While the legalization of cannabis seemed like a pipe dream only a decade ago, over the past few years legislation worldwide has shifted in favor of the plant’s presence in healthcare. This swift attitude adjustment places the seedling medical marijuana industry in a peculiar place: although enormous anecdotal evidence affirms the efficacy of cannabis in treating conditions from glaucoma to cancer, the federal government has long prevented rigorous scientific analysis of these claims. For this reason, the strains, delivery modalities, and dosages that best alleviate each ailment are not yet firmly established. In fact, only 6% of all cannabis research focuses on the the plant’s positive effects. This lack of data leaves dispensaries and medical professionals at a loss for what products to recommend. Thus, patients are often left to experiment on themselves to discover an effective treatment.
Often, individuals with medical marijuana licenses are left to their own devices to establish personalized healing regimes. Unlike neatly packaged pills with clear cut instructions from a pharmacy, the vast umbrella of medical marijuana offers a cornucopia of strains and delivery methods. Patients typically decide for themselves which products to use. Each of their options provides different benefits. For example, strains high in THC treat illnesses such as chronic pain, Tourette syndrome, and glaucoma, while those high in CBD help with anxiety, inflammation, and depression.
Furthermore, patients find many ways to ingest their medicine, including vaporizers, edibles, tinctures, and topical cannabis. These delivery modalities vary in their duration and intensity of effect. While topicals can provide subtle relief, edibles can be much stronger. Moreover, while the effects of edibles can last for hours, vaporizing is comparatively shorter in duration.
Due to the juvenile state of medical marijuana research, patients and medical professionals lack authoritative guidance when navigating the medicinal options available. It is paramount that patients receive individualized treatment. If an individual uses cannabis in the wrong way, it may actually exacerbate certain conditions. For example THC is known to alleviate the intraocular pressure that arises from glaucoma; however, CBD may actually increase this pressure. In that same vein, patients suffering from mental illness can use CBD to alleviate symptoms of psychosis.
However, if that same patient uses THC, their condition may deteriorate. All patients must find the correct variety of cannabis that best meets their unique needs. Not only do treatments need to be matched to individual conditions, they must align with specific stages within treatment as well. For example, a patient suffering from fibromyalgia often experiences comparatively stronger pain at night than during the day. While awake, patients will likely prefer taking cannabis with slightly higher THC content via vaporizer.This will keep them active while taking their mind off the pain.However, when preparing for sleep a patient would be better served taking a larger dose of edible cannabis with higher CBD due to the long-lasting pain relief and relaxation this modality would offer.
A patient’s trouble in facing the complexity of finding successful treatment ultimately stems from a lack of available data. Caught up in the excitement of legalization, this industry took a bit of a false-start. We must now wait for medical research to catch up. As patients flock to find relief, scientists wait in the wings to get the go-ahead from governments, research institutes, and the industry to conduct real clinical trials. It is clear that in order to streamline the best outcome for patients, data on the treatment of each ailment with cannabis must be obtained and distributed to dispensaries, regulatory bodies and patients. This step seems to be the only logical option in maturing the budding industry past its seedling stage.