Strictly speaking, medical cannabis is cannabis buds or concentrates or synthetic cannabinoids intended for therapeutic use. The active ingredients found in the inflorescences and leaves of hemp, which scientists have dubbed cannabinoids, have been found to have a wide range of therapeutic properties. In particular, medical marijuana has proven analgesic, anticonvulsant and anti-spastic effects, and suppresses nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and HIV patients receiving antiretroviral therapy. It is possible that marijuana inhibits the growth of cancerous tumors and has a neuroprotective effect in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
In global psychiatric practice, there is experience with the successful use of cannabis in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Privately, a psychotherapist may recommend smoking pot to reduce anxiety, smooth out stress reactions and get rid of obsessive thoughts.
Such diverse medical properties of the plant are explained by the similarity of the structure of the main active components – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) with anandamide and 2-arachidonoglycerin, which the body produces to protect the nervous system from overload. Brain cells transmit information along a chain by exchanging electrical impulses generated by potential differences between the membranes of neighboring neurons.
The appearance of charge on the shell of a neuron that perceives an impulse from a neighbor, mediated by special compounds-neurotransmitters, but wise nature has provided for nerve cells the right to break. Normally, a neuron that has decided that it has had enough can close itself off from unwanted impulses and regain strength, and its functions are taken over by other cells. Receptors to endocannabiods are scattered throughout the body, but are most abundant in areas of the prefrontal cortex and in the limbic system, such as the amygdala, striatum, hippocampus, cingulate and temporo-occipital gyrus, and basal ganglia.
Chronic pain, spasticity and increased seizure readiness cause foci of pathological activity in the cerebral cortex that the body cannot cope with on its own. Entering the body from the outside, cannabinoids of plant and synthetic origin bind free receptors and stop the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid – one of the leading neurotransmitters. As a consequence, excitement is not transmitted to the higher nerve centers and gradually fade away. Curiously, first of all, reflexes with negative reinforcement associated with pain and fear are suppressed, and the general inhibitory effect, causing temporary memory and attention disorders, is manifested only with frequent use of marijuana in high doses.
In addition, endocannabinoids are involved in the regulation of the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that provide positive reinforcement. Using marijuana as a stimulant is not a good idea, but there are people forced to choose between two evils. For example, children with autism and attention deficit disorder due to insufficient dopamine production are often prescribed amphetamine-group stimulants, despite the many side effects such as stunted growth and puberty, decreased immunity, digestive disorders, tremors, a constant feeling of fatigue and frequent headaches. At the moment, Israeli scientists are investigating the possibility of replacing amphetamines with synthetic THC preparations that act more mildly. If the long-term experiment succeeds, special children will no longer have to pay an exorbitant price for adaptation with their health and psychological well-being.