It has been used throughout history as a fibre, intoxicant and (what people don’t know) as a medicine. For 2000 years plants were the only source of medicine and there has been written data for the use of cannabis to treat neurological diseases in India, China and the Middle East for thousands of years. It was even used by Queen Victoria for her period pains. Yet by the 20th Century it was seen as a drug of abuse and was made illegal, shining a light on its negative effects rather than its therapeutic uses. The effects come from the chemicals found in cannabis, given the collective name cannabinoids. The variety and number of cannabinoids differs between plants of marijuana.  

Marijuana. Weed. Cannabis. Ganga. All these words have connotations of being the illegal recreational drug frowned upon by the masses. However, there is only one main component in cannabis that makes you ‘high’, and there are many more that have interesting and remarkable properties, offering huge medical potential.

THC is the most famous chemical because it makes the user high. Despite the bad name even this has some positive effects in pain relief and appetite stimulation.

One extremely remarkable cannabinoid is called CBD. It is one of 60 different compounds found in marijuana and is non-psychoactive and is found in high concentrations along with THC. The whole reason one feels ‘high’ when inhaling or ingesting cannabis is because THC binds to a receptor naturally found in the brain called CB1, affecting memory, mood and pain sensation.

Another cannabinoid receptor is CB2 and is predominantly found in the immune system. CB2 have anti-inflammatory effects and are found in immune cells. CBD doesn’t have an attraction to CB1 receptors, but CB2 instead, so it is highly beneficial in the treatment of many diseases such as:

  • Controlling seizures
  • Neurological conditions
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Relieving nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Aiding digestion
  • Helpful in the fight against tumours (due to its anti-oxidising properties)
  • Reducing stress
  • Relieving insomnia
  • Reducing swelling and muscle pain (due to its anti-inflammatory properties)

This shows just how useful CBD can be in the medical field. Not only is it useful, but also it is completely safe and non-addictive. This is extracted as an oil form the plant and comes in variations of concentrations. This can be ingested orally, vaporised or sprayed into the mouth. It has been extensively studied and proven to only have positive effects.

Recently, medicinal marijuana has been legalised in the UK and can be prescribed by doctors. However, there are only a select few who will get this prescription for many reasons. It is only:

  • Used to treat people with severe epilepsy
  • Used to treat adults with vomiting and nausea from chemotherapy
  • Used when all other treatments have been tried

To further add to the limitations is the fact that it can’t be prescribed by a GP.

Despite all this, on the 2nd of December the first person (Carly Barton) was the first person in the UK to get a prescription for her chronic pains, caused by fibromyalgia. She has to pay £2,500 for three months treatment, as the NHS does not fund it but is a drastic improvement compared to when she had to get her treatment illegally, putting herself in danger.

Personally, I hope that this opens the floodgates for reduced restrictions due to the life-changing properties it could be used for, such as alleviating seizures in childhood epilepsy. If not people may have to resort to buying it illegally and this makes them criminals for trying to save their life. The positives of this miraculous drug significantly outweigh the benefits on an individual and global basis, and I believe that it should be used for a wider range of treatments.

Rushil Shah

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