There are numerous illnesses that can be addressed with cannabis or cannabinoid medicines.  These have varying amounts of data to support the treatment.  Here we will discuss the top 5 illnesses or symptoms where we have good data to support cannabinoid treatment. 

1. Pain

Pain means a lot of different things.  Yet we all have pain and know it when we see it, as they say.  Pain can be caused by mechanical problems, like osteoarthritis which is a mechanical wearing-out of the cartilage in a joint leading to bone scraping on bone and causing pain.  Pain can be caused by neurologic problems like a pinched nerve or a stroke.  Pain can be caused by inflammatory problems like in Rheumatoid Arthritis where our own immune system attacks our joints causing destruction and pain. 

All three of these pain processes are different and need the right kind of treatment.  To fix osteoarthritis in the knee, for example, we do a knee replacement.  For a pinched nerve we can sometimes inject it, but often need a surgery to “unpinch” the nerve.  For RA, we use powerful medications to calm the inflammation. 

Yet all of these processes lead to the same outcome: pain.  Much of the research into whether or not cannabis can be useful for pain has focused on one type of pain process or another.  In the end, however, it seems that pain is pain.  Cannabis can treat pain. 

This includes pain from various diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Fibromyalgia, Cancer (of many kinds), Neuropathy, Restless Let Syndrome, and others.

Interestingly, the way we treat the pain with cannabis depends on the type of pain.  It’s not as simple as “go smoke some weed, man”.

Also, interesting is the fact that cannabis doesn’t seem to actually make the pain “go away” the way ibuprofen might make a headache disappear.  Cannabis, rather, seems to disconnect the pain (perception) from the suffering (emotional reaction).  So you still feel the pain, but it’s no longer so bothersome.  It’s really remarkably effective. 

2. Insomnia

Of all the things to treat with cannabis, I think insomnia is what it does best. 

Whether the insomnia stems from anxiety, or pain, or just is what it is, cannabis can be helpful.  However, there are different types of insomnia that need to be addressed correctly.  Some people have trouble getting to sleep.  Others have trouble staying asleep.  And some really unfortunate folks have both. 

The dose of cannabis is incredibly important.  We need to give just enough to do the trick without giving excess that can lead to unpleasant intoxication, next-day drowsiness, dependence, or even misuse.  Early studies of cannabis and sleep actually looked quite concerning as cannabis can suppress REM sleep.  REM is where you dream and is actually necessary for survival.  However, it has turned out that this suppression is a dose effect – a little can be helpful and too much is, well, too much. Further the route of administration plays a vital role in how cannabis will behave and whether or not it’ll effectively relief the insomnia.  As with most medications, how you take it is determined by the action of the medication, not by personal preference.

3. Anxiety/Depression/PTSD

Anxiety and unipolar depression can be addressed with cannabis.  PTSD also falls into this category.  It’s worth noting that bipolar illness (as well as Schizophrenia) are different and are not clearly safe to treat with cannabis. 

However, it’s really important to understand that the approaches to anxiety and depression that are discussed in public are not correct.  In fact, the general approach (which could be summarized as “wake and bake”) is well proven to lead to bad places.  Not only have work/school performance been shown to suffer, but excessive exposure to cannabis can lead to tolerance, dependence, and even misuse.  Clearly we’d like to avoid those.  But most importantly, excess cannabis can actually worsen both anxiety and depression. 

Both dose and timing are important for getting good results with mental health issues.  In short, low doses given typically around bed time are best.  This is good because when cannabis causes intoxication, it wears off while sleeping.  Yet, something extraordinary happens on a chemical level that leads to persistent treatment for the anxiety or depression throughout the next day.  This is ideal because it demonstrates that we can get effective treatment without actually being stoned during the day when we have things to do. 

4.  Nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite

These probably don’t need a lot of explanation.  Typically they are caused by cancer or by the treatment of the cancer.  There are some other situations that lead to similar symptoms like diabetic gastroparesis.

In reality, for nausea and vomiting, there are conventional medications that are better than cannabis.  Ondansetron (Zofran) is a conventional medication that frankly is very well tolerated and is just better at controlling nausea with fewer side effects than cannabis.  However, it doesn’t work for all and sometimes works but not enough.  Thankfully, it’s not an either/or situation and cannabis can be used alongside some of these medications to achieve the best result. 

On the appetite front, there are only a few conventional medications and they’re just not very good.  Cannabis, on the other hand, is quite effective.  In these situations, cannabis is simply the best available option.  The key is developing a regimen that is safe and effective without exposing someone to unnecessary risks posed by many devices and products that are out there. 

 5. Sexual Issues

Sexual issues are vastly common and severely under diagnosed and treated.  Over 50% of women and about 45% of men will develop some sexual issue over their lifetime.  Whether we’re facing issues with libido, erections, orgasms, or satisfaction, and regardless of gender, cannabis has been shown to be helpful. 

For example, among women who identify sexual difficulties, cannabis leads to approximately 40% improvement.  In women who identify difficulty achieving orgasm with a partner, approximately 30% will improve with cannabis and 78% will have more frequent orgasms. 

The approach to treating sexuality with cannabis is again not simply “go smoke some weed” and has not been helped by the abundance of baloney products out there claiming to help.  There is a process and a number of considerations to discuss for optimal results – especially when considering a partnered experience. 

Consult with a Qualified Boston Medical Marijuana Expert Today

Those considering using THC, CBD, or any type of medicine found in cannabis to help manage their condition should consider speaking to a trained medical expert who is knowledgeable about using cannabis therapeutically. Massachusetts medical marijuana doctor Jordan Tishler, M.D. sits on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has years of experience helping patients treat pain and other ailments using cannabis. He and the team at InhaleMD stand ready to assist patients in determining whether medical marijuana is right for them. For more information, or to set up a virtual consultation with the team at InhaleMD, call us at (617) 477-8886 today.

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