Marijuana: Medical Use and Addiction

Some insight on the medical use of marijuana and addiction.

Medical Use of Marijuana

There remains an ongoing debate over the medical use of marijuana. Limited medical use of marijuana has been approved in some states to treat chemotherapy patients who have nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite as well as treat HIV patients with cachexia (weight loss, muscle atrophy, fatigue and loss of appetite).

Studies have also been done which show that THC and cannabidiol (CBD) found in marijuana provide therapeutic benefit for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) spasticity symptoms. In Canada, Europe, and several other countries, Sativex, an oral sublingual spray is available for adjunctive use in MS neuropathic pain and cancer-related pain. Sativex is composed of plant-derived extracts of THC and cannabidiol, not synthetic cannabinoids. In 2011, Sativex was in Phase III clinical trials for US approval for use in cancer pain, and has the adopted generic name of nabiximols. Dronabinol has also been used in Europe for treatment of MS-related pain.

 Marijuana has also been used for glaucoma to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), but research does not show that marijuana has a better effect than currently approved glaucoma medications. Studies have shown that smoked, oral or IV use may have an effect on lowering IOP, but topically applied marijuana derivatives to the eye did not have an effect. Marijuana is not FDA approval for use in glaucoma, and may lead to other adverse effects such as increased heart rate and lowered blood pressure. However, in some US states, marijuana is used for glaucoma under medical marijuana programs.

 It has also been proven effective for pain relief for people who suffer from chronic backaches.


Abuse of Marijuana


 Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. It is a dry, shredded green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short.

It is usually smoked as a cigarette (joint) or in a pipe. It is also smoked in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with a mixture of marijuana and tobacco. This mode of delivery combines marijuana’s active ingredients with nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Marijuana can also be mixed in food or brewed as a tea. As a more concentrated, resinous form, it is called hashish; and as a sticky black liquid, hash oil. Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive, usually sweet-and-sour odor.


Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction; that is, compulsive drug seeking and abuse despite the known harmful effects upon functioning in the context of family, school, work, and recreational activities. Estimates from research suggest that about 9 percent of users become addicted to marijuana; this number increases among those who start young (to about 17 percent) and among daily users (25-50 percent).

 Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms including: irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to remain abstinent. These symptoms begin within about 1 day following abstinence, peak at 2-3 days, and subside within 1 or 2 weeks following drug cessation.

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