By Nicole Suchy
I remember exactly where I was when I first learned about marijuana. I was in my fifth grade homeroom for our monthly D.A.R.E meeting, with an officer from the local police force. The discussion topic for that day was drug use and marijuana was the focus. He talked about the consequences of using this drug and the negative side effects it could have.
As an impressionable and scared 10-year-old, my mind entered into a strike of “weed is scary and bad for you,” never realizing that there was a whole other side for the use of this drug, that is entirely positive.
Throughout the past 11 years with research, my opinions have changed and my stance on the topic of marijuana has done a complete 180 degree turn. In my opinion, this drug has benefitted millions of people with different types of medical ailments. Its healing capabilities make supporting it a no brainer, and its components allow for a natural option for pain relief.
According to Harvard Health Publishing-Harvard Medical School, “about 85% of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, and it is estimated that at least several million Americans currently use it.”
Medical marijuana users are drawn to the drug for its benefits as well as the researched fact that it is impossible to overdose on and less addictive than other pain medications such as opioids. They also reported that marijuana allows users to continue everyday life without causing them to fall into a sedated trance that hard pain killers can cause.
Researchers have found that marijuana actively treats and relieves pain and chemical imbalances in the nerve, brain, and muscular systems.
Grinspoor detailed in his article “Medical Marijuana” that people who have Parkinson’s disease have reported a decrease in tremors and overall notice improvement in symptoms when using the remedy. There was also noticeable progress in patients with fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and interstitial cystitis.
According to a study done by the National Cancer Society, they discovered that cancer patients using marijuana saw a decrease in nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. They also found that it can aid in relieving pain from nerve damage caused by cancer and treatments. Although there are not many studies on the ability of marijuana to treat cancer entirely, patients have been known to require less pain medication when using the drug.
This drug is also commonly used to treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in war veterans. Doctors and patients have testified to advances in the behavior and mind of the user. Doctors hope to see more opportunity for research of medical marijuana on specifically treating PTSD, through the loosening of federal restrictions on medical marijuana.
Tom Henry, a chemical intern at KST Testing, a medical marijuana company, explained that the drug contains different chemicals that aid our bodies’ receptors for pain, “it’s like a natural pain reliever and can reduce anxiety.”
Henry concurs that if there were less federal restrictions on marijuana research, there would be more opportunity for doctors and scientists to explore these chemicals and isolate them to treat specific illnesses more head on.
Taylor Needleman, a University of Tampa junior and former student of Sativa University (a cannabis college), further clarified how these chemicals in marijuana impact our minds and bodies. The Endocannabinoid system (ECS), which everyone has in their body, contains cannabinoid receptors.
“Some things the ECS helps regulate are pain management, regulating memory, mood, sleep, appetite, stress, and the immune system to name a few,” Needleman said. “A lot of health conditions are caused by imbalances in the ECS system, and cannabis helps the symptoms subside. This is because THC mimics the body’s natural endocannabinoids and binds to the [cannabinoid] receptors in ECS, helping your body balance itself out.”
I found that one of the most interesting parts of the chemical makeup of marijuana is Terpenes. Needleman explained that this attributes to the smell and taste of the plant and there are over 100 different types that scientists have identified.
Additionally, Terpenes have more traits than just smell and flavor, they also contribute to the side effects the user will feel. Some of the most commonly found ones are Myrcene (which helps calming), Caryophyllene (an anti- inflammatory) and Terpinolene (has uplifting mental and physical effects).
Needleman, who has a medical marijuana card, explained that she loves it and it has helped her in so many different ways. She first got her medical card for gastrointestinal issues, but said that it has helped her beyond that as well.
“Being able to smoke my medicine is extremely helpful for stomach problems and nausea. It has also helped me be a happier person overall to be honest. I am much calmer and more balanced,” said Needleman.
I personally believe that natural remedies are far more effective and healthy for the individual in fighting against medical issues. Throughout my research I have gained so much insight into the wide variety of illnesses and pain marijuana can treat. Medical marijuana is bringing a whole new mentality and approach to the world of medicine. If federal restrictions are lightened on the research scientists and doctors do in this field, it could open doors to a new way of modern medicine. Marijuana has helped people deal with chronic pain and illness and I think it is time to further open up the conversation and educate people on its benefits rather than its negative societal attributes.