While it’s well-known that medical marijuana benefits individuals in every life stage — from children with epilepsy to adults with chronic pain — the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug. In other words, medical marijuana is lumped together with substances such as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. (For some additional perspective, meth and cocaine are considered lesser Schedule II drugs, while Schedule III includes Tylenol with codeine and anabolic steroids.)
And although cannabis has maintained its Schedule I classification since it was originally labeled in the 1970s, these stringent federal regulations haven’t kept medical professionals in the U.S. from exploring medical cannabis as a viable treatment option for a wide variety of ailments in children, adults, and the elderly.
Here are some of the more interesting stories we’ve heard related to medical marijuana benefits so far in 2017:
Skin Cancer Treatment with Topical Oils:
A recent article in the Baltimore City Paper explores the story of Laurie Gaddis, a self-proclaimed “medical marijuana refugee” who moved from Arizona to Colorado so that she could legally test a concoction of THC extracts in lotion form, as well as ingestible THC oil. And Gaddis says the treatment has worked: She was diagnosed in 2008 and has yet to undergo a single round of chemo or radiation therapy.
Chipping Away at the Opioid Epidemic:
Statistics about opioid use are staggering:
1. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid,” a statistic that the CDC explains quadrupled between 2000 and 2015.
2. The National Institutes of Health reports that a baby is born every 25 minutes suffering from opioid withdrawal.
3. The CDC estimates that just 27 percent of people using prescription opioid medications are actually using their own prescription.
The list goes on. But the future isn’t as dismal as it seems. A quick Google search about opioid abuse will return almost as many stories touting the benefits medical marijuana as a way to kick an oxycodone or hydrocodone habit.
One article in Baton Rouge’s The Advocate explores the battles of a former New Orleans police officer, Jerry Kaczmarek, who suffered injuries in the line of duty that ultimately led him into a years-long battle with prescription painkillers, which affected his health and placed significant strain on his personal relationships. When nothing else seemed to help, Kaczmarek turned to strains of cannabis that targeted his pain and eased withdrawal symptoms. No longer an opioid user, Kaczmarek says, “Cannabis saved my life.”
Another recent piece by NORML, an organization working to reform marijuana laws, focuses on the results of a formal research partnership between the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia in Canada, in which 32 percent of the study’s participants reported “using cannabis in lieu of opioids.”
Minimizing the Symptoms of Dementia in Alzheimer’s Patients:
Although federal regulations are proving to be a significant challenge, medical professionals at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies are exploring the benefits of medical cannabis in the treatment of Alzheimer's. Preliminary research demonstrates a positive correlation between medical cannabis and a reduction of plaque and inflammation in the brain. Additional small-scale studies from other organizations report that THC may offer benefits such as enhanced lucidity and a reduction in aggressive behaviors in individuals with Alzheimer’s.
As of right now, it seems researchers have just uncovered the tip of the iceberg. And if that’s any indication of what’s to come, it’s safe to say many more medical marijuana benefits will be uncovered.