The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabis

Despite the fact that research related to cannabis in the United States has been sharply limited due to federal restrictions in the past, recent scientific discoveries have increased interest among researchers in understanding the therapeutic potential of cannabis in medicine. So far, there have been 100 different cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant, which each exhibit varying effects on the human body. As a class of diverse chemical compounds that have been found to act on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain to repress release from neurotransmitters, cannabinoids are one of the hottest topics being researched today by scientists around the world to uncover the hidden therapeutic benefits. The following is a glimpse into the latest clinical research concerning the unique chemicals in cannabis for new therapeutic treatments.

Emergence of Cannabis in Research

Around the globe, research has heated up on cannabis to conduct controlled clinical studies on the possible medical benefits of cannabis products, especially in pain management. Since being founded as a scientific research organization in 1991, the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) has more than tripled its members since its incorporation into the scientific world. In addition, the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM) was founded in 2000 to advance scientific knowledge on cannabis’ therapeutic attributes, publish a bi-weekly newsletter to members, and highlight emerging clinical research at its bi-annual symposium. 

At the University of California, researchers have established the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) in 2001 in an effort to encourage scientific studies that relate to the general medical safety and efficiency of cannabis for treating various ailments. In 2010, the CMCR issued a breakthrough report on 14 clinical studies conducted to examine alternative forms of cannabis administration and test the efficacy of cannabis therapeutics. In its FDA-approved, double-blind, and placebo-controlled studies, the CMCR found that cannabis can often control pain from different medical conditions better than other available treatments on the market.

To this date, it is estimated that there have been over 15,000 modern peer-reviewed scientific research studies published on the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabinoids as well as an additional 2,000 articles on our body’s own natural endocannabinoid system. In the last few years, there has also been a sudden increase in the number of placebo-controlled human trials conducted within cannabis research. In 2009, researchers reviewed 33 published controlled clinical trials conducted in the United States over a 38-year period on cannabis and found that nearly all found statistically significant benefits of participants receiving cannabis treatments.

Cutting-Edge Findings on Medical Uses of Cannabis

With the emergence of cannabis in research, there has been compiled scientific evidence that reflects cutting-edge findings on the actual therapeutic potential of cannabis for various diseases. For instance, 40 clinical studies since the 1980s have documented the usefulness of cannabinoids in treating the nausea and vomiting that are commonly side effects associated with radiotherapy and antineoplastic therapy. In fact, one study found that THC was superior to other antiemetic drugs when treating nausea. Due to its natural appetite-enhancing effects, there has also been significant scientific evidence that supports the use of cannabis products in improving the appetite of patients with cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, and even anorexia. 

Studies have discovered that cannabis has beneficial effects on spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries, including a positive influence on pain, tremors, bladder control, and ataxia. Although currently being investigated further, preliminary reports have indicated that cannabis could create therapeutic responses for controlling symptoms of movement disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome, dystonia, and tardive dyskinesia. As one of the historically oldest indications of therapeutic benefits of cannabis, research has also suggested that cannabinoids exhibit anticonvulsive properties that can be useful for treating epilepsy or otherwise unmanageable seizure disorders. 

Several clinical studies with THC have also indicated that there are medical uses for cannabinoids for treating mental illnesses as well. According to modern case reports, cannabis is a good remedy to combat withdrawal symptoms when a patient is dependent on benzodiazepines, opiates, or alcohol. Furthermore, cannabis can decrease psychiatric symptoms associated with sleep disorders, anxiety, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, dysthymia, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The largest clinical studies have proven that cannabis has analgesic properties to manage pain from rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, migraines, menstruation, chronic bowel inflammation, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, and more. As you can see, cannabis is quickly becoming one of the most recommended complementary medicines that can potentially treat a variety of serious and chronic illnesses plaguing patients. Through emerging clinical research, we are finding a growing support for the therapeutic potential of cannabis for use in medicine.

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