Medical marijuana is currently legal in 38 US states—but what can it be used for? “Many people aren’t aware that cannabis was a popular treatment in this country in the late 1800s and early 1900s — commonly dispensed by doctors — and that the American Medical Association was one of the strongest voices testifying against prohibiting it in 1937,” says Peter Grinspoon, MD. Here are five ways marijuana can be used for medical treatment, doctors say. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss Already Had COVID? These Symptoms May “Never Go Away”.
“Anxiety and depressive disorders are highly prevalent,” says Erin L. Martin, a PhD candidate at the Medical University of South Carolina. “Traditional antidepressants may effectively treat these disorders in a lot of people, but they do not work for everyone and can have unpleasant side effects. Medicinal cannabis products, especially products high in CBD, may help to treat symptoms of depression, improve sleep, and increase quality of life. There is also some evidence that medicinal cannabis may alleviate symptoms of anxiety, particularly if administered over an extended period of time, but this is less clear from our results and warrants further study.”6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e
Medical marijuana is most commonly used for pain relief, experts say. “While marijuana isn’t strong enough for severe pain (for example, post-surgical pain or a broken bone), it is quite effective for the chronic pain that plagues millions of Americans, especially as they age,” says Dr. Grinspoon. “Part of its allure is that it is clearly safer than opiates (it is impossible to overdose on and far less addictive) and it can take the place of NSAIDs such as Advil or Aleve, if people can’t take them due to problems with their kidneys or ulcers or GERD… In particular, marijuana appears to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis, and nerve pain in general. This is an area where few other options exist, and those that do, such as Neurontin, Lyrica, or opiates are highly sedating. Patients claim that marijuana allows them to resume their previous activities without feeling completely out of it and disengaged.”
Marijuana has been used as a sleep aid for centuries, but getting the right balance of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) to CBD (cannabidiol) is important. “When it comes to sleep, generally that means identifying a strain that contains relaxing terpenes, and a balance of CBD and a not-too-high concentration of THC,” says Michael Breus, PhD. “In addition to increasing the euphoric and mind-altering effects, higher concentrations of THC can make you feel sluggish the next day. Don’t be shy about asking a lot of questions, and working with your physician and dispensary to make an informed choice you’re comfortable with. Even if you live in a state where cannabis is legal without a prescription, I recommend talking with your doctor, as you would before using any sleep aid or supplement.”
Marijuana can help with low libido, experts say. “I’ve had several patients come to me and say, ‘I have low libido. Can you help me? And, oh, by the way, if I use marijuana, I can orgasm, no problem,'” says Dr. Becky K. Lynn, sexual medicine and menopause expert and the founder of Evora Women’s Health in St. Louis. “They also tell me that low libido improves with marijuana.”
Marijuana is not harmless, experts warn, and people should make sure to talk to their doctors before using it either medically or recreationally. “CBD can interact with other important medications like blood thinners, heart medications, and immunosuppressants (medications given after organ transplantation), potentially changing the levels of these important medications in the blood and leading to catastrophic results, including death,” says Shafik Boyaji, MD. “Also, more information needs to be gathered about its safety in special populations such as the elderly, children, those who are immunocompromised, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.” And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more