Though it’s true that Colorado has a definitive list of 8 qualifying conditions under which an individual may obtain a physician recommendation and register for the state medical marijuana program, it is commonly recognized by many in the medical community that cannabis treats a much wider range of symptoms and conditions beyond those currently approved by this state. Accordingly, patients who have their card for legitimate reasons often use cannabis to also treat symptoms like stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, lack of appetite, and more. If you are among the many who have chosen to integrate cannabis into your life in a balanced and positive way, then no doubt you too have discovered the wide range of therapeutic benefits that this mild plant actually does offer, both mentally and physically.
Many in the traditional medical community have frowned upon the euphoric effect often associated with smoking cannabis during which the THC is activated to produce a euphoric ‘high’. According to them, this feel-good ‘high’ tarnishes the potential credibility of cannabis as medicine. It has been heard proposed by one physician that if only they could isolate and extract the THC cannabinoid and its effect from the cannabis plant, then traditional western medicine might be able to consider cannabis in a therapeutic light. Having a basic knowledge of physiology and the unique opportunity to have heard the testimony of hundreds of cannabis patients who have spoken out about the many ways in which cannabis has helped them, I would like to resolutely defend the honor of THC and it’s euphoric effect as being among the most beneficial overall effects that cannabis offers toward human wellness.
A person living in today’s world would be hard pressed to escape stress and its detrimental effects on good health. Managing our own lives, the lives of those around us who we are responsible for, keeping up with multiple modes of communication daily and dealing with financial stress in these hard economic times are, just to name a few, merely the tip of the iceberg of what most of us face every single day, and are consistent sources of stress for many.
Stress evokes a natural physiological response by our sympathetic nervous system that has long served us as a survival mechanism in the face of life-threatening danger – like for example if we were to encounter a predator in the wild, our physiology changes to allow our body the use of the resources it would need to survive the encounter. The introduction of stress changes the physiology of the body by shutting down the normal regulatory function of the parasympathetic nervous system in our bodies, preparing a person to either stand and fight or flee fast for their lives- also known as the fight or flight response. This stress response serves a legitimate purpose, however a sustained reaction from stress that many of us have come to accept as the daily norm is neither healthy nor good for our bodies. When this sympathetic response and the physiological changes it elicits (increased heart rate and respiratory rate, increased secretion of cortisol and epinephrine, decrease in insulin production and constriction of blood flow to vital organs in order to provide for increased blood flow to the muscles – all consistent with ‘readying’ the body for action) are experienced over and over again in the course of the day, our systems’ natural functions are interrupted and our naturally intended physiological chemical balance is altered.
It is recognized that prolonged stress responses actually suppress our immune system, and can increase the likelihood of developing diseases such as hypertension. Frequent and prolonged response to stress can also manifest in our bodies in the form of such common symptoms as headaches, neck or back pain, digestive problems, changes in sleep or appetite, and can also result in common emotional symptoms such as anger, irritability, or hopelessness and depression.
I propose that the effect of cannabis on both the symptoms of stress and on the overall prolonged stress response are valid and can help to bring our bodies back to a state of natural well being, or homeostasis, restoring the innate balance that prolonged stress destroys. Indeed, the mental euphoric effect from the THC in cannabis that has been so often challenged as undesirable and not therapeutic, actually helps to calm the state of the mind and diminish the threat of perceived stress that so many of us live with, which can elicit a positive overall physiological change, ultimately resulting in the restoration of the normal functions of the body with the diminishing of this perceived stress. In other words, perhaps the most controversial and feared effect of cannabis actually carries with it the potential to positively effect and change one of the most unrecognized and perhaps most detrimental health challenges that we as humans are faced with in our world today.
And now I ask, why does the mental lift associated with cannabis evoke such a strong negative reaction from some of those who oppose it with the loudest voices? In what way is a reduction of stress and an increased feeling of well-being threatening to our society at large? Are we afraid people will become too happy? Are the naysayers arguing that it is happiness which somehow isn’t authentic? If so then I must ask- when did we define ‘real happiness’, and how does a valid perceptive shift and elevated mood from a nontoxic substance with low to no potential for harm somehow fall short of the mark? If only the loudest voices weren’t suppressing those in the medical cannabis community considered by the masses to be among the ‘upstanding’ members of our society to the point where they are afraid to speak out for the truth they have come to know, we could ask them if cannabis is a false escape or if it is actually a complimentary part of overall wellness in its mood-altering effect, in addition to it’s other therapeutic properties. If only we as a society placed as high of a value on feeling happy as we do on so many other lesser things in life, this world surely would be a better place…