The Medical Conditions Marijuana Is Most Commonly Used to Treat

As of March 2018, at least 29 states and Washington, D.C. allowed the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes, according to Vox. That means many people with common health problems have another treatment option at their disposal.

Even in states where recreational pot has become legal, there has been little (if any) negative impact on life there. For that reason, more politicians are considering marijuana a safe, affordable bet as prescription drug costs soar.

Most importantly, people who take medicinal marijuana don’t risk overdose or chemical addiction, as they would with prescription opiates. If you have been diagnosed with one of the following conditions, medical marijuana might be a treatment option in your state.

1. Cancer

doctor hand offering to patient medical marijuana

Cancer patients may use marijuana to treat nausea and vomiting. | megaflopp/iStock/Getty Images

  • Legal as treatment in at least 25 states

The American Cancer Society has reported studies that showed patients in chemotherapy benefiting from marijuana as treatment for nausea and vomiting. Meanwhile, ACS noted the use of the drug as a pain reliever.

When smoked, users may experience shortness of breath and lung pain. Where available, marijuana oils could be the best treatment option.

Next: Symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients improve from the use of marijuana.

2. Alzheimer’s

brain and label to indicate Alzheimer's disease

At least 10 states allow medical marijuana as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. |

  • Legal as treatment in at least 10 states

According to the list of legal marijuana treatments on Leafly, at least 10 states in the U.S. allow Alzheimer’s patients to use the drug. Studies have shown marijuana helping with aggression, insomnia, depression, and other symptoms of the disease.

Next: ALS patients have access to medicinal marijuana in many states.

3. Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS)

Studies have shown marijuana can lessen symptoms in ALS patients. | iStock

  • Legal as treatment in at least 17 states

As of Spring 2018, at least 17 states allowed for the use of cannabis-derived substances as a treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Studies have shown the drug lessening symptoms of ALS patients.

Other studies showed a delay in the progress of the disease in animals but have not yet had major clinical trials.

Next: As a treatment for chronic pain, marijuana is widely seen as an excellent option.

4. Chronic pain

medical marijuana, cannabis

Some people use the drug to treat chronic pain. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

  • Legal as treatment in at least 25 states

Nearly every state where marijuana is a legal treatment option makes the drug available for managing chronic pain. The same applies for most terminal illnesses and the end-stages of diseases.

In Minnesota, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2015, 60% of patients said they’d “benefited greatly” from using the drug. Remarkably, 63% said they reduce or eliminated opioid dosages after using marijuana.

Next: Marijuana may help your joint problems. 

5. Arthritis

cannibis joint and herb, marijuana

In Canada, two-thirds of medical cannabis users are taking it for their arthritis symptoms. | iStock/Getty Images

  • Legal as treatment in at least 15 states

While at least 15 states allow for treatment of arthritis with medical cannabis, Canada offers a lesson on how it can help patients suffering from the joint condition. There, marijuana has been an option for people with arthritis since 2001, and two-thirds of medical cannabis users in Canada take it for these symptoms.

In states where it is not listed as a qualifying condition, people with arthritis may need to call it “chronic pain.” It certainly wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

Next: This condition is the only mental health problem qualifying for medical marijuana treatment in New York.


Illustration for acronym PTSD

Military veterans and other trauma survivors are among those who might use marijuana to treat PTSD. | Getty Images

  • Legal as treatment in at least 25 states

In November 2017, New York became the latest state to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. Military veterans, first responders, and survivors of domestic violence are among those who can access this treatment option.

Veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq have been pushing for this move across the country. For years, opiate overdoses have ravaged the military population, of whom 60% return from combat experiencing chronic pain.

Next: Crohn’s disease qualifies in a majority of states with legal medical marijuana. 

7. Crohn’s disease

Some people use marijuana to treat their Crohn’s disease | iStock

  • Legal as treatment in at least 22 states

You see prescription drugs treating Crohn’s disease advertised on TV all the time, but medical cannabis may be a safer alternative. As of March 2018, at least 22 states listed it as a condition treatable with marijuana.

Next: Even in states with minimal covered conditions, this condition qualifies.

8. Epilepsy

rolling a joint

In several states, the only legal use of medical marijuana is as a treatment for epilepsy. | Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

  • Legal as treatment in at least 30 states

There are several states — including Mississippi, Alabama, and Missouri — where patients can only take medicinal marijuana for one condition: epilepsy. Otherwise, anyone suffering from seizures will qualify in nearly every state where it’s a treatment option.

Next: Most state regulators agree on treating HIV and AIDS with medical cannabis.


Man smoking marijuana cigarette

Some AIDS patients use marijuana to treat symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite. |

  • Legal as treatment in at least 25 states

Only a handful of states with legal medical marijuana do not allow HIV and AIDS patients access to this treatment option. Patients with the virus and AIDS find relief from nausea, loss of appetite, and other symptoms when using the drug.

Iowa added HIV, AIDS, Parkinson’s, and cancer (among other health problems) to its list of qualifying conditions late in 2017.

Next: Many see marijuana as a better option than Prozac and other antidepressants.

10. Depression

Some people prefer using marijuana to treat their depression over drugs like Prozac. | Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

  • Legal as treatment in at least 10 states

While pharmacological treatment of depression has been widespread in America for several generations, states have been less receptive to marijuana as an option. Nonetheless, there are at least 10 states that allow treatment of “persistent conditions” that limit someone’s ability to function.

It’s difficult to see depression, anxiety, and other conditions of this nature failing to qualify.

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