Does Medical Marijuana Help, Really? Here Are 10 Issues It's Been Proven To Treat

Cannabis enthusiasts, rejoice — the tide of public opinion is turning, and turning fast, in marijuana's favor. After years of debate over the legitimacy of using a largely recreational drug for medical purposes, the scientific community is finally sidling over to support users of medical marijuana, with America's top doctor, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, recently admitting that the substance "can be helpful." While he gave his support warily, considerable research has shown that the health benefits of medical marijuana do, in fact, exist, and are quite far reaching. Needless to say, weed has come a long way.

The drug can be used to treat a number of ailments, and as its stigma is lessened, there is even talk of using marijuana to treat children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In February's edition of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, doctors are asking whether medical marijuana could be used to address certain psychological and psychiatric disorders in younger patients. Although there is not yet sufficient evidence to fully recommend cannabis to children and teens, there are several additional — and far less controversial — diseases for which medical marijuana is thought to be useful. Here are just a few common illnesses that could benefit from a little bit of weed.

Alzheimer's Disease

Last year, research emerged suggesting that the main ingredient in marijuana, THC, ”could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.” According to data published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, THC “directly interacts” with the protein amyloid-β, which is most closely linked to the symptoms of the ailment. Not only did THC inhibit the aggression of the protein, but it was also shown to exhibit “no toxicity.”

In a separate study published in the same journal, researchers found that marijuana’s main ingredient also strengthened the body’s naturally occurring Alzheimer’s fighting mechanism, providing yet another pathway by which the drug could aid in its treatment.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

While we can’t say anything about the effects that the post-weed munchies may have on your stomach, research has suggested that people who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may want to try out medical marijuana to ease their suffering. Both cannabinoids THC and cannabidiol, chemicals found in pot, “interact with the body’s system that controls gut function.” In studies carried out by Dr. Karen Wright, Peel Trust Lecturer in Biomedicine at Lancaster University, marijuana was shown to ease the body’s inflammatory response, as well as maintain normal digestive function.


Concussions & Head Trauma

In one of the more interesting uses of weed, some research has shown that the drug has assisted in maintaining normal brain function in mice following a traumatic injury. By reducing the swelling and bruising of the brain following a concussion or similar condition, marijuana could be key in addressing the consequences of such injuries.

NFL players have long been proponents of using weed to treat concussions, considering their frequency in such a brutal line of work. As retired NFL defensive lineman Marvin Washington said, “…let’s go smoke a joint. It’s, what if you could take something that helps you heal faster from a concussion, that prevents your equilibrium from being off for two weeks and your eyesight for being off for four weeks?”

In an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Harvard Medical School professor emeritus Lester Grinspoon, a well-reputed expert on the uses of medical marijuana, urged the league to consider the use of cannabis in the game. Wrote Grinspoon, ”As much as I love to watch professional football, I’m beginning to feel like a Roman in the days when they would send Christians to the lions. I don’t want to be part of an audience that sees kids ruin their future with this game, and then the league doesn’t give them any recourse to try to protect themselves.”



Remember Lupus, that disease that was just never the answer on House? Well, according to some medical theories, the answer to Lupus might just be marijuana, at least in terms of easing pain and inflammation caused by such autoimmune diseases. While the Lupus Foundation of America does not endorse the use of the drug, there are a number of anecdotal accounts that suggest that the drug may be key to reducing suffering in patients.

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Multiple Sclerosis

Yet another painful disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is widely thought to be made more manageable by way of medical marijuana. As per physicians associated with the American Academy of Neurology, certain types of marijuana (although not the smoked kind), aided with certain MS symptoms, including muscle stiffness, pain and muscle spasms, and overactive bladder. Dr. Barbara Koppel, a professor of neurology at New York Medical College in New York City and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, noted, ”There are receptors in the brain that respond to marijuana, and the locations of the receptors are in places where you would expect them to help with these symptoms.”

Of course, not all neurological disorders are created equal, so while MS may be somewhat treatable with cannabis, the jury is still out on its effectiveness with other diseases.

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Medical marijuana can stop you from going blind. For more than 40 years, doctors have known that weed can lower intraocular pressure (IOP), which if left untreated, can damage the optic nerve and severely reduce your vision. While there is no doubt that alleviation of pressure is a positive side effect of smoking pot, doctors are quick to remind patients that there are other, more problematic consequences as well, and more importantly, that ”marijuana’s effect on eye pressure only lasts 3-4 hours, meaning that to lower the eye pressure around the clock it would have to be smoked 6-8 times a day.”



No, marijuana does not cure cancer. Yet. However, as the Daily Beast first reported in 2012, THC does have some cancer-fighting properties that “are effective not only for cancer-symptom management (nausea, pain, loss of appetite, fatigue), they also confer a direct antitumoral effect.” Scientists at Harvard University have also noted that THC ”significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread,” and that unlike traditional treatments, do not target indiscriminately, killing off both healthy and infected cells. Rather, THC can differentiate between cancerous and non-cancerous cells, making it a serious candidate for long-term treatment.



Another widely accepted use of medical marijuana is in its treatment of epileptic seizures. Since 2003, scientists have been aware of the benefits of cannabis in terms of controlling these spontaneous seizures, and today, the Epilepsy Foundation is a key ally in legalizing marijuana as a treatment option for their patients. The foundation has stated, ”In states where medical use of cannabis is legal as a treatment for epilepsy, a number of people living with epilepsy report beneficial effects, including a decrease in seizure activity, when using a cannabis strain rich in cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis. The Epilepsy Foundation supports legislation that would allow people living with epilepsy and uncontrolled seizures to gain access to this promising treatment option.”


Hepatitis C

Although there is already an effective treatment in place for Hepatitis C, it is widely known to be a grueling, multi-month long process, with side effects that include fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and depression. And if we’ve learned anything so far, it’s that marijuana can help with several of these symptoms, so much so that it actually increases hepatitis C patients’ chances of completing their treatment. According to, a site co-sponsored by The Massachusetts Medical Society, which in turn publishes the New England Journal of Medicine,An observational study by investigators at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) found that hepatitis C patients who used cannabis were significantly more likely to adhere to their treatment regimen than patients who didn’t use it.”

And as Business Insider reports, in 2006, a study in the ”European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 86% of patients using marijuana successfully completed their Hep C therapy, while only 29% of non-smokers completed their treatment, possibly because the marijuana helps lessens the treatments side effects.”


PTSD, Anxiety, & Depression

All closely related issues, anxiety and depression are often associated with PTSD, a disease for which medical marijuana is already approved. In New Mexico, 27 percent of medical marijuana licenses issued — which represents a plurality in the state — are to treat PTSD, and research found in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology suggests that cannabinoids can trigger “changes in brain centers associated with the formation and holding of traumatic memories.”

Similarly, when it comes to anxiety and depression, marijuana in moderation can be a good thing. While regularly smoking pot can also lead to increased chances of suffering from anxiety and depression, scientists have found that, like alcohol, marijuana has both its vices and its virtues. As Dr. Charles Raison wrote in a CNN health post, “…it is increasingly clear that many of the chemicals within marijuana hold great promise for the treatment of physical pain. The endocannabinoid system in the brain – which is a primary target for marijuana – has profound effects on how people think and feel.”

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