How Does Medical Cannabis Work?

January 14, 2021

How Does Medical Cannabis Work?

Are you curious about how medical cannabis works to treat the symptoms of diseases and disorders? Are you worried about getting high? We've got info for you!

Did you know that, according to the Canadian government, 15% of Canadians age 15 and older in 2017 had used cannabis in the past? Many of these people surveyed would certainly be using medical cannabis, which was legalised in Canada in 2001.

If you’re considering using medical cannabis, then you probably have many questions about it. Especially if it’s your first time using it, you might be asking:

“What is medical cannabis, exactly, and what are its benefits?”

“Are there any risks associated with medical cannabis?”

“Will medical cannabis get me high?”

“What options are there for me to take?”

In addition to having many questions, you might also be confused by all the research you’ve been doing. You might also be worried about using medical cannabis for the first time.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide. By giving you all the information, you can feel safe and sure about your medical cannabis use. Read on to learn more.

What is Medical Cannabis?

Before we go into the benefits of medical cannabis, it’s important to explain what medical cannabis is. This way, you can know if it's the right choice for treating the ailment or illness you’re dealing with.

Let’s start with history. Even though medical cannabis was legalised for medical use in Canada around 20 years ago, it has been used as a medicine for a long time in human history as a herbal remedy.

In the 60s, its use became more popular. Since it was discovered that it alleviated the side effects of chemotherapy treatments for cancer, many cancer patients started using it.

The effective ingredient in medical cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. This is also called THC. Depending on the strain or product, the amount of THC present in your medical cannabis varies. There is an additional chemical in medical cannabis, CBD. This also has positive effects.

The reason medical cannabis is so effective is that these chemicals are cannabinoids. In our bodies, we have an endocannabinoid system which reacts positively whenever a cannabinoid is present.

This system affects processes such as pain management and sleep. It is also in the nervous system and the digestive system. When it reacts positively to cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, we experience benefits throughout our entire body.

Benefits of Medical Cannabis

Considering the effect of medical cannabis on the body’s endocannabinoid system, there are many benefits of using medical cannabis. The most popular benefit sought after when taking medical cannabis is easing pain.

While canna can’t be used for extreme pain, such as that experienced after surgery, you can smoke or ingest it to deal with chronic pain. Especially for Americans who are getting older (such as those who have arthritis), medical cannabis can be a great option.

Taking medical cannabis is also an alternative to taking opiates for pain since opiates can be addictive. Additionally, it’s an alternative to NSAIDs (for example, Aleve), since these can’t be taken by anyone with ulcer or kidney issues or GERD.

For this reason, many people suffering from chronic pain—such as those suffering from interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, or fibromyalgia—take pot or other cannabis forms. People with Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome also benefit from using it.

Medical cannabis is also effective for nerve pain, which opiates and other options don’t treat as well. Additionally, it’s a good muscle relaxant, so when anyone with Parkinson’s disease can take weed it will ease their struggle.

For anyone with HIV/AIDs, symptoms such as pain and wasting syndrome can also be treated with cannabis. Additionally, medical cannabis can be used for more mild issues, such as managing weight loss and nausea.

Cannabinoids for Cancer

One of the main ways medical cannabis is used is for the treatment of vomiting and nausea caused by chemotherapy treatments for cancer. Additionally, it can be used for the treatment of the pain that comes from having cancer.

Recent studies have also demonstrated that THC, along with additional cannabinoids such as CBD, can actually slow the growth of cancer cells, and kill certain kinds of cancer cells. This was found in a study in which these cannabinoids were inserted into cancer cells in lab dishes.

Additionally, there have been some studies done on animals that show that some cannabinoids can slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells, as well as reducing their spread throughout the body.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that there have only been a few clinical studies of the use of medical cannabis for the treatment of cancer in people.

There isn’t any evidence yet that cannabis itself can treat cancer, so if you’re considering using medical cannabis to treat your cancer, we suggest doing this in tandem with the other treatments you are receiving, such as chemotherapy.

Risks of Medical Cannabis

While medical cannabis does not usually have any adverse effects, and it is far less addictive than other alternatives such as opiates, there are some risks associated with medical cannabis that you should be aware of.

Depressant-like Effects

If you’ve ever felt depressed when drinking, cannabis can have this same effect. Even though both of these substances can make you feel relaxed and calm, you might have some trouble moving around, feel a bit out of it, and even a bit down if you’re prone to do this with substances.

Stimulating Effects

Even though there are depressant-like effects with cannabis use, you can also experience the opposite, speeding up your heart rate, making you feel hyperactive and energised. If this is an experience you have often when taking substances, this might occur when you take cannabis.

Hallucinogenic Effects

You may also experience hallucinogenic effects when taking cannabis. Even though these effects are likely to be mild, you may have low-level hallucinations, an altered view of reality, or affected motor skills.

For this reason, you shouldn’t drive or operate machinery when you’ve taken cannabis. Additionally, if psychosis runs in your family or you have experienced it yourself, it’s not a good idea to take cannabis, since it can make it more likely you’ll have a psychotic episode.

What About the High?

You may also be wondering about the high that comes with medical cannabis. Whether it’s an experience you look forward to or you aren’t sure you want, we’ll cover what happens when you experience a high from medical cannabis.

Generally speaking, a high from medical cannabis will vary from person to person. Additionally, your high will be different depending on factors such as the potency, strain, and dose of the weed, how you take the cannabis (for example, ingested or smoked), how regularly you take cannabis, and whether you are drinking or taking other drugs at the time.

When you take medical cannabis, your high might make you feel a variety of emotions and feelings, such as relaxed, amused, creative, relaxed, euphoric, more sensitive with your senses, and hungry.

Unfortunately, the high can also make you feel negative emotions, such as paranoia, panic, delusions and hallucinations, confusion, and anxiety. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, you may experience psychosis. You might also feel nauseated and have to vomit.

For this reason, we recommend that when you are first taking cannabis, you take a small amount of a strain that is not strong. You can slowly work your way up to a high that makes you feel comfortable.

Keep in mind too that if you smoke or vape cannabis, you’ll feel the effect immediately. It will last two to three hours, with the peak of the high occurring at the 20 or 30-minute mark. If you ingest cannabis edibles, you’ll feel the effect within 30 to 90 minutes of taking them. It will last up to 24 hours, with the peak of the high occurring 3 hours in.

The CBD Option

If you aren’t sure about taking medical cannabis with THC in it, then there’s also the CBD option. If you don’t want to experience the high, but you still want the benefits of taking medical cannabis, then this is the right solution for you.

Cannabis only has one ingredient that gets you high: THC. But outside of THC, there are plenty of cannabinoids in it that get you the benefits you need. If you find the right strain that’s CBD-dominant instead of THC-dominant, then you’ll only experience a mild high and get the benefits.

According to patient reports, CBD can be used to treat many issues such as anxiety, insomnia, spasticity, and pain. It has also been used for the treatment of epilepsy, to the point where in the US—where medical cannabis is not legal everywhere—there is an FDA-approved CBD treatment for epilepsy.

Just like with medical cannabis, you can take CBD in a variety of ways. You can buy edibles, cannabis oil (also called tinctures) that you take sublingually, and vape pens with which you smoke the CBD.

Where Cannabis Isn’t Proven to Work

While medical cannabis can be used to treat many ailments and diseases, there are certain areas where its use is popular but where it hasn’t actually been proven to work. When it comes to conditions with which there’s weak or limited research for cannabis being effective, these include alleviation of addiction, anxiety, diabetes, PTSD, Tourette’s syndrome, and brain injuries.

There also isn’t enough research for cannabis being effective in treating Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer (as mentioned earlier, there really isn’t enough research yet), depression, dystonia, and Huntington’s disease.

Additionally, there are some diseases and ailments where it’s been proven that cannabis isn’t effective. These include dementia and glaucoma.

As you can see, there are many diseases and ailments that medical cannabis doesn’t directly treat, even though some of these have the reputation of being treated with medical cannabis. For this reason, when you’re looking into using medical cannabis, we recommend speaking with your doctor to ensure that you would benefit from using it.

Different Types of Medical Cannabis

If you’ve decided that medical cannabis is a good choice for you to try, then you should be aware of the different ways you can take it. These include the dry flower form, cannabis edibles, and prefilled vaporiser cartridges.

There’s also dosage and strains to choose from. When deciding, speak with your doctor about which Licensed Producer will be the best choice for you, and which products of theirs are best. Keep in mind when choosing the right one that you will be limited in only choosing two you can buy from.

Additionally, it’s possible to grow your own medical cannabis, as long as you register with Health Canada. You can also have someone else grow the weed for you, if you know someone who has a green thumb.

Unfortunately, medical cannabis isn’t covered by insurance. However, it isn’t expensive, so you should be able to afford it. Keep in mind that many sellers give discounts (for example, for veterans), so ask the Licensed Producer you choose about which discounts might apply to you.

Need More Information?

Do you need more information on medical cannabis? Do you want to know how to get a medical cannabis prescription or a medical marijuana prescription? Or maybe you’re curious about where you can buy the right medical cannabis for you?

Whatever your questions might be or whatever you need, we’re happy to help you. At Namaste MD, we’re experts in medical cannabis use and how you can get the prescription you need. Visit our free consultation page to learn more.

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