Anxiety and Medical Marijuana: The Impact of Cannabinoids

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Anxiety affects roughly 18% of Americans. This makes it the most common mental illness in the country, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Of the over 40 million patients in United States, many use conventional medications to deal with the problem. While effective, they often come with unpleasant side effects. Drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, weight gain and sexual dysfunction are just a few issues. Consequently, patients are caught between a rock and a hard place. They can’t function without their medication, yet they’re just as crippled while on it.

This is where medical marijuana comes in. Recently, this drug has become a jack-of-all trades, treating several physical and mental problems ­– anxiety being one of them. But unlike chronic pain, nausea or insomnia, for instance, anxiety is a bit tricky. In fact, properly treating anxiety with cannabis requires care. Using the wrong strain could actually make things much worse.

So how can we know which strain is right? The answer lies in marijuana’s active chemicals, called cannabinoids. Understanding what these are and what they do is critical for the effective treatment of anxiety.

THC, CBD and Anxiety

How marijuana helps (or hinders) the treatment of anxiety is entirely dependent on the cannabinoid concentrations. Understanding how each of them affect this condition is critical.

THC

The first – and arguably the most well-known – cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the chemical that creates the euphoric “high” we’re familiar with. It’s the main reason people use marijuana, legal or otherwise. But while it may be a fun way to relax or ponder the mysteries of the universe, it’s not the greatest thing for anxiety.

THC has its share of negative side effects. One specific issue is how it can cause paranoia or fear. Naturally, this isn’t the type of thing you’d want if you’re trying to curb chronic anxiety. Unfortunately, many new users don’t understand how some cannabis strains can contain massive amounts of THC. White Widow or Royal Purple Kush, for instance, have THC levels in the low to high ‘20s. If these strains were alcohol, they’d be comparable to whiskey or vodka. Anyone with anxiety should steer clear of these strains (and others like them).

CBD

This brings us to the other cannabinoid of interest, cannabidiol (CBD). If high-THC strains are like hard liquor, CBD would be non-alcoholic beer. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. It actually reduces the effectiveness of THC. This is why most medical strains will have a higher amount of one or the other. There are some exceptions, but they’re few and far between.

But the lack of a “high” isn’t the only reason why patients should use strong CBD strains. Peer-reviewed research supports its use as an effective treatment for anxiety. According to an article by the University Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI), “…CBD may actually have anti-anxiety effects and lessen the psychoactive effects of THC.”

Mechanism

So how does CBD work? Without getting too technical, it all boils down to our internal cannabinoid receptors, labeled CB1 and CB2. According to Dr. Anany Mandal, CB1 receptors are located in the brain. THC is drawn to these receptors, hence the drowsiness, impaired motor function and overall sense of euphoria.

CBD, on the other hand, affects the CB2 receptors. Dr. Mandal explains that these are predominantly found throughout the body. In turn, CBD can still do things like mitigate pain or anxiety without making users high.

Picking the Right Strain for Anxiety

So now comes the question, “which strain should I use?” Strains vary by supplier. Fortunately, they have the good sense to label the THC and CBD content of their products.

Again, cannabinoid contents are stated in percentages. Anxiety sufferers can obtain strains high in CBD with negligible amounts of THC. The only way to know for sure is to research the product before purchasing it. It also helps to consult with your doctor (assuming he or she supports medical marijuana).

Summary

Using marijuana to treat anxiety requires careful balance and detailed research. Although research into the CBD aspect of medical cannabis is still fairly new, its importance is indisputable. Use caution, especially when beginning marijuana treatment.

Cannabis: The Key to a Better Life for Parkinson’s Patients

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Cannabis treatment is a powerful tool, one that may also help with mobility disorders, like Parkinson’s. Its performance so far is staggering. Considering how debilitating Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is, medical marijuana could dramatically improve the lives of countless Americans.

PD has a variety of treatments to combat its debilitating symptoms, but predictably, marijuana isn’t on that list. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF), this degenerative “movement disorder” affects almost one million people in the United States.

Ironically, millions of dollars continue to be spent trying to find effective countermeasures. Yet judging by recent discoveries, the solution was right under our noses since the dawn of agriculture. Once again, medical cannabis appears to have the answer – with remarkable results.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

The PDF explains that Parkinson’s Disease involves the “malfunction and death” of neurons in the brain. Neurons play a variety of roles, with movement control being just one of them. Naturally, the death of these cells affects their associated functions. Symptoms worsen as time goes on, ultimately causing severe debilitation of movement control.

Parkinson’s symptoms include tremors in the extremities, jaw and face; slow movement (bradykinesia), body stiffness and issues with balance or coordination. Aside from drastically reducing quality of life, these afflictions have something else in common. They are all things that cannabis could reduce or alleviate.

A Case for Cannabis and Parkinson’s Disease

Despite significant push-back from the medical community, evidence mounts in favor of medical marijuana. Adding to the growing body of anecdotal evidence, this video all but seals the argument.

The video features “Larry,” a retired police officer who suffers from “Severe Parkinson’s” using cannabis – in this case, oil – for the first time. Naturally, he’s a bit nervous, but the people off camera talk him through it.

Within minutes, he goes from barely being able to speak or control his movements, to relaxed and still. He speaks clearly and even gives singing a brief try. The transformation is nothing short of shocking. Sadly, Larry laments that medical cannabis isn’t available in his home state.

Benefits of Cannabis Treatment

Although still lacking much peer-reviewed research, marijuana seems promising as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. For instance, a study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains: “Preclinical research in animal models of several movement disorders have shown variable evidence for symptomatic benefits but more consistently suggest potential neuroprotective effects in several animal models of Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD).”

In other words, not only could marijuana effectively mitigate symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, but it protects existing, healthy cells.

While the medical community continues to debate the benefits and drawbacks, the National Parkinson Foundation acknowledges the benefits of marijuana. They advocate how cannabis can help with “pain management, sleep dysfunction, weight loss and nausea” in Parkinson’s patients.

<h2>Parkinson’s Disease and Cannabis Risks</h2>

Individuals who intend to try medical marijuana for Parkinson’s have a great deal to gain; however, it’s important to be informed about potential side effects.

Obviously, the most prominent effect is the physical and mental impairment, or “high.” The National Parkinson’s Foundation also lists other symptoms, specifically “…dizziness, blurring of vision, mood and behavioral changes, loss of balance and hallucinations.”

They also warn that extended use could increase the chances of lung cancer; however, since cannabis comes in oral drops or pills, simply avoid things such as joints, pipes or bongs.

The Future of Cannabis and Parkinson’s Disease

Ultimately, only time will tell whether marijuana will be universally accepted as a treatment. As we see in “Larry’s” case, this potential discovery can’t be ignored. Hopefully, individuals with Parkinson’s Disease will be able to safely reap its benefits.

 

 

Ridiculous Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization: Part II

Ridiculous Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization: Part II

 

In Part I, we covered three of the most ridiculous arguments against marijuana legalization. But that list is far from short. While there are many to choose from, there are a couple that seem to pop up more often than we’d expect.

It’s easy to embrace something as fact, simply because it fits a certain personal narrative. But this tendency is just delaying a societal change that’s long overdue. So, like earlier, let’s take a look at these claims and see what reality has to say about them.

 

Keeping Marijuana Illegal Makes It Harder to Access

Most anti-legalization advocates either state or just quietly accept this as fact. They’re under the impression that banning cannabis makes it much harder to find. But nothing could be further from the truth.

According to an article by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

 

In 2016, 9.4 percent of 8th graders reported marijuana use in the past year and 5.4 percent in the past month (current use). Among 10th graders, 23.9 percent had used marijuana in the past year and 14.0 percent in the past month. Rates of use among 12th graders were higher still: 35.6 percent had used marijuana during the year prior to the survey and 22.5 percent used in the past month; 6.0 percent said they used marijuana daily or near-daily.

 

If this is an example of prohibition’s success, it doesn’t look very – well – successful. But when you boil it down, it’s a simple matter of logistics. A black market substance, like marijuana, can easily be obtained from family, friends or acquaintances. In short, somebody eventually knows a dealer or person who casually sells. Last we looked, these guys don’t check ID.

Without a clerk and some ID to stop a kid from buying marijuana, students can fill the void with their own side business.

Marijuana is a Gateway Drug

This argument has been shredded over and over again, yet parents and prohibition advocates cling to it anyway. Maybe they refuse to believe it, or keep it around for its rhetorical value. After all, what better way to scare people off than to say cannabis inevitably leads to the use of hard drugs like cocaine, heroin and LSD?

Well, the claim is just plain wrong. Once again, we can turn to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for proof. They explain that, although marijuana does increase people’s sensitivity to other drugs – called “cross-sensitization” – (as do alcohol and nicotine), this doesn’t seem to affect future substance abuse. The Institute lays it out in plain English, writing that “…the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances.”

But that’s just half of it. Not only does cannabis not increase the chances of experimenting with other drugs, but it can actually help addicts come off of them – or prevent use altogether.

According to a 2014 study published in JAMA, states that legalized and dispensed medical marijuana were able to use it to replace opioids as the addict’s drug of choice. They also preferred to prescribe cannabis over narcotics for pain relief. Consequently, the mean annual death rate from opioids was 24.8% lower than that of states where medical cannabis was unavailable.

People also seem to use it for virtually any habit imaginable. Dr. Rick Nauert, PhD writes that ”a poll of 350 cannabis users [found] that 40 percent used cannabis to control their alcohol cravings, 66 percent as a replacement for prescription drugs and 26 percent for other, more potent illegal drugs.”

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve explored some of the more overused and misunderstood arguments by the anti-legalization crowd, it’s easy to see how people can get caught up in hysteria. In their misplaced fear, people turn to misplaced claims. The only way to combat this is to check our facts and always be willing to delve deeper, even if we don’t like what’s presented.

Ridiculous Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization: Part I

Ridiculous Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization: Part I

 

Marijuana legalization is a hot topic these days. With our closest northern neighbor, Canada, set to remove prohibition in July, 2018, it’s quite apparent how pot attitudes have changed. In fact, a Pew Research poll reveals that 57% of Americans favor legalizing recreational Cannabis.

So why hasn’t it happened yet? That’s a complex question, but one glaring problem is the absurd arguments and logical fallacies pushed by anti-marijuana advocates. Misinformation is a powerful thing, and the only way to counter it is with cold, hard facts.

That being said, let’s see what some people are saying and point out just how dead wrong they really are.

The “Slippery Slope”

This argument has been used over a variety of issues, and it seems marijuana is no exception. In fact, America’s most unpopular governor, Chris Christie once argued, “Then why not legalize heroin…Let’s legalize cocaine. Let’s legalize heroin. Let’s legalize angel dust. Let’s legalize all of it. What’s the difference?”

Let’s not. The social and health consequences of the “hard” drugs listed by Christie are devastating. Compare that to marijuana, whose biggest crime (and health impact) is creating long lines at Taco Bell.

But there’s plenty of proof. A 2007 report published in The Lancet ranks marijuana lower than any of the drugs (and many others) that Christie mentioned in terms of harm and potential for addiction.

Pot Was Banned for the Sake of Our Health

Nope. It was banned for much more sinister reasons. Remember Donald Trump’s infamous “bad hombres” remark when referring to illegal Mexican immigrants and their alleged criminal tendencies? Well, this is the exact reason why marijuana was banned in the first place.

According to an entry on the educational website, drugpolicy.org, marijuana’s prohibition came about due to a mix of scare tactics about Mexican-Americans and their allegedly dangerous behavior due to cannabis usage. It effectively became a good excuse to unfairly “search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants.”

To this day, the “War on Drugs” still has a knack for targeting minorities.

Pot Encourages Criminal Behavior

Okay, yes it does. But that’s only because purchasing it makes you a criminal. In fact, anyone who’s used cannabis – medicinally or recreationally – knows its effects very well. When you’re high, you can barely bring yourself to do the dishes, let alone beat someone up or kill the neighbor who keyed your car. But let’s see what statistics have to say.

An article in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors states that “Alcohol was more than twice as likely to be a contributing factor to violent crimes than nonviolent crimes…” and 62% of those convicted of violent crimes did so under the influence of alcohol. And this stuff is legal.

Okay, so alcohol is a huge factor in violent crime. But what about pot? Well, according to the conclusions drawn by the National Academy of Sciences, “…cannabis preparations (e.g., marihuana, hashish) or THC decrease aggressive and violent behavior.”

So the next time you’re tempted to take the gloves off because of your co-worker’s snarky remarks about your haircut, try smoking joint. Better yet, both of you should.

Final Thoughts

Nobody’s saying that marijuana is 100% harmless. There are plenty of studies indicating that it can have adverse effects, especially on young, developing brains. But after decades of failed attempts to curb its black market consumption, we need to stop relying on laws to eliminate certain behaviors. Instead, the onus should be on parents to educate their kids about responsible cannabis use, just like they (hopefully) do with alcohol and cigarettes.