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What conditions can marijuana treat?

Medical Marijuana Benefits

David G. Ostrow (Medical Marijuana Doctor) gives expert video advice on: What conditions can marijuana treat?; Do most physicians believe in the power of medical marijuana to treat illness?; Why Is medical marijuana an effective way to treat nausea? and more...

What conditions can marijuana treat?

Medical cannabis has been used to treat many many conditions over the several millennia that it's been used. However, in modern day medicine - which is evidence based - I think the best science is in the area of pain reduction or analgesia. It is a non-addictive alternative to opiate drugs for peripheral neuropathy which doesn't respond very well to the typical opiate drugs. And that peripheral neuropathy is most typical in persons with HIV and/or diabetes. It's useful for the anorexia, nausea, that's directly caused by the disease or caused by medications for diseases- such as cancer chemotherapy. A number of trials have shown that it's very effective for cancer pain in terminal cancer. After that I would say multiple sclerosis is one of the areas where it's most widely used. Some people have recommended it for glaucoma, but there are some pretty potent drugs for glaucoma that are typically used and don't require ingesting a compound like marijuana or THC, so that seems to be the preferred way to use it.

Do most physicians believe in the power of medical marijuana to treat illness?

Most physicians will not admit to believing that marijuana or medicinal cannabis is useful except in very rare instances. This, I think, is the result of the misinformation and myths about marijuana and medical marijuana that have been propagated by the US government ever since the war on drugs began back in 1937. And the fact that the double blind placebo controlled study that is just now coming out and people who have spent their lives believing that marijuana is a highly addictive and dangerous substance are not likely to read or even believe that data. So I think we have a long way to go in educating America's physicians, nurses, health care practitioners about the truth and the usefulness of medicinal cannabis so that they will feel more comfortable using it. And that really is the purpose of the organization, The Medical Marijuana Policy Advocacy Project that I and others have established.

Why Is medical marijuana an effective way to treat nausea?

Medical marijuana is an effective way to treat nausea because it can be very easily titrated by the patient, most of whom only require a few puffs of smoke or a small amount of vaporized gas from marijuana. It doesn't have other side effects and it will not only treat the nausea but it will increase appetite, where anorexia often goes along with chronic nausea with cancer or chemotherapy. And so you're really getting two benefits at the same time.

How does medical marijuana help people with glaucoma?

Medical marijuana is supposed to decrease intraocular pressure which is the actual cause of glaucoma or the pathogenesis of it. The mechanism I'm not exactly sure of. It opens, it presumably opens up the canals through which the excess intraocular fluid can drain, but at the same time, we have topical agents that are very strong and very effective. They're usually prostaglandin derived compounds. And so I don't think that [unintelligible] cannabis is going to get very widely used in this area.

What do HIV and AIDS experts say about medical marijuana?

I would say that if you surveyed all the different medical specialties, it would be the HIV/AIDS and oncologists that would be most enthusiastic and positive about medicinal cannabis. At least in those states, like California, that have state sanctioned and regulated medicinal cannabis programs. The majority of patients on those programs are HIV positive patients. They use it primarily for pain relief, but the so-called side effects of euphoria, of increased appetite, well-being, etc., are just as important as the pain-relieving properties in HIV-related disease.

How is medical marijuana used in the treatment of Alzheimer's patients?

Medical marijuana is not yet in clinical trials for Alzheimer's. There's early laboratory evidence that in rats or in in vitro cultures that exposure to whole extracts and perhaps some individual components of marijuana may interfere with the formation of the amyloid deposits and fibulary tangs that are diagnostic of Alzheimer's disease. But I do not know of any clinical trials in humans that have looked at this. They would be very difficult to do because we know that Alzheimer's is a long-term chronic disease that actually begins long before there is any clinical evidence of it being there. So you would have to start with people at high risk of Alzheimer's disease and follow them for many years to determine marijuana's effectiveness there.

Is there an effective way to inhale marijuana without smoking it?

The best way health wise; and particularly for people who find that their throat or lungs are irritated by smoke from marijuana, is to vaporize it. And that is to put it in a chamber and expose it to a very high level of heat so the compounds are paralyzed or released as a gas rather than burnt. And then that gas is collected and allowed to cool. And then you just breath it as if you were breathing air from a plastic balloon, or a rubber balloon or something. And that is basically what vaporization is all about. And that's an alternative that the American Institute of Medicine is recommended. They did research on that as an alternative delivery mechanism. But the federal government has not been willing to fund those kinds of studies. Although there are some being conducted with private funds.