The Traditional Understanding of Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis
- Medical Marijuana – cannabis for medicinal use, to aid in treating or managing symptoms, providing relief, or palliative care
- Recreational Marijuana – cannabis for pleasure and all other non-medicinal uses.
These two categories of understanding cannabis use are insufficient.
An evolving way of thinking about cannabis use is to evaluate whether the plant is being consumed consciously. This perspective reveals the overlapping nature of medical and recreational cannabis.
The Rise of Conscious Cannabis Consumption
Medical cannabis consumption is conscious cannabis. Some recreational cannabis consumption, but not all, is conscious cannabis.
Take, for instance, the healthy person who uses cannabis to calm down, or to get in the zone, or to change their way of thinking. Is this recreational use? If they live a happier, healthier, or otherwise “better” life through their use of cannabis, is it really merely recreational? Cleary not.
Conscious cannabis use can be defined as the use of cannabis to get more out of life. At its core this is a simple idea, but it involves deliberate thought and intention with respect to using cannabis. It also implies that cannabis can used without intention, lacking purpose and, perhaps, destructively. Important as it is to acknowledge the ways cannabis can be used to live a better life, it is equally important to understand the potential ways it can be misused and abused.
Uses of medical marijuana
The most common use for medical marijuana in the United States is for pain control. While marijuana isn’t strong enough for severe pain (for example, post-surgical pain or a broken bone), it is quite effective for the chronic pain that plagues millions of Americans, especially as they age. Part of its allure is that it is clearly safer than opiates (it is impossible to overdose on and far less addictive) and it can take the place of NSAIDs such as Advil or Aleve, if people can’t take them due to problems with their kidneys or ulcers or GERD.
In particular, marijuana appears to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis, and nerve pain in general. This is an area where few other options exist, and those that do, such as Neurontin, Lyrica, or opiates are highly sedating. Patients claim that marijuana allows them to resume their previous activities without feeling completely out of it and disengaged.
Along these lines, marijuana is said to be a fantastic muscle relaxant, and people swear by its ability to lessen tremors in Parkinson’s disease. I have also heard of its use quite successfully for fibromyalgia, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and most other conditions where the final common pathway is chronic pain.
Marijuana is also used to manage nausea and weight loss, and can be used to treat glaucoma. A highly promising area of research is its use for PTSD in veterans who are returning from combat zones. Many veterans and their therapists report drastic improvement and clamor for more studies, and for a loosening of governmental restrictions on its study. Medical marijuana is also reported to help patients suffering from pain and wasting syndrome associated with HIV, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.
This is not intended to be an inclusive list, but rather to give a brief survey of the types of conditions for which medical marijuana can provide relief. As with all remedies, claims of effectiveness should be critically evaluated and treated with caution.