Marijuana can certainly be beneficial.
It’s true that essentially every drug has some abuse liability. However, somewhere in the vicinity of 85% of those who try any given drug will never develop abuse or addiction problems (yes there are probably variations based on specific drugs, but that’s a good estimate). As we all know, marijuana is a drug that receives a lot of attention and drives intense debate when it comes to its benefits and harms. While most of the posts on my site focus on the other 15%, there is, and continues to be, evidence for the benefits of marijuana and other drugs that directly activate cannabinoid receptors.
Some of the shown benefits of marijuana
THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, is known to cause sedation, euphoria, decrease in pain sensitivity, as well as memory and attention impairments. But there are some aspects of the cannabinoid receptors that have been shown to be effective in AIDS, glaucoma and cancer treatments.
Stimulation of cannabinoid receptors causes an increase in appetite and therefore helps with the wasting syndrome often seen as a side effect in AIDS treatments or those with eating disorders. Since THC activation decreases intra-ocular pressure, another area in which marijuana has been proven to be effective is in the treatment of glaucoma. THC’s anti-emetic (or anti-vomiting) properties also make it a very useful tool for combating the side effects of cancer treatments.
Still, the activation of cannabinoid receptors is not synonymous with smoking weed. In fact, there are a number of other possible ways to consume THC and other cannabinoid-receptor activators. Also, THC is a potent immune suppressing agent, so in someone who already has a compromised immune system, such as AIDS patients, marijuana and other THC compounds could increase the risk of infection.
Future promise for the use of THC in medicine
There is some evidence that of the 2 major THC receptors (CB1 and CB2), one is associated with the immuno-suppression that occurs after chronic usage and the other is associated with the the more beneficial aspects we’d discussed. In the future, we may be able to produce a compound that activate only the behavioral effects and could therefore be used more safely for AIDS patients. Marijuana lovers will say that we should leave things as they are, but I’m all for less immuno-suppression with my cancer therapy.
Again, just because activation of THC receptors can provide the above benefits does not necessarily mean one should smoke marijuana. As usual, the benefits and risks have to be considered and one has to reach an educated, informed, conclusion. Still, there’s little doubt that in some situations, the use of marijuana, or other THC activators is not only prudent, but indeed recommended.
Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer