience anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic. These effects are more common to a new user or when a person takes too much.  This can also occur when the marijuana has a high potency (high grade or ‘skunk’).

People who have taken large doses of marijuana may experience an acute psychosis, which can include delusions, hallucinations and a loss of the sense of personal identity. These unpleasant but temporary reactions are distinct from longer-lasting psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, that may be associated with the use of marijuana in vulnerable individuals.

What makes medical cannabis effective

There are two main active chemicals in marijuana that researchers think have medicinal applications. Those are:

  • tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which has pain relieving properties and is largely responsible for the ‘high’.
  • cannabidiol (CBD) — is not psychoactive and seems to impact the brain without a high. CBD is thought to be responsible for the majority of the medical benefits.

The marijuana plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids. The body also produces its own cannabinoid chemicals. They play a role in regulating pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, body movement, awareness of time, appetite, pain, and the senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight).

Some conditions that medical cannabis is used for

Medical cannabis has been successfully used to alleviate or help the following:

• pain,
• nausea
• muscle spasms
• anxiety
• multiple sclerosis
• low appetite,
• sleep problems
• Autism
• Epilepsy (seizure disorders)
• Help treating hepatitis C
• PTSD