The topic of cannabis, or marijuana, is a common area of debate in medicine. Although recreational use of the drug is still strictly illegal in the UK, its application for medical purposes is rapidly growing across Britain and the wider world. Cannabis, along with one of its primary components CBD, is prescribed by doctors to treat an enormous range of ailments and illnesses from anxiety and depression to dementia and chronic pain.
The global cannabis market has been estimated at USD 16.47 billion in 2022, and is predicted to reach USD 48.16 by the year 2025. But why has medical cannabis grown so popular, and what are the benefits? This article takes a look at the growth of CBD and marijuana in medicine as well as its applications for various health conditions now and in the future.
Cannabis, otherwise known as marijuana, is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. It is renowned as a recreational substance, desired for its various mental and physical effects such as euphoria, altered state of mind, and relaxation. It is most frequently by smoking or inhaling through a vaporiser, but it can also be added to food as an ingredient or applied directly to the skin as a lotion or oil.
The marijuana plant contains over one hundred chemicals called cannabinoids, each of which has a different effect on the human body. The most well-known cannabinoids are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the active ingredient responsible for creating the “high” that people feel when inhaling or consuming marijuana. CBD is often sold as an oil, used in beauty products, foods, and cosmetics.
The recreational use of CBD and cannabis is only legal in a handful of countries, but its medical application has expanded across the globe in recent years.
The conditions it is used to treat include:
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- HIV and AIDS
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms
- Chronic pain
- Severe nausea or vomiting associated with cancer treatment
There is a vast amount of research into the effect marijuana has on the body, and although there is currently no conclusive proof that it can cure any of the conditions listed above, there is strong evidence for its medical benefits. Studies show that the active ingredients contained in the drug have significant therapeutic effects in its ability to relieve chronic pain, nausea due to cancer treatment, and muscle stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis. It is also an effective means of relaxation, providing calming properties for sufferers of stress and anxiety.
There are a number of cannabis-based medicines available in the UK. Some of these, such as cannabinoid oil, CBD gummies, and hemp oil, can be bought online or in health shops. It is still very rare for medicinal cannabis to be prescribed by doctors in Britain, but there are medicines available for certain conditions. Here are some examples:
- Epidyolex: A purified liquid containing CBD used to treat epilepsy in children and adults.
- Nabilone: A form of “manmade cannabis” that mimics the psychoactive effects of THC to relieve nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.
- Nabiximols (Sativex): A cannabis-based medicine sprayed directly into the mouth for treating muscle spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.
Like any drug, if used recklessly, it can lead to various side effects. The main risks regarding marijuana and CBD are psychosis and dependency on the substance. However, if used in a controlled manner as prescribed by a doctor, the risk is greatly lessened and can be an effective way of treating many health conditions.
Why has medicinal cannabis become so popular?
There are several factors that can explain why cannabis for medicinal use has become so popular. One reason is the increased volume of evidence for its therapeutic and palliative properties. More and more people are learning about the substance, and this increased awareness is understandably resulting in higher demand.
It is also becoming more easily accessible. Although it is illegal to buy and sell marijuana in the UK, it is legal to buy CBD products as long as they contain less than 0.2% THC. They are increasingly available online and in stores in various forms, such as oils, dropper bottles, gummies, and lotions. As the global cannabis market continues to grow, it looks like we will continue to see an increase in the medicinal usage of the plant.