Cannabis (marijuana) is a flowering plant in the family Cannabaceae. It is the source of a drug that has psychoactive effects and many medicinal uses. It is also a popular recreational drug that can cause side effects such as dizziness, paranoia and an altered sense of reality. The drug can be smoked, eaten or vaporized. People can use the oil from the plant for cooking and medicine. It is illegal to grow in the United States, but there are companies that make marijuana products sold legally in some states.
Cannabis is used for medical purposes to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, as well as neuropathic pain, spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and muscle spasms from AIDS wasting syndrome and other conditions. The FDA has approved drugs containing two of the main chemicals in cannabis, THC and cannabidiol (CBD), to treat these symptoms.
Scientists are studying the potential of cannabis and its components to treat other conditions. But the evidence so far is limited. It is not clear if cannabis can help with epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome or other neurological disorders, or with diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and depression.
Several factors have contributed to cannabis’s criminalization, including fears of homicidal mania brought on by the drug and fears of “reefer madness.” But research shows that it is not dangerous when used as directed. People who are thinking about using marijuana should learn about its possible effects and talk to their health care providers.