Are you wondering if cannabis is the right option for you? You aren’t alone. Many hear about the benefits of cannabis and wonder whether it might be a good fit for them. In this article, the first of a multi-part series geared for folks new to cannabis, we’ll go over some of the more common reasons why people decide to start using this versatile medicine. If they apply to you, cannabis might be a good option in treating a particular condition or simply helping improve your overall wellness.
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Treating a Condition with Cannabis
For many, cannabis use is all about treating a particular condition, or sometimes multiple conditions. In HelloMD’s 2016 Medical Marijuana Patient Survey, we found the most common conditions that individuals were successfully using marijuana for were chronic pain, anxiety, stress and insomnia. That said, patients also reported that cannabis helps with a large number of other conditions including back pain, migraines, arthritis, inflammation, muscle spasms, loss of appetite, ADD/ADHD, nausea, PTSD, bipolar disorder, asthma, cancer, diabetes, seizures, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and the list goes on. With so many folks finding relief with cannabis for a diverse array of symptoms and issues, it’s no wonder that more and more patients are deciding to use cannabis to treat their health conditions.
Cannabis’s ability to help with a wide variety of conditions and symptoms is due to the way its main chemical components (cannabinoids) interact with our body’s natural endocannabinoid system. This crucial system has receptors throughout the body and is responsible for maintaining our body's homeostasis, which keeps things in balance.
Kief is one of the many ways you can ingest marijuana.
When an injury takes place, for example, it’s the endocannabinoid system that jumps into action, sending endocannabinoids to the injured area. These naturally produced cannabinoids stabilize nerve cell damage (reducing pain) and calm immune cells (preventing the release of pro-inflammatory substances). This natural response reduces the amount of pain, damage and inflammation that would otherwise occur. Cannabinoids have also been found to aid in relaxation, protect the nervous system and reduce seizures, among other beneficial effects.
While these endocannabinoids are produced naturally, it turns out that plant-based cannabinoids (like those found in marijuana) are also able to stimulate endocannabinoid receptors, producing the same type of benefits. By using cannabis, patients are able to stimulate their body’s natural defenses:
- significantly reducing pain and inflammation.
- combating seizures and muscle spasms.
- stimulating the immune system.
- aiding in relaxation.
Since so many conditions involve one or more of these symptoms, it’s not all that surprising that cannabis can help with such a long list of ailments.
Seeking Wellness with the Use of Marijuana
For others, using cannabis is less about treating an illness and more about finding increased wellness. Cannabis has a lot of positive side effects, and for some, using it is about finding more joy, relaxation or creativity. For example, in our patient survey:
- 76% of respondents reported using cannabis for relaxation.
- 85% said that it enhances their creativity.
- 47% reported using cannabis for mood elevation.
- 14% also reported using cannabis as a sexual enhancer.
Replacing Recreational Substances with Cannabis
Cannabis is also a commonly used recreational substance, which (especially in states where it’s recreationally legal) can be an excellent replacement for alcohol, cigarettes or other recreational drugs. Whether you’re having a glass of wine, cocktail or other harder substance to relax at the end of a hard day, socialize with friends or distract your mind from the daily grind, cannabis can be a safer alternative than most recreational substances.
Vape pens are discreet and an effective way to take cannabis.
For instance, alcohol is fine in small doses, but can lead to serious addiction and even death when taken in large amounts or with too much frequency. In states with legal cannabis, alcohol sales are going down, demonstrating the growing trend of replacing alcohol with cannabis.
Almost one-fifth (18%) of HelloMD patient respondents reported they used cannabis as an alcohol replacement. Meanwhile, you’ll come across anecdotal accounts from former alcoholics who say marijuana has replaced their drinking habits with something they can use while maintaining a happy and healthy life. Research supports these claims, with studies showing that cannabis can help reduce addiction to alcohol and other substances such as tobacco, heroin and cocaine.
Why Use Cannabis Instead of Pharmaceuticals?
You might recognize that cannabis helps with many conditions but wonder why patients don’t just stick with the traditional pharmaceutical medications offered by most doctors. After all, cannabis is controversial, still illegal (to varying degrees) in many areas and continues to be misunderstood and stigmatized. So why take the risk when other options exist?
The simplest answer is that for many people, other options just aren’t working for them. They’ve tried the pharmaceutical options and haven’t found anything that helps. Or for some, the negative side effects and risks of their pharmaceutical options may outweigh the positives.
Others have found traditional treatments to be helpful, but say that cannabis does a better job and comes with far less risk to their health. Take opiate pain killers for example. While opiates are highly effective at reducing pain, in HelloMD’s groundbreaking study on cannabis and opiates, a large majority of respondents (92%) said they prefer cannabis to opiates for pain management. Safety may be a strong motivating factor here. Opiates are extremely addictive and dangerous. Over 33,000 people die each year from opioid overdoses, and the death toll has continued to rise. That said, in areas where cannabis is legal, opiate-related deaths have gone down by 25%.
Should You Choose Cannabis?
There are so many reasons why people choose to use cannabis to improve their health and wellness. How do you know if cannabis is right for you? If you have a condition that others report cannabis as benefiting, or you relate to any of the reasons mentioned in this article, you may find cannabis to be a good potential option for you.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our Cannabis for Newbies guide on understanding cannabis laws in your area. Need a medical marijuana recommendation? Consult with one of HelloMD’s knowledgeable doctors; it's 100% online, private and easy.