- Cannabis shows some potential in relieving chronic nerve pain, also known as neuropathy, according to several studies.
- The use of medical marijuana is legal for specific purposes in many U.S. states, yet research into its medical applications promotes contention due to its Federal illegality.
- Some research reveals that cannabis can effectively manage chronic pain, soothe multiple sclerosis-caused spasticity, and diminish chemotherapy-induced nausea.
- The potential risks and side effects of using cannabis include vehicular accidents, psychotic symptoms, and temporary cognitive impairment.
- The scarcity of evidence supporting the use of cannabis might originate from challenges in accessing cannabis and funding for clinical research, which are tied to strict anti-cannabis regulations and politics.
Scientific evidence implies a slight effectiveness of cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, in relieving chronic nerve pain, also recognized as neuropathy. However, its potency in alleviating other pain types or contributing to the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not firmly established, as suggested by several recent studies.
Unpacking the Science
Dr. Sachin Patel from the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, Nashville, believes these indications correspond generally well to existing knowledge. He shared these insights commenting on the review featured in a recent online version of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The Legality and Controversy
In virtually all states and the District of Columbia, the use of medical marijuana is legal for specific medical purposes. However, the research into its medical applications prompts contention and challenges due to the Federal illegality of the substance.
Evidence of Effectiveness
Despite these challenges, some research reveals auspicious results. An influential report from the National Academy of Sciences earlier claims abundant or firm scientific proof that cannabis can effectively manage chronic pain, soothe spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis, and diminish the nausea from chemotherapy.
Even though these reviews identified potential usefulness, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs refrains from openly discussing it and remains unwilling to prescribe medical marijuana.
While acknowledging that “emerging evidence might find this helpful,” the VA system is yet to endorse the prescription of medical cannabis, according to a recent statement by the VA Secretary David Shulkin.
Diving Deeper into the Research
While assessing chronic nerve pain and marijuana, researchers evaluated 27 studies and determined low strength evidence of cannabis alleviating nerve pain. However, the scarcity of reliable research made it tough to conclude its effectiveness for other types of pain.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
The researchers also noticed that cannabis use might pose several possible perils such as vehicular accidents, psychotic symptoms, and temporary cognitive impairment. These revelations were based on the examination of 32 studies and 11 reviews of research on side effects.
Who Does This Apply To?
The researchers cautioned that their conclusions might bear limited relevance to older, chronically ill individuals, and heavy cannabis users.
Despite these cautionary notes, many patients, seeking a safer alternative to lethal opioids, echo consistency of these findings with other similar research reviews and anecdotal reports.
The Ongoing Controversy
In another review, researchers found a very low level of research into marijuana as a PTSD treatment. However, the researchers optimistically foresee that “several ongoing studies may soon provide important results.”
Why is There Limited Research?
According to speculations, the scarcity of evidence might originate from the challenges in accessing cannabis and funding for clinical research.
Stringent anti-cannabis laws and politics have considerably impeded the necessary robust, broad, extended clinical trials that might pave the way for the eventual Food and Drug Administration’s drug approval.
Ironically, most large-scale studies are driven by pharmaceutical entities aiming to introduce a new drug to market.
Words of Caution
It’s prudent to tread carefully when it comes to medical pot. One must not assume that conditions listed for medical cannabis prescription necessarily conveys robust or comprehensive scientific data supporting its use.
Doctors are advised to follow the data and inform patients about the evidence, including potential benefits and potential harms.
For more details about medical marijuana, you might find the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse’s write-up insightful. Learn more here.