Cannabis is a plant with compounds that have medicinal and recreational uses. It is consumed for pain management, anxiety, sleep problems, low appetite, and other conditions. Cannabis-based products are derived from the dried flowering tops, leaves, stems, and seeds of the Cannabis sativa (hemp) plant. The legal status of medical and recreational cannabis varies among states, and users should first check whether it is legal in their state before buying or using it.

Cannabis contains at least 120 active ingredients, including cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the most abundant and has euphoric or psychoactive effects. CBD, on the other hand, is present in various forms, including oils for applying to the skin, capsules, and gummy candies, and has no psychoactive effects.

There is conclusive evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids can help manage chronic pain in adults, nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy treatment, and some symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). It can also help with sleep problems relating to sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and MS. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a medication that derives from cannabis, to treat two rare and severe types of epilepsy that do not respond well to other treatments. Three drugs that contain synthetic substances with a structure similar to that of THC have received FDA approval. Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet are treatment options for some kinds of anorexia.

The effects of cannabis vary depending on how it is consumed. Smoking or inhaling provides a sense of elation that can start within minutes and peak after 10–30 minutes, while ingesting products containing cannabis by mouth takes about an hour to feel the effects. Transdermal patches allow the ingredients to enter the body over a prolonged period, which can benefit people who are using cannabis to treat pain and inflammation.

The human body naturally produces some cannabinoids through the endocannabinoid system. THC affects areas of the brain that control memory and attention, balance, posture, and coordination, and reaction time, and can stimulate specific cannabinoid receptors that increase the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that relates to feelings of pleasure. THC can also affect sensory perception, making colors seem brighter, music more vivid, and emotions more profound. Due to these effects, people should not drive a car, operate heavy machinery, or engage in risky physical activities after using cannabis.

When people use cannabis, they may feel a sense of elation or euphoria, relaxation, changes in perception, an increase in appetite, or feeling more talkative. Whether the benefits of cannabis outweigh the risks is a topic of debate and depends on several factors, including a person’s health status, age, and history of substance use.

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