Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level in the United States. However, many states have elected to legalize the drug for medical reasons. Some states have also legalized it for recreational purposes.
To obtain medical cannabis, you must have a physician diagnose a medical condition, and it must be on your state’s qualifying medical marijuana list. Once you’ve qualified, you’ll receive a medical marijuana card authorizing you to visit authorized marijuana businesses to purchase the drug.
The sale of marijuana is tightly controlled and regulated by the government. Each state regulates:
All individuals using and selling the drug have to be authorized and registered with their state and follow the regulations set in place.
Please realize some states allow doctors to approve other medical conditions on a case-by-case basis not listed as qualifying by the state, so check with your physician if you have an unlisted condition.
Listed below are several conditions qualifying for medical marijuana treatment in some states:
Patients with HIV often experience lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting and weight loss. Others experience pain because of their antiretroviral therapy. Medical marijuana can help with these symptoms, including the peripheral pain some HIV/AIDS patent have.
Combating the symptoms of AIDS has caused many to consider the use of medical marijuana. Some studies have shown THC can reduce the spread of the disease. Those suffering from the debilitating effects of AIDS may benefit from the use of THC and its wide-range relief combating nausea and severe pain.
One of the major symptoms of AIDS which is weight loss and loss of appetite seems to lessen with the use of medical pot.
Alcoholism is a condition affecting millions of people. More than 17 million Americans are alcoholics, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Medical marijuana can reduce symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as nausea, vomiting, inability to sleep and a lack of appetite.
Studies have shown benefits of cannabis on the growth of beta-amyloid, which is the protein involved in the creation of neural plaques. Neurological studies on CBD have found it can help the cell death process, referred to as apoptosis.
Cannabis can also play a positive role in reducing inflammation, improving memory, increasing social engagement, improving sleep and more to make the quality of life better for Alzheimer’s patients.
One of the most common painful conditions to many Americans is arthritis. Arthritis is not a disease, but it includes many types of conditions causing joint pain and inflammation under one umbrella term.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the more common forms of arthritis. It’s a disorder in the joints causing inflammation and a great deal of pain in the body’s tissues. Because of the intense pain, many who suffer from RA find it difficult to perform normal daily activities. Some have resorted to using medical marijuana to lessen or reduce the pain.
Many who have used medical marijuana to combat their RA have experienced positive results, which include:
Medical marijuana has shown to have pain relief properties that can reduce the chronic pain those with RA suffer from. One of the main symptoms and causes of arthritis is inflammation of the joints, and marijuana may be able to reduce that inflammation, also lessening the pain arthritis sufferers may experience.
As mentioned, THC is beneficial in lessening the effects of chemotherapy, such as vomiting and nausea. Medical marijuana can also boost one’s spirits and emotions as well as their appetite.
A few more benefits for cancer patients using medical cannabis is:
One of the biggest advantages for medical cannabis is its reduction of chronic pain, and many states have qualified it for medical cannabis use.
Medical marijuana is used as therapy for those with chronic pain, which includes patients with:
Cannabinoids in cannabis can reduce inflammatory conditions in the nerves, muscles and joints.
A few intestinal diseases are common among the general population, and they are:
All these have similar symptoms, but Crohn’s disease is more severe, with symptoms ranging from abdominal pain and fever to rectal bleeding, diarrhea and skin and eye irritations. It’s very painful and can be fatal in rare cases.
Most patients experience severe flare-ups and pain at different times for long periods of time, and it can last a lifetime if the disease is not treated properly. Because of the inflammation and chronic pain involved, some believe marijuana can treat this disease effectively.
Some ways medical marijuana may help reduce symptoms and help those who suffer from Crohn’s disease suffer less, include:
Medical marijuana may be able to help those who suffer with depression since it has mood-boosting capabilities. The THC in marijuana can produce a euphoric state by increasing serotonin levels.
The key is to use the correct amounts of marijuana, however. Too much THC can potentially make depression worse by increasing anxiety.
People with epilepsy have a condition in the nerve cells of their brain causing excessive activity, which results in seizures. These seizures can happen at any time and any place, which makes the person unable to engage in normal activity like driving, cooking or holding certain jobs.
Research and anecdotal evidence suggests marijuana shows promise in managing the symptoms of epilepsy.
Fibromyalgia is somewhat of a mysterious and complex disease, but its sufferers experience chronic pain throughout the body. The pain may be somewhat inconsistent in its intensity, but it occurs in the joints, tendons and muscles.
Researchers don’t know for sure, but they believe the cause of fibromyalgia may come from hypersensitivity to stimuli causing chronic pain. In simple terms, the body or nerves don’t respond to pain as they should.
The disease affects more than five million Americans, and most of them are women. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the condition, and many who suffer from it deal with very intense pain interfering with their normal daily functions. Medications, such as the below, may reduce the pain and treat the symptoms:
Medical marijuana is also used to treat the chronic pain from fibromyalgia, and, to date, a handful of states have approved it as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis use.
The National Pain Foundation surveyed some participants who tried marijuana to relieve some of the chronic pain associated with their condition. Sixty-two percent of the participants said it was very effective in relieving pain, while 33 percent said it gave them some relief, and five percent said it provided no relief.
Some researchers have discovered the THC in marijuana may assist the endocannabinoids in their functioning. If so, this reduces the hypersensitivity to pain and helps patients feel less pain or a normal amount of pain. Medical marijuana may also reduce nausea and insomnia in patients who experience these symptoms.
While more research is needed, the belief is cannabis is neuroprotective and can help control intraocular pressure (IOP). Medical pot can also help ease nausea, vomiting and headache pain present with a glaucoma attack.
If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know it can be very painful. Some people have migraines so severely, they interfere with their daily activities. Although migraines are very common, they are very difficult to treat. They may arise from other conditions unknown or known.
Symptoms of migraines include:
Medical marijuana may help reduce some of these symptoms.
Multiple Sclerosis, known as MS, affects the central nervous system. Some of the symptoms include headaches and chronic pain, which medical marijuana can reduce. Cannabis can also reduce muscle spasms and tremors in MS patients.
Those who have Parkinson’s disease suffer from:
Marijuana shows promise in reducing pain, sleep disturbances and tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease. Many states have included the disease as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.
Several conditions can cause severe nausea, including Crohn’s disease, acute gastritis and anxiety disorder. The treatments for some conditions, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can also cause you to feel severely nauseous.
Research has shown medical cannabis, including THC and cannabinoids, works as an antiemetic. In some cases, medical marijuana works better than other medications physicians may prescribe for nausea. For instance, in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 20 study participants found nausea relief when they used specific types of THC.
Marijuana’s analgesic and anti-emetic properties have been recognized by several government-sponsored agencies such as:
A few committees have recognized the effectiveness of THC and have worked hard to produce research and studies promoting the use of medical marijuana.
For more information about the type of conditions listed as eligible in most states and more information about medical marijuana use and laws refer to our conditions website section.
As mentioned briefly in the beginning of this guide, there are two drugs in synthetic forms of marijuana approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Cesamet (Nabilone) and Marinol (Dronabinol). Doctors can prescribe these legally if you’re suffering from nausea or vomiting caused by any number of the conditions mentioned and approved on your state’s medical marijuana list. Dronabinol may be effective in treating weight loss, too.
You can also get medical marijuana by getting a recommendation from a licensed physician after being diagnosed with a qualified medical condition.