What is Medical Marijuana Used for?

  • Jun 9, 2021

Every human body is different, and we all respond differently to treatment. If you’re one of the many people living with a condition or disorder that lacks a simple cure, you’re familiar with the concept of medication as a balancing act or ongoing process of trial-and-error. We understand that it’s frustrating and can sometimes feel like a guessing game that never ends. But if it means feeling better, you’ll try anything that might work.

Many people have found cannabis to be helpful as a supplemental treatment, and an expanding library of research shows that it may be beneficial for a range of medical issues. If you’re curious about whether medical marijuana might help alleviate your symptoms, we have all the details to help you make an informed decision.

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What conditions and symptoms can medical marijuana help with?

Medical cannabis has been found to be helpful in combating a myriad of health issues, from physical pain and seizures to psychiatric disorders.

The FDA has not yet broadly approved marijuana as a medical treatment, with the exceptions being one cannabis-derived drug for seizures and three synthetic, cannabis-related drug products for chemotherapy symptoms. That said, many states have legalized medical cannabis for certain conditions.

Below are some of the symptoms and maladies for which cannabis is most frequently used as part of a treatment plan.

Nausea and Vomiting

Easing symptoms of nausea and vomiting is one of the most common, and earliest-studied, uses for medical marijuana. Following their struggles with treating the severe nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, oncologists began studying the anti-emetic effects of cannabinoids (the compounds that comprise cannabis) in the late 1970s.

Years of research revealed that cannabinoids, including CBD, appear to be effective for treating nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy or other therapeutic treatments. Three synthetic, cannabis-related drugs have since been approved by the FDA for cancer patients undergoing chemo. However, many individuals note “a strong preference for smoked marijuana over the [FDA-approved] synthetic cannabinoids delivered orally,” according to a 2011 article in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

Chronic Pain

Another known use of medical cannabis is for chronic pain. According to a 2019 study, 62 percent of medical marijuana users do so for chronic pain, an issue that impacts about 50 million Americans.

Research is ongoing regarding the efficacy of marijuana in treating different types of pain, but anecdotal evidence suggests it can help for a range of diseases and conditions that cause these symptoms. It is important to note that, in states where medical marijuana is legal, chronic pain is the most common qualifying condition.

Multiple Sclerosis

Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease of the brain and spinal cord, is the second-most-common use of medical cannabis nationwide. CBD (cannabidiol) in particular has been found to be helpful for MS symptoms such as pain, muscle spasms and bladder problems.

Epilepsy

Medical marijuana has become a popular treatment for epilepsy. According to a 2018 literature review, “recent studies that have included over 100 participants showed that CBD use resulted in a significant reduction in seizure frequency” for epilepsy patients.

In 2018, the FDA approved a CBD-derived drug called Epidiolex for people aged two or older with two specific types of epilepsy–Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Epilepsy is also a common qualifying condition for obtaining a medical marijuana card.

A dose of CBD tincture oil extracted from cannabis in dropper with blue bottle up-close isolated on white background

Depression, Anxiety and PTSD

Many people have begun using medical cannabis for psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. Research in that area is still in its infancy, but existing studies and anecdotal evidence yield promising results for the psychiatric benefits of cannabis.

Studies indicate that, when treating depression, high-CBD, low-THC cannabis used in small doses is most helpful for alleviating in-the-moment symptoms. The important caveat there is that higher doses and regular, long-term use appears to worsen depression.

The benefits of cannabis for anxiety are similarly promising. Participants in a 2018 study who used cannabis were able to reduce their intake of prescribed, anxiety-reducing benzodiazepines by 47 percent. Additionally, medical marijuana appears to decrease the amount and intensity of nightmares for people with PTSD.

Inflammation

Cannabis, especially CBD, appears to have anti-inflammatory properties that could be helpful for a variety of conditions. Some medical marijuana users even report a lessened need for steroidal and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These properties may be useful for conditions such as MS as well as inflammatory bowel diseases, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular diseases and more.

How can I get a medical marijuana card?

Interested in applying for a medical marijuana card? The first step is to find out if you qualify in your state. States that have legalized medical cannabis have their own unique rules governing who is eligible. If you’re not sure, check out this map of state regulations.

Once you’ve confirmed that you do qualify, you can browse our list of medical cannabis evaluation centers and schedule an appointment. They will answer any questions you have and assist with the application process. Once you obtain a card, you can make a trip to your local medical marijuana dispensary (hint: visit your nearest Sanctuary, and we’ll help you find the products that are right for you!).

Looking for more info on becoming a medical marijuana patient? We make it easy with our step-by-step guide.