The potential medicinal properties of marijuana and its components have been the subject of research and heated debate for decades. THC itself has proven medical benefits in particular formulations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved THC-based medications, dronabinol (Marinol ® ) and nabilone (Cesamet ® ), prescribed in pill form for the treatment of nausea in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite in patients with wasting syndrome due to AIDS.
Researchers generally consider medications like these, which use purified chemicals derived from or based on those in the marijuana plant, to be more promising therapeutically than use of the whole marijuana plant or its crude extracts. Development of drugs from botanicals such as the marijuana plant poses numerous challenges. Botanicals may contain hundreds of unknown, active chemicals, and it can be difficult to develop a product with accurate and consistent doses of these chemicals. Use of marijuana as medicine also poses other problems such as the adverse health effects of smoking and THC-induced cognitive impairment. Nevertheless, a growing number of states have legalized dispensing of marijuana or its extracts to people with a range of medical conditions.
Medical Marijuana Laws and Prescription Opioid Use Outcomes
In addition, several other marijuana-based medications have been approved or are undergoing clinical trials. Nabiximols (Sativex ® ), a mouth spray that is currently available in the United Kingdom, Canada, and several European countries for treating the spasticity and neuropathic pain that may accompany multiple sclerosis, combines THC with another chemical found in marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD).
The FDA also approved a CBD-based liquid medication called Epidiolex ® for the treatment of two forms of severe childhood epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. It’s being delivered to patients in a reliable dosage form and through a reproducible route of delivery to ensure that patients derive the anticipated benefits. CBD does not have the rewarding properties of THC.
A new study underscores the need for additional research on the effect of medical marijuana laws on opioid overdose deaths and cautions against drawing a causal connection between the two. Early research suggested that there may be a relationship between the availability of medical marijuana and opioid analgesic overdose mortality. In particular, a NIDA-funded study published in 2014 found that from 1999 to 2010, states with medical cannabis laws experienced slower rates of increase in opioid analgesic overdose death rates compared to states without such laws. 78
CBD is only one of around 400 compounds in marijuana, and is responsible for counteracting the effects of THC. Although the CBD molecule is almost identical to the THC molecule, it doesn't get you high. On its own, CBD has been proven to have many health benefits and uses, such as treating anxiety, stress, epilepsy and depression. The compound is non-psychoactive, which has helped it gain support in many medical fields for its therapeutic properties.
The ruling on the FDA approval of Epidiolex and the use of CBD in such drugs is set for the end of June. Not only are we seeing an increase in the legalization of marijuana, but the medicinal benefits of compounds found in marijuana, such as CBD, have huge market and investment potential.
What is THC?
While the jury in some ways is still out, studies so far have shown relatively few negative side effects of CBD and THC use. However, some studies show that the neurotransmission systems involved in processing CBD can be linked to cannabis addiction and dependence, and found links to the three stages of addiction. Positive effects were also found in the study.
Although a bit of a blurred line, it is smart to be cautious when purchasing or using CBD products, as their legality is still questionable. The same goes for THC, which is perhaps the more controversial compound of the two for legal use.
Both THC and CBD have been used to treat anxiety.