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The Medical Minute: Cannabis’ Impact on Alcohol, Stress, and Vision Loss

March 4, 2014

“The momentum to treat marijuana as a legal drug is irreversible,” Barry McCaffrey told the Washington Post this week. The former U.S. drug czar is right: cannabis — both medical and recreational — is here to stay. Through education and research, massive strides have been taken in recent years, and we at Leafly are delighted to share with you three more ways cannabis is changing lives in its medical application.

1. Breaking Up With Alcohol

Cannabis is stealing the hearts of former booze enthusiasts, according to a recent review published in Alcohol and Alcoholism. The survey aimed to identify whether or not cannabis satisfies the same criteria (a published checklist of seven items) by which people choose to consume alcohol. In other words, could marijuana be used to replace unhealthy drinking habits?

Data indicates that all criteria items were fully or partially met by cannabis, and while the researchers believe the study’s design was flawed, they did state that “cannabis does appear to be a potential substitute for alcohol” and “[it] is both safer and potentially less addictive than benzodiazepines and other pharmaceuticals that have been evaluated as substitutes for alcohol.”

In a recent High Times poll, 65% of respondents noted decreases in their alcohol intake after taking up marijuana. Has cannabis had this impact on you?

2. The Science of Cannabis Stress Relief

It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to know cannabis relieves stress, but it might require a scientist to find out why. A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology explains how activating our body’s cannabinoid system, specifically C2 receptors, reverses inflammation caused by overexposure to stress. This discovery could also lead to advances in the treatment of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases.

3. Cannabis and Degenerative Vision Disease

We often associate cannabis use with red or dry eyes, but a new study published in Experimental Eye Research suggests there’s something therapeutic going on. Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic eye disease in which cells in the retina die, resulting in vision loss. Using synthetic THC, researchers in Spain discovered that cannabinoids may slow retinal degeneration, as treated rats maintained 40% more photoreceptors than those left untreated.

Given marijuana’s success in treating other eye diseases like glaucoma, we’re excited to see what possibilities will open up with further research.

Image sources: Vincent Van Gogh's Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun, Still Life with Five Bottles, Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity), self-portrait