Support of medicinal cannabis has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to the growing body of research that shows its therapeutic value for a range of health conditions. Cannabis may be able to treat or alleviate the symptoms of a variety of serious ailments, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and much more.
Not sure if medical cannabis is right for you? We’ve rounded up 10 of the most common conditions of medical cannabis is prescribed for:
1. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms vary both in type and severity, but typically include pain, spasms, balance issues, tingling, vision problems and more. Research published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal found that cannabis based medicinal extracts can significantly reduce spasticity and pain associated with multiple sclerosis while having few adverse effects on patients.
2. Spinal Cord Injury
Caused by trauma to the spine, spinal cord injuries are known to affect motor skills and can potentially lead to total loss of function in some parts of the body. Research suggests cannabis can help patients treat the pain and muscle spasms that are often symptomatic of a spinal cord injury, with investigators from the Oxford Centre for Enablement noting that “Cannabis medicinal extracts can improve neurogenic symptoms unresponsive to standard treatments.”
3. Spinal Cord Disease
The term ‘spinal cord disease’ refers to any spinal cord issues that develop for reasons other than trauma. Multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, syringomyelia and spinal stenosis can all be considered examples of spinal cord disease. Patients living with a spinal cord disease may find therapeutic value in using cannabis based medicine, thanks to cannabis’ ability to alleviate spasticity and pain – two of the most common symptoms associated with spinal cord disease.
Responsible for about 30 percent of all deaths, cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, according to figures reported by the Canadian Cancer Society. While cannabis can’t cure cancer, it can drastically reduce the severity of symptoms and improve quality of life for patients. How? Well, research shows that both THC and CBD (two of the key active components found in cannabis) can stimulate appetite, which may help with weight loss, anorexia and cachexia that many cancer patients experience. In addition, cannabis is very effective at combating the nausea caused by conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
HIV/AIDS treatment has come a long way over the last decade or so. While modern therapy allows those with HIV/AIDS to live a long and healthy life, the side effects of the treatment can be challenging to deal with. This is where medicinal cannabis comes in. A number of studies show that medical cannabis can improve many HIV/AIDS-related symptoms, including anorexia, weight loss, severe nausea and more. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found 97 percent of HIV patients reported improved appetite with medical cannabis treatment, while 94 percent experienced reduced muscle pain and 93 percent reported improvements to both nausea and anxiety.
‘Arthritis’ is an umbrella term that refers to the inflammation of a joint. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with some of the more common types including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Symptoms typically include swelling and redness around the joint, reduced range of motion, stiffness, weakness and severe, ongoing pain. It’s the latter symptom that cannabis is most effective at treating. In one study into the efficacy of cannabis as a form of pain relief for rheumatoid arthritis, researchers noted that “a significant analgesic effect was observed and disease activity was significantly suppressed”.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects almost 140,000 Canadians, according to data gathered by Statistics Canada. The disorder is characterized by seizures, which range from relatively mild (a moment of impaired concentration) to extreme (total loss of consciousness and awareness). Cannabis based medicines – and CBD-dominant products in particular – have proven to be very effective at reducing the frequency and severity of epilepsy seizures. With that said, medical cannabis should only be used in treatment resistant cases of seizures.
8. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The term ‘inflammatory bowel disease’ (IBD) describes disorders that result in inflammation of the digestive tract, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Research published in Digestion found that IBD patients experienced a variety of health benefits from using cannabis. Factors such as physical pain, social functioning, general health perception, ability to work and depression all saw notable improvement.
9. End of Life Care
Studies have shown that medicinal cannabis may also be an effective treatment option in palliative care, which could be vital in the years ahead as many nations come to terms with aging populations. Research published in Current Oncology found that medical cannabis could “provide further relief from distressing symptoms and spiritual suffering”, while improving patients’ overall quality of life.
Research indicates that both THC- and CBD-dominant cannabis based medicines offer effective therapy for a range of sleep disorders, including insomnia. Cannabis is thought to reduce sleep latency, induce drowsiness and improve quality of sleep. Evidence has shown sleep has improved in patients with a variety of health conditions such as chronic pain and MS.
Each patient is unique and should always consult a healthcare professional concerning any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment options.