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Marijuana and Cannabinoids: Treating Chronic Pain, Epilepsy, and Anxiety

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

What is Medical Marijuana?

Marijuana is the most commonly used recreational drug after tobacco. Over the last decade, Americans have demanded with their votes and their elected officials that marijuana be treated as an alternative source for medical treatments.

  • 39 states plus Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana for their citizens.

  • 5 states have legalized the medical use of CBD oil only: Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, and Wisconsin.

  • 7 states have no access to medical marijuana rights: Alabama, Idaho, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

The words “Cannabis” and “Marijuana” don’t mean exactly the same thing. According to the National Institutes of Health... "The word “cannabis” refers to all products derived from the plant Cannabis sativa. The word “marijuana” refers to parts of or products from the plant Cannabis sativa that contain substantial amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)."

The cannabis plant contains about 540 chemical known substances. source - National Institute of Health

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a group of substances found in the cannabis plant.

What are the main cannabinoids?

The main cannabinoids are THC and cannabidiol (CBD).

How many cannabinoids are there?

Besides THC and CBD, more than 100 other cannabinoids have been identified.

Medical Marijuana: Can Cannabis & Cannabinoids Help?

The FDA has approved drugs containing cannabinoids: Epidiolex, Marinol, and Syndros.

Epidiolex: "contains a purified form of CBD derived from cannabis, was approved for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, two rare and severe forms of epilepsy." source - National Institute of Health

Marinol & Syndros: "contain dronabinol (synthetic THC), and Cesamet, which contains nabilone (a synthetic substance similar to THC), are approved by the FDA. Dronabinol and nabilone are used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Dronabinol is also used to treat loss of appetite and weight loss in people with HIV/AIDS." source - National Institute of Health

How Does Medical Marijuana Help?

Drugs containing cannabinoids may be helpful in treating certain rare forms of epilepsy, nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, and loss of appetite and weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS. In addition, some evidence suggests modest benefits of cannabis or cannabinoids for chronic pain and multiple sclerosis symptoms. Cannabis isn’t helpful for glaucoma. Research on cannabis or cannabinoids for other conditions is in its early stages. source - National Institute of Health

Medical Marijuana Treating Anxiety Research

Definition: "Anxiety disorders are a cluster of mental disorders characterized by significant and uncontrollable feelings of anxiety and fear such that a person's social, occupational, and personal functions are significantly impaired." source - Wikipedia

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.

    • over 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older suffer from anxiety (18.1% of the population)

    • only 36.9% seek treatments for anxiety.

Cannabis or Cannabinoids May Reduce Anxiety

A small amount of evidence from studies in people suggests that cannabis or cannabinoids might help to reduce anxiety. One study of 24 people with social anxiety disorder found that they had less anxiety in a simulated public speaking test after taking CBD than after taking a placebo. Four studies have suggested that cannabinoids may be helpful for anxiety in people with chronic pain; the study participants did not necessarily have anxiety disorders.

Medical Marijuana Treating Chronic Pain Research

Definition: Pain sensation is a function of the human nervous system. Nerves detect it and send signals that travel from the injury site to the spinal cord and up to the brain.

The five most common types of pain are acute pain, chronic pain, neuropathic pain, nociceptive pain, and radicular pain.

Cannabis or Cannabinoids May Reduce Pain

A 2018 review of 16 studies of cannabis-based medicines for neuropathic pain, most of which tested a cannabinoid preparation called nabiximols (brand name Sativex; a mouth spray containing both THC and CBD that is approved in some countries but not in the United States), found low- to moderate-quality evidence that these medicines produced better pain relief than placebos did. source - National Institute of Health
There’s evidence from studies in animals that administering THC along with opioids may make it possible to control pain with a smaller dose of opioids.

Medial Marijuana Treating Epilepsy Research

Definition: "Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness." source - Mayo Clinic

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: roughly 1.2% of the US population suffer from epilepsy. This equals over 3.4 million people with epilepsy nationwide: 3 million adults and 470,000 children.

Cannabis or Cannabinoids May Reduce Seizures

Cannabinoids, primarily CBD, have been studied for the treatment of seizures associated with forms of epilepsy that are difficult to control with other medicines. Epidiolex (oral CBD) has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of seizures associated with two epileptic encephalopathies: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. (Epileptic encephalopathies are a group of seizure disorders that start in childhood and involve frequent seizures along with severe impairments in cognitive development.) source - National Institute of Health

As America and the globe continue the legalization of medical marijuana, more research is expected to shine greater light on evidence-based treatments. Medical marijuana is still in its infancy stage and much more is yet to be learned.

Find Medical Marijuana Doctors Near You

OMNI Medical Services provides compassionate and informed medical cannabis evaluations for patients living in legal medical marijuana states. Speak with a medical marijuana doctor today or book online now.

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