Cannabis Self-Medication Guide - Part 1

Cannabis Self-Medication Guide - Part 1

April 07, 2023

Cannabis (aka marijuana, weed, pot, grass, gas, Mary Jane, reefer, ganja, kush, chronic, that dank shi*t and that good good) has had a rich and coloured journey throughout human history — with use of the herb dating back tens of thousands of (over 12,000) years.

Ancient civilisations such as Chinese empires, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used cannabis both recreationally and for its medicinal properties. In fact, cannabis was listed as a medicine in the United States Pharmacopoeia only until 1942 when it was removed due to political agendas.

Today, cannabis is once again rising in popularity as a medicinal herb, and many people are turning to self-medication with cannabis to manage a wide range of health issues. Read on to discover more about cannabis, and how you can use it for self-medication.

The Downsides Of Pharmaceuticals 

To put into perspective why one may prefer cannabis self-medication to that of a traditional, western, industrial approach to health, here at the downsides to some mainstream pharmaceutical companies and medications.

As with any large institution or system of operation, the immense machine that is traditional western medicine is not without its limitations, trappings and even corruption. It’s no secret that “Big Pharma” has held a controversial monopoly on the market of healthcare. Of course, western medical practices and pharmaceutical medications have certainly revolutionized human health and improved the lives of many. However, it has been shown that some pharmaceutical companies, like Mylan and Purdue Pharma, are willing to disregard pile-ups of side effects and cases of addiction, all the way from preliminary clinical trials to promotional material for patients, for the pursuit of political and, ultimately, monetary gain. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths due to opioid overdose.

The side effects of many pharmaceuticals can be devastating. Medications often come with a long list of potential side effects, ranging from mild to severe. Common side effects may include the following: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Skin rashes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Mood changes or depression
  • Cognitive impairment or confusion
  • Liver or kidney damage
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Respiratory problems
  • Addiction to other substances
  • Overdose and death

Pharmaceuticals are an important part of modern medicine, but it is also important to remember that they can be highly addictive and dangerous if not taken correctly. Awareness of these issues is the first step towards a healthier, safer future in medicine.

How Does Cannabis Work In The Brain And Body?

Cannabis contains over 100 different cannabinoids, which are compounds that interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) - a fascinating area of research that has many potential implications for the treatment of a range of health conditions, including pain, inflammation, anxiety, and depression. The ECS is a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids that help regulate various physiological processes, including pain, mood, appetite, and sleep. When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD bind to these receptors, leading to a range of effects on the brain and body.

The endocannabinoid system is composed of two primary types of receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found primarily in peripheral tissues, such as the immune system. When THC binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, it can cause a range of effects, including euphoria, altered perception, and impaired memory and coordination. CBD, on the other hand, does not bind strongly to CB1 receptors but may modulate the effects of other cannabinoids. 

The primary reason why cannabis can affect people differently is due to variations in the way the ECS is expressed in different individuals. Some people may have higher or lower levels of CB1 receptors in certain regions of the brain, which can affect how they respond to THC. 

What Are The Benefits Of Cannabis?

Cannabis has been used for centuries for its potential medical benefits, and recent research has shown that both THC and CBD may have therapeutic properties. It's important to note that research into the medical benefits of cannabis is ongoing, and there may be additional potential benefits that have not yet been fully explored. Some potential medical benefits of cannabis include:

  • Pain relief
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Anti-nausea
  • Sleep aid
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Pain relief
  • Epilepsy treatment
  • Acne treatment
  • Addiction treatment

What Are The Side Effects Of Cannabis?

As with any medicine or drug, not to mention alcohol, certain over-processed foods, social media, reckless sexual habits, and the many other hedonistic distractions that exist in society, cannabis is not without potential side effects and risk of abuse. 

First and foremost, cannabis can be, and for many people is, very addictive. Though it is not explicitly or physiologically addictive, it can indeed cause depletion of neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain, leading to dependence on cannabis and later addiction. Moreover, here are some side effects that some cannabis users may experience:

  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Impaired coordination and balance
  • Memory impairment
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Psychosis or hallucinations (especially at high doses)
  • Impaired judgment and decision-making
  • Increased appetite (known as the "munchies")
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Reduced reaction time
  • Respiratory issues (if smoked)
  • Addiction or dependence (especially with long-term use or high doses)

The side effects of cannabis can vary depending on the person, the dose, and the method of consumption. Moreover, it's worth noting that some of these side effects may be more common or more severe in certain individuals, such as those with pre-existing medical conditions or those who use cannabis frequently or heavily. Additionally, some side effects may be more likely with certain strains or products, so it's important to research what you consume, start with a low dose and pay attention to how your body reacts.

Who Should Not Consume Cannabis?

There are certain groups of people who should avoid consuming cannabis altogether or exercise caution when using it due to potential health risks or interactions with medications. These groups include:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Cannabis use during pregnancy or breastfeeding may harm the developing fetus or infant.

  • Children and adolescents: Cannabis use can impair brain development in children and adolescents, potentially leading to cognitive and behavioral problems.

  • People with a history of mental health issues: Cannabis use may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

  • People with heart or lung conditions: Cannabis use can increase heart rate and cause respiratory issues, which can be particularly problematic for people with pre-existing heart or lung conditions.

  • People with a history of substance abuse: Cannabis use can lead to addiction or dependence, particularly for those with a history of substance abuse. Some do indeed use cannabis to stay clean from other more harmful drugs, however, this should likely be done in accordance with healthcare professionals.

  • People taking certain pharmaceutical medications: Cannabis can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, which can lead to adverse effects.

What’s Next?

Medicinal cannabis is often used under the guidance of a healthcare provider, who can help patients determine the appropriate dosage and method of consumption. However, with cannabis still illegal around the world and in dozens of states in the US, and limiting medical cannabis policies in places that do allow legal cannabis, many people are left to medicate with marijuana on their own — without adequate support from the healthcare industry.

Check Part 2 here.

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