Other Uses for Marijuana

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Other Uses for Marijuana

Marijuana is a particular preparation of the cannabis plant that can be smoked, ingested or inhaled in order to have psychoactive effects. ‘Psychoactive effects’ are essentially effects that alter the brain and lead to noticeable subjective changes in your experience of various sensations. Actually though, it is not the cannabis plant as a whole that has an effect, but rather a specific active component within the plant called ‘tetrahydrocannabinol’ or ‘THC’.

This substance, THC, works by plugging ‘cannabinoid receptors’ in the brain. These are receptors found at the end of every neuron that receive a particular class of substances called cannabinoids, which include a number of neurotransmitters. These cannabinoids are used in the communication between neurons in various parts of the brain and are needed in order for those areas to work normally.

When those cannabinoid receptors become plugged, this has the effect of stimulating those regions of the brain that have a high density of receptors, while at the same time preventing normal communication in those areas by blocking the transmission of the real neurotransmitters.

The brain areas affected include the hippocampus, hypothalamus, amygdala, basal ganglia, cerebellum, neocortex and brain stem among others. What makes marijuana work the way it does though is the precise jobs of these areas – which all have a role in attention, reward, memory and motivation. Thus marijuana floods us with reward chemicals resulting in a euphoric feeling, while at the same time making us feel more relaxed and less driven and focused.

Uses

Marijuana is used recreationally by many people owing to its ability to stimulate a euphoric and relaxed state that many people find enjoyable. Recreational use is now legal in some states in America but is still controversial however.

Meanwhile though, marijuana may also be used for a range of other purposes, including medical uses.

Pain Management

Medically, marijuana is often used in order to help patients to deal with chronic pain which may the result of arthritis, cancer or chronic migraines. In these scenarios, the marijuana works predominantly by altering our focus and attention, making the sensation of pain appear less ‘important’ and allowing us to more easily be distracted by other things. Pain is entirely generated in the brain and thus for us to actually experience it and suffer from it we need to actually give it our attention. By using marijuana it’s possible to make the pain seem less important and thus to help patients deal with it more easily. At the same time, the euphoric ‘reward hormones’ can help to have analgesic and pain killing effects of their own, while impaired memory might mean the pain is ‘remembered’ as being as bad.

Anxiety

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Another therapeutic use of marijuana is in reducing anxiety. This works by changing our subjective feeling of what’s important, thereby helping us to focus less on things that would normally cause us stress. This can be a useful side effect when a patient is using marijuana to treat pain as it can help them to deal with the stress and anxiety that might be caused by a serious illness or condition. Furthermore, the use of marijuana could be useful to help treat those with severe mental health issues, though it should be used carefully as the long-term effects of marijuana are not yet fully understood.

Hunger

Because marijuana works in the hypothalamus and stimulates motivation, it can also increase hunger and encourage eating. This is what recreational users call the ‘munchies’, but actually it can also have a number of therapeutic benefits. For instance it can be useful for treating those with reduced appetite from HIV and thereby preventing weight loss. It might also be useful for treating anorexia or bulimia.

Creativity

Believe it or not, some people have historically used cannabis in order to help stimulate creativity and thus it has been utilized by many famous writers, artists and thinkers.

The reason that marijuana may be effective in stimulating creativity, is that it prevents the usual ‘tunnel vision’ that our mind has as a result of our feelings of motivation and the neurotransmitters that make some things seem more important. Marijuana makes us less goal-oriented in our thinking, which causes our mind to wander through different ideas and concepts. This can lead to us contemplating different ideas than we normally might and linking thoughts that might otherwise be considered unrelated. As the creation of new ideas is often actually simply the connecting of two other unrelated ideas, this can then be a highly effective way to stimulate new ideas.

For all these reasons then, there are many medical uses of marijuana and possibly more applications beyond even those. It could well be useful in treating a number of different conditions and problems and even as a tool for artists. While we need to study the long-term effects further, it is certainly a substance that is worthy of our attention.

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