THC Basics: An Introduction to Medical Cannabis

THC Basics: An Introduction to Medical Cannabis

The Medicinal Properties of Marijuana

Medical cannabis provides a safe and effective alternative to some traditional pharmaceutical drugs in managing serious health conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, and more. Some of the most promising advances in treating chronic health conditions are the medicinal properties of marijuana being discovered and studied by researchers. More and more patients in states with medical marijuana programs are opting for using medical marijuana vs. prescription drugs for a number of reasons. 

For many seriously ill people, medical marijuana is the only medicine that provides relief of their pain and suffering or effectively treats or manages the symptoms of their health condition without debilitating side effects associated with some pharmaceutical drugs. Many people are considering using medical cannabis as an alternative treatment to traditional medications, or use them in conjunction with prescription medications to mitigate severe side effects.

One of the biggest medical benefits of cannabis is its link to fighting cancer. There is a good amount of evidence that shows cannabinoids can help fight certain types of cancer, and the medicinal properties of marijuana can be reduced to cannabinoids, a group of substances found in the cannabis plant. To date, researchers have identified more than 100 different cannabinoids, but the two most people are familiar with are THC and cannabidiol (CBD). Both THC and CBD can help sufferers manage pain and reduce a number of other symptoms like nausea, anxiety, and inflammation, among others.

Medical Marijuana vs. Prescription Drugs 

When comparing medical marijuana vs. prescription drugs, there are many conditions where opting for natural plant-based medication over a pharmaceutical may be a better choice. Whether it’s cost, fewer dangerous side effects compared to prescription pain relief options, or a simple recommendation from your doctor, there are some factors worth considering. 

More Options: Most prescription drugs are usually only available in a few forms. Cannabis can effectively treat many ailments and can also be consumed in measured doses in many ways. If a patient prefers not to vape, alternatives include cannabis capsules, oils, tinctures, patches, and even some edible forms. Finding the right dose and form for you is a matter of trial and error, but it’s always wise to start low and slow until you know how cannabis affects you and your symptoms.

Lower Cost: The cost of prescription drugs continues to rise. Many patients do not have prescription drug coverage or must shoulder big out-of-pocket costs that quickly add up, especially with multiple prescriptions involved. Medical marijuana may help reduce the cost of some medication regimens, as well as mitigate the health risks and adverse side effects you may experience when using traditional medications, especially those associated with pain reduction. 

Fewer Dangerous Side Effects: All medications have some side effects, however, some can cause more harm than others, especially opioids and other pain medications. Many prescription drugs for pain can be addicting, as well as dangerous. In contrast, while medical marijuana may also produce side effects, most are manageable with a dosage adjustment and will not cause long-term damage to the body. Finally, unlike opiates and other drugs, which have caused tens of thousands of deaths in recent years, there has not been a recorded death due to cannabis overdose.

Marijuana Compared to Prescription Drugs

Some prescription medications can take a long time to kick in, which can be problematic, especially when you’re in pain. How long medical marijuana takes to kick in, how quickly you feel the effects and how long those effects last will often depend on your method of use.

When vaping cannabis, you may begin to feel effects within 2 to 10 minutes, lasting anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, though effects can linger for up to 8 hours. When eating a cannabis gummy, the effects will typically kick in within 30 to 60 minutes, peaking around 2 hours, and can linger up to 24 hours. No matter the method of consumption for cannabis, it’s always possible to have just a bit too much, especially if you’re new to the medicine. Remember, the effects of too much cannabis are not life-threatening. Healthline offers some tricks you can try that help bring you down to earth:

  • Lie down to rest or take a nap
  • Stay hydrated
  • Add some CBD to counteract the effects of THC
  • Chew or smell some black pepper
  • Eat some pine nuts
  • Eat some lemon or add some lemon juice to water

Cannabis for Pain Management

Chronic pain researchers have studied the effects of cannabis or cannabinoids on chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain (pain associated with nerve injury or damage). For the most severe forms of pain, some research-based evidence that medical cannabis can help control pain more effectively with a smaller dose of opioids or eliminate the need for opioids altogether.

Several studies show that cannabis is also less likely to be abused than opioids and other drugs. Cannabis is safer, less addictive, and often more affordable than prescription opioids, with fewer hazardous side effects. Opioids can cause slow, shallow breathing, constipation, nausea, slowed metabolism, as well as debilitating withdrawal symptoms that can even lead to death. Studies also show that states with medical marijuana programs experience decreases in daily opioid doses—particularly hydrocodone and morphine prescriptions.

“According to research conducted by Harvard University, states with medical marijuana-friendly laws are writing increasingly fewer opioid prescriptions, and, as a result, having fewer tragedies due to these substances.” – Harvard University.

Now that you know the ins and outs of medical marijuana vs. prescription drugs, you can make an informed decision with your medical provider. If you’ve decided medical marijuana may be right for you, consult with a Qualified Medical Provider to see if you’re a candidate for the Utah Medical Cannabis Program.

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