The Medical Benefits of Marijuana: Myths and Reality

health benefits of marijuana

By Ailish Delaney

The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes predates written records – according to Chinese legend it was discovered by the Emperor Shen Nung (considered to be the father of Chinese Medicine) in 2700 BC.

However, the earliest recorded mention of medicinal marijuana dates back to 1500 BC in the Chinese Pharmacopeia, the Rh-Ya.

The mummified body of Ramesses II, who died in 1213 BC was found to contain cannabis pollen, and it is documented that in Ancient Egypt, prescriptions for cannabis for the treatment of inflammation, enemas and glaucoma were often issued.

Why then is the argument for and against the use of marijuana as medicine still raging today? Surely, as with many ancient remedies, its use has been proven to have stood the test of time?

As a sufferer of a chronic pain condition, I have many times looked at the use of marijuana as a pain reliever. Living in the UK, however, prevents me from using it to replace the (harmful) prescribed pain killers upon which I rely.

Through speaking to many people in a similar situation as myself, I have realised that there is growing discontent at the limited options available, which, although they may relieve original symptoms, present a whole new set of difficulties.

The use of marijuana for many conditions has been well documented.


A 2003 study by Robert J. DeLorenzo, of Virginia Commonwealth University, showed that by giving both synthetic marijuana and marijuana extract to rats with epilepsy, seizures were effectively stopped for around 10 hours.

the drug marijuanaA CNN special in 2014 featured a little girl called Charlotte, who suffered from a particularly rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. Through the use of high concentration cannabidiol (one of the active ingredients in marijuana), along with her anti-convulsion drug, her convulsive seizures went from up to 300 per week to two or three per month, usually nocturnally. She was then successfully weaned off her anti-convulsion drugs completely.


In 2007 researchers at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found that CBD (cannabidiol) turns off a gene which helps cancer spread through the body.

This potentially means that the morbidity rate of cancer could be changed forever.


A study in 2006 showed that marijuana slows the formation of the plaques which form on the brain in people suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Multiple Sclerosis

Yet another study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal claims that medical marijuana can help to ease the pain of multiple sclerosis sufferers, by binding to the muscles and nerves which cause pain. It has also been suggested that it eases the muscle spasms associated with the disease.

However, for every positive story associated with the use of marijuana, there is a negative to match, so, in the interests of research, I decided to further explore the myths and realities of the use of marijuana, primarily as medicine but also in general. While I am in no way advocating recreational use of the drug, most people’s arguments against using marijuana for medicinal purposes are based on recreational usage, so I felt it would be helpful to include the commonly held beliefs surrounding it.

The myth: Marijuana kills brain cells

The truth: There has been much debate around this issue, but in 2015 a study finally disproved previous findings that marijuana kills off brain cells.

The myth: Smoking marijuana is as bad, or worse, for your lungs than cigarettes

The truth: This argument has been disproved on two levels. Firstly, marijuana doesn’t contain the cocktail of chemicals that regular cigarettes do, and secondly, the amount of joints smoked per day, in the average user, is not in any comparable to that of a regular smoker.

The myth: You can take an overdose of marijuana

The truth: Impossible. It has been noted that a user would have to take 40,000 times the regular dose of marijuana, at once, to lethally overdose.

The myth: marijuana can cure anxiety

The truth: smoking weed can actually increase anxiety in the user, and can even induce paranoia. However, using medical marijuana has been shown to decrease anxiety levels in patients. Used under medical supervision, it can help, certainly.

The myth: marijuana is a gateway drug

The truth: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of marijuana users do not go on to ‘harder’ drugs. In fact, they go as far as to say that marijuana users are no more likely to progress onto harder drugs than alcohol or nicotine users, as these all ‘prime’ the brain for a heightened response to substances, in the same way.

The myth: marijuana is addictive

The truth: it’s not, at least not in the classically recognised way. People may come to be dependent on marijuana, but that is not the same as the physiological addiction that people develop to the likes of heroin and cocaine. It is more to do with how they are made up, mentally. Only around 9% of heavy marijuana users will become dependent on the stuff…unlike heroin users which is around 24%.

It is also well documented that opioid use frequently leads to overdose and death, yet there are no known recorded deaths from the use of marijuana.

There are arguments for and against the use of medical marijuana, as with everything else. But the risks of using it for pain relief, for example, compared to the risks of opioids are negligible, and yet it is still viewed with suspicion and mistrust and is illegal in many places.

And if marijuana were to be legalised across the board, then the number of people who are perceived as being recreational users would fall – as it stands at the moment, for many people smoking a joint is the only way for them to use it to ease their suffering.


This article is based on the personal opinion of the author which may or may not be facts or true. Please verify any medical or legal claims from authentic sources before taking the information. We are not responsible for any statement which may medically or legally be not valid.

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