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Cannabis Myths Go Up In Smoke

The Truth About Medical Marijuana

 

For years, when I heard the words “cannabis”, “marijuana” or “weed”, I did what most people did and associated them with “getting high”, “feeling anxious”,and “that thing you do a lot of in college”.  

My perception of cannabis, however, began to change in 2013 when, after nearly a decade of struggling with chronic pain, I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Like many other chronic pain patients, my pain became increasingly more difficult to manage, and the medication side-effects turned out to be intolerable.

Determined to better my quality of life, I began to explore alternative treatment options. Through my volunteer work with other chronic pain patients, I discovered that cannabis was not only an effective substitute for pain medications such as opioids, but that this treatment option had the potential to be life-changing.

Since my initial days as a novice to the medical cannabis world, I have delved deep into the world of cannabis research and have witnessed first-hand the amazing potential of cannabis to benefit a wide range of conditions and symptoms. Throughout my journey, I have learned a great deal about cannabis which has helped to dispel many myths that have lingered from my younger days.

Myth #1: Cannabis will inevitably get you high.

False. Using cannabis does not necessarily mean that you will “get high” or experience any psychoactive effects. The psychoactive effects of cannabis are mainly attributed to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, a compound that was first discovered by Raphael Mechoulam, from the Hebrew University in Israel, in the 1960s.

Since that initial discovery, we have come to know that there are 104 active compounds found in the cannabis plant. Called cannabinoids, active compounds such as THC work in tandem with over 400 other compounds in the plant to provide a wide range of therapeutic effects.

Given that there are so many cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and that many of them do not have any psychoactive effects, it should come as no surprise that a patient does not have to “get high” when they take their cannabis.

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is a cannabinoid that has been gaining popularity within the medical community. One of many non-psychoactive cannabinoids, CBD first gained attention when it was discovered to help with treatment-resistant epilepsy in children. In addition to helping decrease the frequency and severity of seizures, CBD is primarily responsible for reducing pain, inflammation, anxiety, and bringing the body back into its natural balance.

CBD does not produce any psychoactive effects, meaning it won’t get your high or distort your cognitive functioning. It also helps to lessen the potential psychoactive effects of THC. In order to avoid getting high and remain clear-headed while medicating, patients use CBD high strains either on their own, or in conjunction with their THC high strains.

Myth #2: You have to smoke cannabis.

False. There are a number of other ways to consume cannabis, with novel therapeutic formulations just around the corner. Smoking anything, studies show, is detrimental to our health. This is why the medical cannabis patient community prefers to vaporize their cannabis. Vaporization involves a process called decarboxylation through which the plant material is heated—not burned—to a temperature where the active cannabinoids can enter the lungs in the form of vapour. Vaporization is an excellent delivery method for managing symptoms that require fast-acting relief.

Patients may also choose to rely on other delivery methods such as ingestion and topical preparations. Using cannabis oils, capsules and edibles is a good way to get long-lasting symptom relief since the effects generally last between 6-8 hours. Ingesting cannabis oils, capsules or cannabis infused foods may be useful for managing disturbances in sleep and helping you improve the quality and duration of your sleep.

Cannabis oils can be applied directly to the skin of an affected area and be used to make topical preparations such as creams and salves. Topical preparations of cannabis have the potential to reduce pain and inflammation of arthritic joints, alleviate muscle spasms and pain, and also help to reduce the severity of skin conditions such as psoriasis. What’s more, novel pharmaceutical formulations such as nasal sprays and transdermal patches are in development around the world and will continue to revolutionize the way medical cannabis patients get relief.

Myth 3: Cannabis is a recreational drug.

For me and for a rapidly growing patient community, cannabis is first and foremost medicine.

Because of its robust therapeutic and safety profiles—it has relatively few side effects and no risk of overdose induced death—cannabis is quickly becoming the preferred treatment option for many.

Historical records show that cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. Since the father of modern cannabis, Raphael Mechoulam, first identified THC in the 1960s, the scientific community has come a long way into broadening its understanding of cannabinoids and our body’s own endocannabinoid system—the regulatory system which interacts with the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant to produce therapeutic relief.

Much of our understanding of cannabis today is owed to research coming out of Israel where the therapeutic benefits of cannabis have been studied for decades. And like Israel, countries like Australia, United States, and a number of countries in Europe, among others, are welcoming cannabis into their medical systems.

The rise in the number of patients in Canada is indicative of a shift in attitudes towards cannabis within the medical community. More and more physicians are prescribing cannabis for their patients and more and more patients are gaining access to this treatment option. With legalization on the legislative horizon, attitudes towards cannabis will continue to evolve and mature. But for patients like myself, cannabis will forever remain our medicine.