Medical Cannabis and cannabis-related drugs have been considered for the treatment of multiple psychiatric conditions for a long time. Medical cannabis is now legal in over 30 states in the United States of America as well as in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, and New Zealand, to name a few. One can either buy weed online or even purchase products from a drug store. It can be considered as an alternative to prescription drugs to those who are not willing to depend on medications. Although it may be contraindicated in those suffering from other ailments, it is beneficial to those who can use it. Here is a list of 8 Prescription drugs that marijuana could potentially replace.
Most prescription drugs given for chronic pain belong to the opioid class of drugs. Although opioids offer significant relief from pain, they have a very high potential for abuse. In a study conducted in 2018, it was estimated that 128 people die every day from opioid abuse in the USA alone. Cannabis could be a potential replacement as chronic pain is one of the most common symptoms that are prevalent. Although the mechanism of how it relieves pain may be unclear, it is worth exploring as an option.
2. Anti-Seizure drugs
Although there are multiple anti-seizure drugs available on the market, chronic use tends to lead to the development of resistance to these drugs. Treatment for seizures usually starts with one drug and the number increases with an increase in severity. It may be beneficial to the patient, but it also leads to exposure to a higher risk of adverse effects due to multiple drugs. Cannabis helps in reducing the number of potentially lethal seizures that a person may experience every day. Epidiolex, A cannabis-based drug, has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of seizures in Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders that are prevalent in society. There are multiple classes of antidepressants that are currently available which have their share of adverse effects. Cannabis can be used as a potential replacement for conventional antidepressant drugs as some early research has shown cannabis as a potential mood stabilizer as well as treat some of the other symptoms of depression. It could be of significant importance for people who feel that conventional drug therapy is not working or for those who are afraid of taking medications.
4. Insomnia drugs
Insomnia is another common condition that is prevalent in society. Cannabis is of help to those who are already dependent on their current prescription drugs. This benefit is not for the long term as the potential harm increases with time, which is similar to conventional drugs as they also cannot be used for long term therapy. Studies have shown that TetraHydroCannabinol (THC), which is one of the active components of cannabis, reduces the duration of REM sleep. In simpler terms, it reduces the time that we spend dreaming and leaves more time for deep sleep. The phase of deep sleep is the most restorative and restful part of the sleep cycle.
5. Anti-Anxiety drugs
275 million people (4% of the World’s population) suffer from anxiety disorders. Drugs like Benzodiazepines which are prescribed for anxiety often have side effects like fatigue, drowsiness, and confusion, which become evident just a few days from the onset of therapy. They are also prone to abuse and overdose can lead to a coma and death. Other classes of drugs like SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are also prescribed to treat some forms of anxiety. They tend to have systemic side effects with continued therapy like insomnia, loss of libido, headache, lethargy as well as an increased frequency of suicidal thoughts. These would only make the condition worse. Cannabis can target the same neurotransmitter as Benzodiazepines which leads to a reduction in anxiety levels. It also reduces cortisol levels in the brain, which reduces the stress levels leading to symptomatic relief. Cannabidiol is the active component that deals with the treatment of anxiety, which means there is no risk of a person getting high.
6. Glaucoma drugs
Glaucoma is a condition where there is permanent damage to the optic nerve. It occurs due to increased pressure in the eyes. The target of conventional therapy is to reduce and consistently maintain a decreased pressure inside the eye to minimize future damage from occurring. Cannabis reduces the pressure but is short-acting and cannot be used for long term therapy. Although it may not replace conventional treatment, studies have shown its efficacy in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression that were seen in some people in the later stages of the disease. Hence, it has potential use when glaucoma is seen along with disorders like anxiety.
7. Nausea drugs
Nausea and vomiting are commonly seen in those who undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy for the treatment of various types of cancers. In studies, TetraHydroCannabinol (THC) has been shown to effectively reduce nausea as well as stimulate appetite in patients with cancer. Although it is not as effective as the newer antiemetics like Ondansetron, it has a potential benefit in cancer patients. It can act to reduce pain as well as nausea and reduce the total load of drugs that are being taken. It is of use because cancer patients already take a multitude of drugs and reducing the total number of drugs can give psychological relief. It can also stabilize their mood.
8. NSAIDs or other anti-inflammatory drugs
NSAIDs stands for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs which is a class of drugs that are commonly used for the treatment of inflammatory conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc. The active molecules in cannabis are similar to the anti-inflammatory molecules (Endocannabinoids) found in the body. It shows a potential use for marijuana to control inflammation as well as provide pain relief in the same conditions with lesser side effects.
In a study conducted to assess the replacement of prescription drugs with cannabis in the USA, it was seen that almost 46% of the respondents had replaced their prescription drugs with cannabis with an average of two medications replaced per person. The most commonly replaced drugs were antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and analgesics. It shows that cannabis is already being used as a replacement and that it has much more scope of utility. Controlled administration of marijuana in people who are not willing to take conventional medications would have more benefits than risks. It is, however, recommended that one undergoes a systematic diagnosis before taking up weed-based treatment for the complications above. All in all, to what extent weed can reinforce one in the battle against various medical conditions might vary from person to person. However, cannabis has undoubtedly given a new option in curbing multiple health issues to make one’s life better.