What are the Medical Uses of THC?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 January 2019
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Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, helps reduce nausea and vomiting, which is particularly helpful to patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. Patients suffering from AIDS often experience a lack of appetite, of which tetrahydrocannabinol is also helpful in counteracting. Found in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol is also sometimes used for glaucoma relief.

Obtained from the cannabis plant, marijuana is an herb frequently researched for its medicinal use because of its high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol. Smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes is often debated among researchers, lawmakers and average citizens. While THC is known to be helpful in pain management, appetite stimulation and alleviating nausea, the amount of THC an individual inhales by smoking marijuana is not easy to discern since the amount smoked may vary and tetrahydrocannabinol levels cannot be properly measured. Taken in pill form, however, medical researchers have discovered that tetrahydrocannabinol is effective in some cases.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for patients battling cancer. It is not without side effects, however, which include extreme nausea and vomiting. Tetrahydrocannabinol is known to help offset these effects, and doctors often prescribe measured doses of it in pill form for this reason.

Patients suffering from AIDS often experience a loss of appetite, as well as extreme weight loss. Tetrahydrocannabinol is known to stimulate the appetite, however, which is why it is often used by AIDS patients. With the help of THC, many people afflicted with AIDS are able to maintain a healthy weight.


THC is also believed to reduce intraocular pressure in the eyes, which may be helpful to individuals suffering from glaucoma. Research indicates, however, that the amount of relief it offers may not be enough to prevent permanent damage to the optic nerves. Doctors, therefore, do not recommend tetrahydrocannabinol as a primary treatment for glaucoma, though some do use it to complement other treatments for this condition.

Marijuana is also believed by some to be helpful in treating certain neurological disorders, psychological disorders and other painful conditions, such as nerve damage. Anecdotal evidence exists which suggests that marijuana is useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders and other conditions, such as ulcerative colitis. Research has been performed to determine whether it is effective in treating these and other conditions, but results have not produced clear evidence for marijuana’s effectiveness in other treatments.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration advises that THC only be used when other medicines are not helpful in treating pain, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. When tetrahydrocannabinol is prescribed, doctors typically only allow patients small amounts of the substance and only do so for a limited time. This is because long-term use leads to addiction and other possible side effects, such as psychosis.


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