Herbal cannabis has been used for thousands of years for medical purposes. With elucidation of the chemical structures of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) and with discovery of the human endocannabinoid system, the medical usefulness of cannabinoids has been more intensively explored.
While more randomized clinical trials are needed for some medical conditions, other medical disorders, like chronic cancer and neuropathic pain and certain symptoms of multiple sclerosis, have substantial evidence supporting cannabinoid efficacy. While herbal cannabis has not met rigorous FDA standards for medical approval, specific well-characterized cannabinoids have met those standards.
Where medical cannabis is legal, patients typically see a physician who “certifies” that a benefit may result. Physicians must consider important patient selection criteria such as failure of standard medical treatment for a debilitating medical disorder.
Medical cannabis patients must be informed about potential adverse effects, such as acute impairment of memory, coordination and judgment, and possible chronic effects, such as cannabis use disorder, cognitive impairment, and chronic bronchitis. In addition, social dysfunction may result at work/school, and there is increased possibility of motor vehicle accidents. Novel ways to manipulate the endocannbinoid system are being explored to maximize benefits of cannabinoid therapy and lessen possible harmful effects.