Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Medical marijuana refers to the whole, unprocessed plant or its extracts.
Medical marijuana only has approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source as a safe or effective treatment for two conditions. These are rare and severe forms of epilepsy that involve seizures that other drugs have not been able to control.
The name of the drug is Epidiolex. It contains a purified form of CBD, and the FDA gave approval in June 2018.
The FDA have also approved medications containing synthetic THC cannabinoids called dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet). These drugs reduce nausea in people undergoing cancer treatments and increase appetite in people living with HIV.
The FDA have not yet approved the use of any marijuana drugs for pain relief.
Synthetic marijuana is also the name given to drugs such as K2 or Spice. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)Trusted Source point out that these are not marijuana, they are not safe, and they are not recommended for any purpose. The adverse effects of these drugs can be fatal.
Synthetic marijuana attempts to duplicate the effects of the ingredients in the plant. There is theory that the entire plant has a more profound effect with the different ingredients working together to have an entourage effect.
Risks and side effects
Marijuana use can cause some side effects, including:
addiction, which occurs in 9 percent of people who begin use in adulthood
impaired reaction times
interactions with medication
loss of concentration
mental health issues in those predisposed to them
rapid heart rate