5 Rare Disorders That Can Be Treated With Marijuana

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When we talk about medical marijuana, we tend to think of the most common and well-researched examples of diseases and disorders cannabis has been shown to treat: Pain, anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy, to name a few. But that's not the only pain marijuana can treat.

The list of health issues that the substance appears to treat is impressively long, and it includes several rare medical conditions that often fail to generate the type of excitement we see when studies show, for example, that cannabis treats certain forms of cancer.

Here are 5 rare diseases and disorders that can be treated with medical marijuana.


1. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

The degenerative neurological disorder, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects an estimated 300,000 people in the U.S. It made headlines in summer 2014 when people poured buckets full of ice water on themselves in an effort to raise awareness for the disease. While research has previously established that marijuana could be used to treat various symptoms of ALS — including pain, spasticity, depression, and drooling — recent anecdotal evidence also suggests that cannabis oil can slow the progression of the disease, Leafly reports.

2. Crohn's disease

The severe, chronic inflammatory bowel disease affects about 200,000 people in the U.S. each year, and regular marijuana use appears to be an effective treatment option that dramatically cuts down symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss and could also lead to full remissions in some patients, a 2013 study published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found.

3. MRSA (Super Bug)

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a life-threatening bacterial infection that is resistant to traditional antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are more than 80,000 cases of MRSA infection in the U.S. each year, and the infection is responsible for over 11,200 deaths per year. Research indicates that at least five components of cannabis are effective at killing the bacteria, even after traditional treatment options have failed, leading scientists to conclude that "[p]lants [such as cannabis] are still a substantially untapped source of antimicrobial agents," in a 2008 study published in the Journal of Natural Products.

4. Liver disease

There are more than 100 types of liver diseases — the most common being Hepatitis A, B, and C, which can lead to cirrhosis — and treatment options are limited. That said, research shows that the antioxidant properties of CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, may help protect the liver from accumulating fats and lipids associated with these conditions. Those findings were published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine in 2014.

5. Tourette syndrome

tourettes syndromeCDC - CDC.GOV
There is no cure for Tourette syndrome, a nervous system disorder thataffects more that 200,000 people in the U.S. in a given year. But there are known ways to manage the symptoms, which include involuntary movements and vocalizations. 

Cannabis appears to be one of those treatment options, studies show. Between 1999 and 2003, four studies confirmed that THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, reduced tics and obsessive tendencies in adults with Tourette. In a 2003 study published in the journal Expert Opinion in Pharmacotherapy, researchers wrote that "[B]y many experts THC is recommended for the treatment of TS in adult patients, when first line treatments failed to improve the tics."

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