All is not well when it comes to the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. A recent study conducted by the psychologists from the University of Michigan Medical School and the VA Ann Arbour Healthcare Systems has revealed the potential downsides of using cannabis medicinally. The study found that more than half of the participants in the study using cannabis medicinally for the management of chronic pain faced the "Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome". Participants faced withdrawal symptoms in varying degrees over the course of two years of the study with 41% belonging to the mild symptoms group, 34% in the moderate and 25% in the severe symptoms group respectively. The younger participants displaying greater severity and the worsening of the withdrawal symptoms.
Cannabis and its use for medicinal purposes have been gaining ground and popularity over the years with cannabis being presented as a lesser harmful and safer alternative to the mainstream and conventional medicines and treatments.
According to the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE) cannabis can be defined as, "Cannabis is used as a generic term for marijuana, hash, hash oil and so on. These derive from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The plant contains a large number of chemical substances known as cannabinoids, several of which are psychoactive, which means that they affect brain function, behaviour and consciousness. Historically, cannabis has been used as an intoxicant and for medicinal purposes."
What is Medicinal Cannabis?
So what is Medicinal Cannabis essentially? The cannabis plant contains more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Each one has a different effect on the body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main chemicals used in medicine. THC also produces the "high" people feel when they smoke cannabis/ marijuana or eat foods containing it. Medical cannabis uses various chemicals present in the plant to treat certain diseases and conditions. It's basically the same product but instead of recreation, it is used for medical and medicinal purposes. Cannabinoid, are the active chemicals in medical cannabis/marijuana that are similar to chemicals the body makes involved in things such as appetite, memory, pain and movement.
Cannabis and its use for medicinal purposes have a long history from ancient times to the. It was an Irish physician by the name of William Brooke O'Shaughnessy who is considered in pioneering and advancing the use of cannabis as a medicinal drug.
Is Medicinal Cannabis really safe?
Cannabis is considered a relatively safer option when used as a medicinal tool or medium but a lot of research and studies have also shown that it is not as harmless as it is sometimes made out to be. Both short-term and long-term negative effects such as anxiety, respiratory problems, loss of senses, psychosis & cognitive impairment of regular and frequent consumers, depression and addiction to name a few respectively. Apart from these direct health hazards, cannabis when coupled with smoking as a method of consumption also puts the consumer at the risk of several serious ailments such as cancer, bronchitis to name a few.
One of the primary reasons for all the controversy and debate around cannabis is the lack of regulation as far as the consumption of cannabis for medicinal purpose via smoking is concerned. Cannabis is also viewed as a 'gateway drug' to more serious and harmful forms of drugs thereby putting the user in an ending cycle of addiction and withdrawal.
Medical cannabis/marijuana is used to treat various conditions such as anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, nausea, epilepsy, arthritis and it may also have anti-cancer effects though the research is still required in this regard.
The role cannabis can play in medicine continues to remain unclear. The gaps and lack of research are in large part due to the fact that most studies have focused on the illicit use of cannabis rather than its therapeutic and medical potential.
The lack of proper and effective regulation, the dearth of substantial research and studies and the very obvious harmful potential of cannabis and an addictive substance are some of the key issues that require to be before this method of treatment is accepted in a holistic manner and sans any major impediments and issues. Similar to the University of Michigan Medical School-VA Ann Arbour Healthcare Systems study on 'Cannabis Withdrawl Syndrome' many more such studies are required to come to a logical conclusion regarding the use of recreational drugs for medicinal purposes.