For nearly a century, the use of cannabis has been frowned upon–if not outright illegal. But years of scientific research has finally started to turn the tide, both legislatively and in the court of public opinion. Now, with growing evidence of the intersection between cannabis and medicine, numerous jurisdictions are softening their stance. Why? Because when it comes to pain management, and treatment for certain serious afflictions, the health effects of cannabinoids are the new frontier.
The Science Behind the Shift
Research into the health effects of cannabinoids has dredged up some curious information. As per a recent article on Artemis Capital:
Over the last several decades, much has been learned about how medicinal marijuana exerts its beneficial effects on health. Researchers have identified the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS) in our bodies, which is where marijuana exerts its health effects. The ECS is quite extensive and regulates a variety of physiologic processes in our brain and bodies including the immune function, pain control, mood, memory, appetite and even temperature regulation. The ECS primarily consists of two key cell receptors where medicinal cannabis interacts which results in the benefits of cannabis:
- CB-1 receptors, which are primarily located in our brain and spinal cord. CB-1 receptors have been shown to be important in mitigating pain response and other sensations.
- CB-2 receptors, which tend to be located throughout our bodies. CB-2 receptors are more involved in inflammation and immune system regulation.
In terms of medicinal cannabis, both plant-based cannabinoids and pharmacologically-created ones exist. Plant-based cannabinoids, also called phytocannabinoids, are derived directly from the plant. Roughly 113 different phytocannabinoids have been identified to date. These include THC, CBD, CBG and others with the overwhelming majority being non-intoxicating. All of these have the potential to interact with CB-1 and CB-2 receptors in our bodies; however, they differ in terms of the specific effects and interactions throughout the body. This is why several benefits of cannabis are being progressively appreciated as research unfolds.
Governmental Support Driving the Change
Decades of regulatory restriction made extensive research into cannabinoids tough, if not impossible. Thankfully, shifting public sentiment gave way to a lifting of some of those restrictions in the name of scientific research. What has that research wrought? Clear evidence that medical cannabis is an effective treatment for:
- Pain management
- Opioid addiction
- Multiple sclerosis
In light of these discoveries, and the knowledge that research into the health effects of cannabinoids continues, one question remains: What’s next?