Medical marijuana What Conditions Is It Known to Treat

Medical Marijuana: What Conditions Is It Known to Treat

Many people in the United States are considering or using medical marijuana. Unlike recreational users who see marijuana primarily as a way to get high, medical marijuana users are looking for relief from the symptoms of specific medical conditions. Medical marijuana is legal in two-thirds of the United States, making it a popular choice for symptom relief and control.

Research into medical marijuana is ongoing but hasn’t yet progressed to the point where scientists fully understand how and why medical marijuana works and precisely what conditions it can treat. However, current animal studies, human models, and clinical trials point to medical marijuana as offering relief from symptoms of a wide range of diseases and conditions.

Medical Marijuana as a Prescription Drug

Before a medication can be approved for prescription use, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires large-scale clinical trials to determine the benefits and possible risks. Different types of clinical trials are designed to determine what conditions a medication treats, how much medicine is needed to be effective, and what side effects the drug produces.

Clinical trials often have multiple phases that allow researchers to expand their findings systematically. To date, researchers haven’t yet conducted enough clinical trials to allow for FDA approval for wide-spread medical marijuana use as a prescription drug.

Canada and several European countries have approved nabiximols (Sativex), a mouth spray containing THC and CBD, to treat muscle control problems caused by MS. However, this medication does not have FDA approval for use in the United States. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that produces the feeling of being high.

CBD is an extract from the hemp plant that does not contain THC, but it has other health benefits. Currently, the FDA has approved only two drugs, dronabinol and nabilone, that contain THC. These medications treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and increase appetite in patients with extreme weight loss caused by AIDS

However, animal studies and lab models show that marijuana contains multiple chemicals that have many potential health benefits. Small-scale human clinical trials report consistent symptom relief for patients. In states that allow medical marijuana use, doctors can recommend and certify that a patient may benefit so the patients can legally purchase and use it. Each state has a list of different conditions allowing for medical marijuana use certification.


Pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, and government programs conduct many types of research on medical marijuana. A variety of animal studies and human models have provided an increased understanding of how and why medical marijuana effects the human brain and body. Scientists use this information to design human clinical trials, looking for specific benefits or possible side effects.

One significant finding is that marijuana can destroy certain types of cancer cells and improve the effectiveness of radiation treatment.

Lab and clinical trials are currently focusing on using medical marijuana for:
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS), which causes gradual loss of muscle control
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Substance use disorders
  • Mental disorders
While more research is needed, based on previously done animal studies and lab models, medical marijuana may also be beneficial for:
  • Nausea
  • Sleep issues
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraine
Smaller studies have found that medical marijuana may also be useful for these conditions:
  • Self-management of endometriosis
  • Reduce complications of Crohn’s disease
  • Improve behavior in patients with dementia
  • Have a protective effect against diabetes in obese individuals
  • Associated with a lower risk of atrial fibrillation

According to surveys, the main reason people use medical marijuana is to relieve pain symptoms. Research and anecdotal stories support pain relief as a major benefit. Additional research shows medical marijuana may benefit patients with many other conditions as well.