Indications for Use

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Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the U.S. and its prevalence increases with age. Glaucoma begins earlier and progresses faster among the black population. Glaucoma occurs when the pressure within the eye (intraocular) becomes elevated and damages the optic nerve. Cannabis acts directly on receptors in the eye to decrease the intraocular pressure and prevents the damage that leads to blindlness. Research on the use of cannabis for the treatment of glaucoma began in the 1970s.

Robert Randall became the first patient to be allowed access to medical marijuana through the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1976. As a glaucoma patient, he had found by accident that smoking cannabis decreased his intraocular pressure and thus could prevent him from going blind. Following his initial arrest for growing cannabis he had to prove it controlled his glaucoma to win a medical necessity defense. He was able to do so and in later years two other patients, Elvy Musikka and Corinne Millet, were able to gain access to medical marijuana through the IND access. Learn about their stories and the science that supports the ability to reduce intraocular pressure for glaucoma patients in this section.


HIV/AIDS

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first described the disease known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in July of 1981. As this epidemic spread worldwide patients found that cannabis helped prevent the “wasting syndrome,” common among AIDS patients, by stimulating their appetite. As new medications were developed to fight the HIV infection patients also learned that cannabis could control the nausea and vomiting caused by those medications. Kenny Jenks, a hemophiliac patient became HIV positive from contaminated blood supplies that he received to provide him the clotting factors he needed for survival. Unaware that he was infected, he transmitted the virus to his wife Barbra. These 2 Florida residents learned about cannabis and following their arrest for using the medication they were eventually able to gain access through the IND program. It was because of the high number of applications into the IND program for legal access to medical marijuana by HIV/AIDS patients that the federal government made the decision to close the program to new patients in 1992.

Cannabis may also be helpful for AIDS-related neuropathic pain and AIDS-associated dementia.


Cancer

It is common knowledge that cannabis is helpful in controlling the extreme nausea and vomiting that often accompanies cancer chemotherapy. Cannabis is also helpful for cachexia (extreme weight loss) and pain that is often associated with cancer.

The real excitement comes with the growing evidence that cannabis may actually treat cancer by acting as a perfect chemotherapy medication which kills the cancer cells but not the healthy ones. In addition to reducing tumor size, cannabis also helps cancer from spreading to other areas of the body. Back in 1974, researchers at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond inadvertently found the THC slowed the growth of cancer cells in mice with cancer of the lung, breast and a virus-induced leukemia. Their funding ended since the original goal was to determine its harmful effects to the immune system. In 2000 Guzman and his research team in Madrid, Spain demonstrated that injected THC could shrink or destroy brain cell tumors (Glioma) in rats. The 1974 studies were never published and in recent years there has been little coverage in the U.S. about Guzman’s work.


Gastrointestinal – Nausea/Vomiting – Appetite Stimulation

Gastrointestinal (or GI) problems can include difficulty taking in food/nourishment (appetite or nausea and vomiting problems), inadequate absorption of nutrients, elimination problems (constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel) and/or cancer developing anywhere along the GI tract from mouth to esophagus to stomach to the small and large intestines, ending at the anus. Anecdotal experiences are numerous among patients suffering from Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome in their use of medicinal cannabis. The anti-inflammatory and relaxant effects of cannabis may be responsible for some of their relief.

Nausea and vomiting can occur as a result of a variety of conditions such as acute viral illness (the flu), cancer, cancer chemotherapy or side effects from other medications, radiation treatment, post-operative recovery, pregnancy, motion sickness and poisoning. There is clear evidence-based research that supports the anti-emetic effects of cannabis for persons suffering from nausea and vomiting. The 1999 IOM report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, agreed that the evidence supported the anti-emetic effects of cannabis, but expressed concern related to smoking the plant material. While inhalation allows for fairly immediate relief, clinicians should be recommending vaporization rather than smoking to eliminate this concern.

Having “the munchies” is a common phrase among cannabis users and this side effect of gaining an increased appetite can be a strong indication for use with persons suffering from cachexia or wasting syndrome. In fact, Jamaican women have long known that a ganja (cannabis) tea would settle the stomach and often gave some to newborn babies. There is new evidence that the ECS is involved in appetite stimulation. It is now known that all female mammals have anandamide in their breast milk and early research shows that newborn mice will die if the anandamide in the mother’s milk is blocked at birth.


Congenital Disorders

Congenital disorders are defined as physical or mental traits, anomolies, malformations or diseases existing at birth that are either hereditary or due to some influence occurring during gestation. George McMahon was born with a rare hereditary disorder called Nail Patella syndrome and he legally uses cannabis for the management of his symptoms. Jacki Rickert from Wisconsin suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and she also found cannabis essential to her survival. This page will highlight a variety of congenital disorders in which cannabis has been found to have therapeutic benefit.


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