Is Feeling High One of the Benefits of Medical Cannabis?

The mechanisms behind Medical Cannabis efficacy have long been a fascination among many of us here at Those of us in the industry have our hunches, but many of the mechanisms are still unknown. For example, is feeling high one of the mechanisms? And if so, does that make it a benefit derived from using Medical Cannabis?

Though all of this might sound pretty self-evident to our readers, the questions posed here are directly related to a 2023 study out of the University of New Mexico. That study showed a fascinating correlation between feeling high and Medical Cannabis’ perceived benefits. However, researchers also discovered a correlation between Medical Cannabis consumption and increased negative side effects.

Positive vs. Negative Effects

Researchers enrolled nearly 2,000 patients and asked them to record their perceptions of a combined 16,000 Medical Cannabis experiences. Among other things, they were interested in whether feeling high made any difference in medication effectiveness. The researchers acknowledged an inherent challenge to their study: variations in the way feeling high is defined. There is no scientific standard.

Despite this particular challenge, the research uncovered some noteworthy things:

  • Only 49% of the patients reported feeling high from their medications.
  • That group reported a 7.7% improvement in symptom relief and positive side effects.
  • They also reported a 20% increase in negative side effects.

It is worth noting that nearly every prescription medication has both positive and negative side effects. We all weigh those side effects when determining whether to take a drug. As long as the good outweighs the bad, we tend to consider a drug worthwhile.

What is curious in this case is that feeling high appears to lead to more bad side effects than good. That takes us right back to the question of whether feeling high is a benefit to Medical Cannabis patients.

Symptom Relief Is Big

It wouldn’t be right for us to judge Medical Cannabis based solely on positive and negative side effects. At the end of the day, symptom relief is what it is all about. If you were talking to a chronic pain patient, for example, an increase in negative side effects might be worth tolerating just to get some much-needed pain relief.

The conditions for which Medical Cannabis is recommended are mostly chronic conditions that can have debilitating impacts on a person’s life. We go back to chronic pain. Living with pain month after month, year after year takes its toll. We have known patients so desperate for relief that they are willing to tolerate just about any side effect Medical Cannabis might offer.

Even with that knowledge, we get the fact that feeling high is not always the goal. In fact, some Medical Cannabis patients avoid it altogether. They are more interested in how cannabinoids can help alleviate their symptoms than walking away feeling the euphoria that is so often attributed to cannabis consumption.

A Very Personal Thing

While the data from the 2023 study requires a lot more analysis, one thing we know for sure is that Medical Cannabis consumption is a very personal thing. How any one patient responds to therapeutic cannabis is not necessarily indicative of how other patients will respond.
There are those patients who believe feeling high is a major benefit derived from Medical Cannabis. There are others who would say just the opposite. What is important in all of this is whether therapeutic cannabis is working for a particular patient. Each patient has the freedom to decide if the benefits of Medical Cannabis make any negative side effects worth tolerating.

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Published March 12, 2024

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