With the Canadian legalization of Cannabis for recreational use and increasing awareness of it's potential benefits for medical purposes, it's safe to say that for many - Marijuana is on the mind. The following is intended to provide a brief overview of some key points surrounding Cannabis use and is by no means a comprehensive review of all of the factors involved in this complex and evolving topic. Please see the resources below for more!
Chemicals in Cannabis (click here for the Canadian Government's 'About Cannabis' article for more)
There are more than 100 cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids, in the marijuana plant. Cannabinoid receptors, found throughout the body, are especially prominent in the brain and nervous system. These receptors aid in regulating brain and nervous system activity, stress response and emotional state, heart rate and blood pressure, reproduction, digestion, inflammation, immune function, pain perception, sleep cycles, and more. This is why cannabis use can has such a wide range of potential helpful and harmful effects in the body.
THC ( delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is largely responsible for the physiological and psychoactive response to cannabis, including the intoxication. While THC has some therapeutic effects, it's effects can also be harmful (see below). The amount of THC in a product varies depending on the strain of marijuana used and how it's been formulated. Hemp is a form of cannabis that has less than 0.3% THC in it's flowers and leaves.
CBD (Cannabidiol), doesn't have the same psychoactive potential as THC, and doesn't produce the same high/intoxication, however CBD will metabolize in the body to form a very small amount of THC once consumed. Studies suggest that CBD may actually reduce some of the psychoactive effects of THC when the amount of CBD in the cannabis is equal to or higher than the amount of THC in the product. Some therapeutic/prescription products have been formulated to be CBD dominant.
Cannabinoids are showing potential therapeutic benefit for a wide range of conditions. Please see box below for Health Canada's list of 'Conditions with Potential Therapeutic Benefit'.
Currently in Ontario, marijuana for medical purposes is available through prescription by authorized health care provider (Physicians and Nurse Practitioners) only. This means Naturopathic Doctors can NOT currently prescribe marijuana for medical purposes. Your authorized provider can choose the product which provides the best ratio of THC:CBD for your specific condition or concern, and medication can be administered in pill, oil, or dried flower format.
While certain cannabinoids are showing therapeutic potential, some people who should NOT use cannabis. If ANY of the following apply to you, please speak with your health care provider BEFORE engaging in Cannabis use, even recreationally, as the consequences can be incredibly serious.
You should NOT Use Cannabis if you:
have a personal or family history of serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, depression, or bipolar disorder
are under the age of 25
are allergic to any cannabinoid or to smoke
have serious liver, kidney, heart or lung disease
are pregnant, are planning to get pregnant, or are breast-feeding
are a man who wishes to start a family
have a history of alcohol or drug abuse or substance dependence
For a much more thorough review on all things related to medical marijuana, please see the Government of Canada's dedicated site, here.