For thousands of years, people have used marijuana to treat their ailments. Recent studies have shown that the cannabidiol, a component of marijuana, has been approved as a treatment for some types of epilepsy. Cannabis is now being increasingly legalized in many parts of the world, but is it safe? Some experts say that its growing popularity and rise in use can prompt major public health concerns.

Health Benefits of Medical Marijuana

In the recent years, studies have yielded results suggesting that cannabis can offer benefits in the treatment of some health problems, including:

  • Chronic pain. A leading cause of disability, chronic pain affects over 25 million adults in the United States alone. A review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that marijuana and products with cannabinoids are effective in relieving chronic pain.
  • Depression, social anxiety and PTSD. A review on published scientific literature showed that marijuana can help treat some mental health conditions. Evidence supports that its use relieves depression and PTSD symptoms. Cannabis, however, it not a good treatment for psychosis and bipolar disorders.
  • Alcoholism and drug addiction.Another review in the Clinical Psychology Review journal showed that marijuana can help people with opioid or alcohol dependencies fight their addictions. However, another review suggests that using weed can increase the risk for abusing and becoming dependent on other substances.
  • Cancer. Evidence suggests that oral cannabinoids can fight against vomiting and nausea as a result of chemotherapy. Studies on cancer cells show that cannabinoids can slow the growth or even kill some cancers. However, early studies say that although cannabinoids are a safe treatment, they cannot cure or control cancer.
  • Epilepsy. The FDS has approved the use of a medicine with cannabidiol to treat two rare types of epilepsy. A study in 2017 found that using CBD resulted in fewer seizures among children with Dravet syndrome.
  • Multiple sclerosis. Experts have found that short-term use of oral cannabinoids can improve the symptoms of spasticity among patients with multiple sclerosis, although these positive effects are relatively modest.

Health Risks of Medical Marijuana

On the other side of the coin are a host of studies showing the negative associations between cannabis use and health, including the following.

  • Testicular cancer. There really is no evidence suggesting the link of cannabis use and increased cancer risk, but a study found some evidence suggesting an increasing risk for a subtype of testicular cancer.
  • Mental health problems. Using cannabis every day is believed to exacerbate symptoms of patients with bipolar disorder. Regular cannabis users are also more likely to experience suicide thoughts. It can also increase the risk of depression and psychosis, such as schizophrenia.
  • Respiratory disease. Regularly inhaling marijuana brings an increased risk of chronic cough, although it is unclear if smoking cannabis worsens lung function or increases risk of COPD or asthma. A study suggested that possibility of smoking cannabis contributing to lung cancer, but a link to the two cannot be established still.
  • There are some evidence showing both the health benefits and risks of marijuana. However, despite the recent emergence of comprehensive and updated reviews of scientific studies involving cannabis, it is clear that additional research is still needed to completely determine the implications of marijuana use to public health. Additional research is still needed to confirm the pros and cons of cannabis use.

    If you live in a state where the use of medical marijuana is legal, it is important that you and your health care provider carefully look into these factors and how they relate to your health history and condition before ultimately using cannabis. Always talk to your doctor before you take any new medicine.

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