The use of medical marijuana has recently gained momentum in the United States. With more and more states deciding to legalize its use for some of the worst conditions, that trend isn’t likely to decline any time soon. So what is pushing this unprecedented growth? Could it be that medical marijuana is the new wonder drug for what ails you? Let’s take a look at the effectiveness of cannabis in a medical setting.
What is medical marijuana?
If we look way back in time to how people used herbs, roots, and other parts of plants as a means of treating illnesses, we will find a time that cannabis was prized for its medicinal properties. Fast forward to a more modern period, and we find that in the early 1900s, the popularity declined sharply as more and more people abused it as a psychoactive drug rather than as medication and finally to its complete criminalization and banning. Fortunately for us, the push to reevaluate our use of traditional and alternative medicines has been brought to the forefront of the healthcare community.
With the overuse of powerful antibiotics, addictive pain killers, and powerful pharmaceuticals, patients and practitioners were begging for better ways to treat illnesses. Many began to look to our past and other cultures for alternative methods of treatment. For some, this might be acupuncture or chiropractics while others sought out herbs and ointments cultivated from plants. However, it didn’t take doctors and patients long to set their eyes on the cannabis plant.
According to some historical documents, cannabis dates back almost 12,000 years to a time when it was used as an integral part of religious ceremonies. Throughout the ages, people sought this herb for a variety of reasons, but as with anything so powerful, marijuana finally found it’s way into the illicit drug trade.
Since a considerable number of people experimented with marijuana over the years despite its criminalization, it was widely known that its use would alleviate pain. Additionally, individuals who suffered from anxiety and stress related illness had first-hand knowledge of the calming effects of smoking a joint. When the medical community took that information and began advocating for marijuana use in modern medical settings, it sent shock waves throughout the country. Finally, in the late 90s, lawmakers in California took the bold step at legalizing marijuana for specific conditions.
Today, medical marijuana has been legalized in two dozen states with many more currently considering laws of their own. Although the federal government has yet to come on board with the majority of the medical community, cannabis is now a staple in alternative healthcare. In 2016 New York joined the ranks of pro-medical use states and approved a Compassionate Use Bill that allowed anyone diagnosed with one or more of the following conditions to be considered for treatment.
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Spinal cord injury with spasticity
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain
- Pain that degrades health and functional capability
- Alternative to opioid use
- Substance use disorder
Patients must live in New York and be evaluated by a licensed provider trained in medical marijuana to qualify for treatment. Once the practitioner has made a recommendation, and a medical use card has been issued, patients are allowed to purchase a 30-day supply from one of the certified dispensaries located around the state. As all medical conditions change from time to time, patients must be re-evaluated annually to continue with treatment.
Although some states allow additional consumption methods, New Yorkers are limited. Under the current guidelines, smokable and edible versions are prohibited despite their popularity. Patients are only allowed to use an inhaled variety if it is vaporized (vape pen), topically, with a transdermal patch, or orally as a tablet or capsule.
How effective is medical marijuana?
Of course, effectiveness is somewhat subjective. While marijuana isn’t a cure, it does alleviate quite a few symptoms, especially those associated with pain. So if you consider that cannabis helps patients control some of the troublesome symptoms of their disease and allows them to have a better quality of life, marijuana is very effective.
Many of the qualifying conditions in New York were chosen because of the amount of pain associated with them. There are three main types of pain, nociceptive, neuropathic, and central. Nociceptive pain is caused by body tissue damage and is the only type with a reliable system for alerting the brain to specific tissue problems. Pain that is caused by nerve damage that sends an inaccurate pain message to the brain is neuropathic pain while central pain tells the body there is pain all over. Cannabinoids in marijuana target the receptors in the brain that regulate inflammation and pain sensation.
For other conditions such as epilepsy, cannabis isn’t used to control pain. In people with epilepsy, medical marijuana is used as an anti-convulsive treatment. This type of treatment has been so effective that contrary to their stated lack of medical use, the FDA recently approved Epidolex for the treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy. Epidolex is a medication made directly from a derivative of cannabis.
Other conditions have also shown great promise with marijuana treatment. Individuals who suffer from opioid use disorder have a greater chance of addiction recovery when they are weaned off opioids with marijuana. Additionally, many states have now added medical marijuana as a qualifying treatment option instead of prescribing dangerous opioids altogether.
New York has also seen a huge improvement in patients who have PTSD, especially with individuals who are prior military and suffer because of their service. These patients often have difficulties socially, are depressed, and have trouble sleeping. Each of these symptoms is improved with medical marijuana.
Medical Marijuana Doctors in New York State
While the jury is still out on how much of a miracle cure medical marijuana is, most patients who’ve had access to treatment are now controlling their ailments much better, and their quality of life has been enhanced. Experts have admitted that though they were skeptical at first, they now know that the possibilities with medical marijuana are limitless.
If you live in New York and want more information about medical marijuana, visit the state’s website at https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/. While no medicine is a cure for every disease, marijuana can help patients get back their lives.