As the discussions around legalization heat up, there’s been more interest in the medicinal applications of cannabis. While medical marijuana is already legal in Canada and has been for some time, cannabis activists often point to medical usage as one reason for the widespread decriminalization of cannabis.
As such, there’s overlap between cannabis activism and medical research. Both activists and medical professionals are interested in knowing what cannabis might be able to do to treat symptoms of various conditions. Research on medical cannabis has been on the upswing for decades now. If you’re curious about medical marijuana, here’s what you need to know.
Decades of Research
While it’s been somewhat difficult to study cannabis since it was illegal for most of the 20th century and into the 21st, research on cannabinoids has been going on for decades now. While medical cannabis all but disappeared from research and medicine in the mid-20th century, it re-emerged in trials and research studies in the 1980s and 1990s.
There’s around 30 years’ worth of research on medical cannabis in the books. Some of the earliest studies involved cannabinoids, the substances within cannabis that give its effects. In these studies, they were used to treat cachexia, or loss of appetite, in cancer patients undergoing treatment.
A Wide Array of Conditions
One emergent theme in research on medical cannabis has been its ability to potentially treat a wide range of conditions effectively. While the earliest studies looked at treating the loss of appetite and other symptoms in cancer patients, newer studies have since suggested a link between medical cannabis and a whole host of different conditions.
Today, the research indicates medical cannabis might help those suffering chronic pain and those battling insomnia. It may help migraine sufferers, and it’s also showing promise in the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD.
Some of the newest research links medical cannabis to healthy brain aging. THC, one of the most active cannabinoids, is linked to the maintenance of the endocannabinoid system. When this system was maintained, older mice acted like younger mice.
The research on medical cannabis also links it to treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and some types of epilepsy.
It Seems to Be Safe
Since cannabis all but disappeared from the medical scene for a good 50 years or so, when it re-emerged as a potential treatment, many people wondered about its safety. While it might be effective, was it safe to use?
Research has also focused on this aspect of medical cannabis. So far, the research suggests medical marijuana could be one of the safest treatments available for patients today. Unlike opioids and sleeping pills, it doesn’t come with a high risk of addiction or overdose. It may even be less addictive, and safer, than nicotine or alcohol, studies suggest.
Side effects are considered to be few, mostly benign, and relatively rare. In addition, it hasn’t yet been linked to increases in the development of chronic disease the way some other medications have been. Finally, the use of a system for licensing producers means medical-grade cannabis is consistent and tested for safety.
If you pay attention to research on medical cannabis, it’s likely you’ll notice just how much activity is going on. The area is under intense study right now, and new studies with new findings seem to emerge on an almost daily basis.
Part of this flurry of activity is because some of the findings are so exciting. For example, with an aging population here in Canada, Alzheimer’s disease has become much more of a concern. The discovery of medical cannabis’s possible effects on the progression of this disease was exciting news, but more studies are needed.
One thing is clear. As more research goes on, more and more will be discovered about the possible use and effectiveness of medical cannabis.