‘Adulting’ 101: What you need to know about medical marijuana

‘Adulting’ 101: What you need to know about medical marijuana

By Amber Baltazar

Marijuana was once known as the “devil’s lettuce” that hippies smoked or the “gateway drug” we were suppose to stay away from.  

But it’s now legal in 28 states for medical uses, according to Vox.  Dispensaries are selling marijuana-based products throughout California. And magazines like “High Times” are becoming mainstream, or close to it.

The interest in natural alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs is also helping fuel the trend.

“Here I was training to become an emergency medical doctor, and on the one hand I was handing out pills, the very pills that were bringing patients back in with side-effects, overdoses, and addiction,” recalled Rachna Patel, a doctor and medical marijuana expert.

Patel and other experts say marijuana can be rewarding for people whose prescription or over-the-counter drugs haven’t helped.  But there’s a lot to understand for these people. Here is Inside Fullerton’s primer on the issue.

Q. What is marijuana and what do I need to know about it?

Marijuana is a plant that produces many chemicals that are responsible for its effects.  The two-main components of the plant are CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).  These components are known as cannabinoids, which are found in the human brain along with receptors for these cannabinoids.  According to Leafscience, a Canadian marijuana news website, “Marijuana contains over 113 different chemical compounds. … These compounds interact with our bodies via the endocannabinoid system.”  Both CBD and THC interact with specific cells in the brain and organs, which cause different effects in the body. The two attain a wide range of applications that can be immensely beneficial for the user — but it is best to be informed about the differences, which are used for vastly different reasons.

Q. What are the differences between the various types of cannabinoids?

THC is psychoactive, which binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, leaving one to feel a mind-altering effect that is responsible for the “high” feeling, according to Leafscience.  The THC high is often identified with smoking or ingesting edibles. If you’re looking for something that won’t give you the high feeling, experts say it is best to look for a CBD product that doesn’t contain any THC.

CBD doesn’t really bind onto the cannabinoid receptors, giving it a non-psychoactive property that gives no feeling of a high, according to according to Project CBD, a California-based non-profit group. CBD provides a wider range of relief for health conditions ranging from anxiety to epilepsy,

“A CBD-rich product with little THC can convey therapeutic benefits without having a euphoric or dysphoric effect,” according Project CBD.  This medical compound can be found in oils, or topical treatments such as cream.

Q. What do I need to know about dosage?

One should be careful of dosages. Most products that contain CBD and THC will have a label with dosage in milligrams.  

“Dosing varies highly from patient to patient. … It has to do with the machinery you have in your liver to break down these chemicals. … Everyone breaks it down differently.  There’s other patients that need a higher dosage in the double or triple digits to help relieve whatever symptoms their experiencing,” Patel said, adding “some patients start as low as 2.5 milligrams of CBD a couple times a month depending on their ailments.” Either way, one should be cautious with the dosage of THC due to its psychoactive effects. Starting at the lowest dosage is always best, experts say, when trying to understand what your body can take at a comfortable rate since everyone’s biological and physical body can be different.

Q. Is there any evidence of medicinal benefits?

Major health perks accompany some serious downsides, according to a Vox story about the the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicines’ comprehensive review last year of previous marijuana research. A dozen experts for the group looked at over 10,000 studies published since 1999.

The Vox story reports the review found promising evidence of marijuana’s effectiveness in treating chronic pain and some multiple sclerosis symptoms, and said it’s considered “a potent treatment” for cancer patients experiencing chemotherapy with debilitating pain, nausea and vomiting.

“The research finds both some strong benefits and major downsides to cannabis. It seems to be promising for chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and cancer patients. But it also seems to pose a significant risk for respiratory problems if smoked, schizophrenia and psychosis, car crashes, lagging social achievement in life, and perhaps pregnancy-related problems,” according to the story, which adds that there is “moderate evidence” for marijuana aiding those with sleep disorders and Fibromyalgia.

“There is so much more to both CBD and THC than just THC’s psychoactive properties,” according to Healthy Hemp Oils, a website that sells CBD oils. “It is a shame not to explore their applications and learn … about them, especially since they are both being used nowadays to better the lives of countless people on a daily basis.”

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