Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is the dried leaves and flowers extracted from hemp plant. It is available for consumption in the form of cigarette, vapor, marijuana infused tea or edibles. Currently cannabis is one of the most widely used psychostimulant drugs in the world for recreational purposes due to the presence of a chemical compound in it called cannabinoids. Recent studies have also shown that cannabis exhibits various benefits in alleviating symptoms of different terminal medical conditions, yet it still remains as an unapproved drug by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because there is still insufficient evidence that shows its potential health benefits outweigh the adverse effects in long term exposure. However there are some countries in the world allow the use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes like Belgium, Finland and Spain etc. while Netherland is the only country that approves it for recreational use.

The reason why cannabis is considered illegal in many countries is due to its unknown safety profile as little studies about its efficacy and adverse effects have been done. Many clinical trials and observational studies are required to be carried out for decades before it can be proven safe for consumption and be released into the market. The chemical compound in Cannabis called cannabinoids, it is believed to act on CB1 and CB2 receptors which are found predominantly in the brain cells and peripheral cells respectively. The activation of these receptors lead to the release of dopamine followed by the aforementioned stimulatory effects in the body.

Today, the side effects which have been known for short term consumption include altered mental status for example euphoria, slow reaction time, cognitive impairment, loss of memory, time and space disorientation. Besides that, it may also cause physiological reactive changes like hypotension followed by reflex tachycardia, dizziness, dry mouth and red eyes. In some cases, it might even trigger more detrimental consequences such as heart attack, ischemic stroke, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer.

On the other hand, medical cannabis is a term loosely defined as the use of cannabis for symptoms management and treatment of diseases. In a study carried out by U.S Institute of health, it was found that cannabis has the effect of suppressing vomiting induced by chemotherapy, especially in those patients with terminal cancer or AIDS who are in the state of cachexia where muscle catabolism is prominent. Besides that, cannabis also shown to be effective in treating patients with anorexia nervosa by increasing their appetite and also improve the quality of their sleep. The result of the study shows that despite its lower efficacy compared to other over the counter anti-emetics, cannabis shows positive outcome on those terminally ill patients who do not react to conventional drugs.

As of now, scientists are looking into cannabis as a cure of cancer instead of just as symptomatic management because there have been anecdotes that support the possibility of it stopping cancer cells proliferation and inducing cell death on its own.

Reference:
 Curr Oncol. 2016 Mar;23(2):S8-S14. doi: 10.3747/co.23.3099. Epub 2016 Mar 16.
 Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Jun;97(6):575-86. doi: 10.1002/cpt.108. Epub 2015 Apr 17.

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