Marijuana: Gateway Drug or Medical Superplant?
Before we begin, this article in no way encourages the recreational use of marijuana, or any other drugs. We are simply looking into whether there is any truth in the assumption that marijuana is simply a gateway to other narcotics or if it does have any benefits if used medically.
First of all, a little history into the use of marijuana as medication. Historians generally accept that the first references to medical marijuana date back to around 2737 BC, to the court of Chinese Emperor Shen Nung. Writings during this period note that marijuana was used to treat conditions such as rheumatism, gout, malaria and even forgetfulness.
Eventually, the use of medical marijuana spread to European stories by way of India and North Africa around 500 AD. Its use in North America dates from around 1850 until 1942, where it was prescribed for ailments such as labour pain, nausea and rheumatism.
Recreational use of marijuana became widespread during the 1930s and as consumption increased, legislators deemed it a threat and classified it as a scheduled 1 drug – one that has no accepted medical treatment use in the United States. This listing naturally raised concerns and controversies around marijuana’s continued use as medication.
To make it more medically friendly the active ingredient of marijuana (THC) was synthesized in 1966 and approved by the FDA in 1985. In the years following this approval, several government-sponsored and private studies have unearthed a host of beneficial uses of medical marijuana such as easing the nausea felt by chemotherapy patients and countering the wasting away caused by AIDS. Smoking marijuana has also been shown to have pain-numbing effects.
Below is a list of surprising benefits of medical marijuana you were probably unaware of:
- Slows and slops the spread of cancer cells: a study published in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics medical journal shows that cannabidiol has the ability to stop cancer by affecting a gene called id-1. This study conducted in 2007 on breast cancer cells with high levels of id-1, showed that cannabidiol decreased the levels of id-1 drastically and further research by the American Association for Cancer Research shows that it also works on brain and lung cancer cells.
- Prevents Alzheimer’s: a 2006 study lead by Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute shows that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. THC blocks an enzyme that forms amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques kill brain cells, which can potentially lead to Alzheimer’s.
- Treats Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a condition that increases the pressure in the eyeball, which can cause a loss of vision by damaging the optic nerve. According to studies by the National Eye Institute, smoking marijuana causes a lowering of intraocular pressure, which can counter the effects of glaucoma and save your vision.
- Relieves Arthritis: a 2011 report shows that cannabis reduces pain and inflammation and promotes sleep, which can prove beneficial to sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, amongst other conditions.
- Controls Epileptic Seizures: in 2003 Robert J. De Lorenzo, of Virginia Commonwealth University tested the effects of marijuana on epileptic rats. He reported the THC was able to control the seizures by binding to the brain cells responsible for controlling excitability and regulating relaxation.
- Eases the pain on multiple sclerosis: marijuana has been shown to ease the painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis by bonding with the receptors in nerves and muscles to relieve pain.
- Soothing tremors for Parkinson’s disease sufferers: recent studies in Israel have shown that smoking marijuana has a remarkable positive effect on reducing pain and tremors of Parkinson’s disease sufferers. Even more impressively, the research also showed a marked improvement of fine motor skills amongst patients.
- Helps with Crohn’s disease and other intestinal issues: recent studies have shown that cannabis smoking can reduce symptoms of Crohn’s Disease by a large extent and in some cases outright cure it. This appears to be an effect of THC’s ability to strengthen the government control bacteria and ease intestinal function.
- Lessening side effects of Hepatitis C treatment and increases treatment effectiveness: Hepatitis C treatment carries a plethora of annoying side effects such as fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, muscle pains and depression. These side effects are often so severe that many patients are unable to continue their treatment. However, a 2006 study discovered that smoking cannabis reduced the severity of these symptoms to manageable levels, with the added bonus of boosting the treatment’s effectiveness.
- Reduces Anxiety: studies show that another of marijuana’s many benefits is that it can act to reduce anxiety when taken in small doses. This can be useful for sufferers of PSTD. It is important to note however that dosage needs to be carefully calibrated, as high doses of THC can have the opposite effect and raise anxiety levels.
These few benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to marijuana. It is surprising that the plant still retains a negative reputation. Hopefully, further research can help to remove the stigma of smoking pot and more people can benefit from its effects. Tell us what you think in the comments below!