- Medical cannabis has been shown to be effective in managing chronic pain and providing relief for multiple sclerosis patients, more specifically in managing spasticity.
- Insufficient support was found for the use of medicinal cannabis products in treating sleep disorders, nausea or vomiting relating to chemotherapy, inducing weight gain in HIV patients, or alleviating symptoms of Tourette syndrome. No evidence was found suggesting that cannabis-based drugs could assist in treating psychosis or depression.
- While there are benefits, it needs to be weighed against the risk of side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, sleepiness, and euphoria. There can also be cases of confusion, balance loss, and hallucinations.
- There is a need for more research regarding the potential medical benefits of marijuana due to its compound complexities and current federal classification as a class I controlled substance. This classification obstructs necessary research.
- Controversy exists regarding the approval process for medical marijuana compared to other medications. Increased clinical research and adequate trials are necessary to justify its use for various medical conditions.
Research has shown medical cannabis to be effective in managing chronic pain, although its efficiency seems diminished for other medical problems.
New analysis was drawn from almost 80 clinical trials using medical marijuana or cannabis-related drugs, which revealed substantial evidence backing their application in managing chronic pain, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Relief for Multiple Sclerosis Patients
The body of evidence also suggests these prescriptions could prove beneficial for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, more specifically those afflicted with spasticity – a condition marked by continuous muscle contractions or sudden unchecked movements.
Where Medical Marijuana Was Found Less Effective
In contrast, the review uncovered relatively insufficient support for the use of medicinal cannabis products in treating sleep disorders, nausea or vomiting related to chemotherapy treatment, inducing weight gain in HIV patients, or in alleviating Tourette syndrome symptoms, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive sounds or movements.
Additionally, the researchers could not find evidence to suggest that cannabis-based drugs could assist in treating psychosis or depression.
Benefits Versus Side Effects
“Cannabinoids can effectively treat chronic pain and spasticity, however, this must be considered alongside the increased risk of side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, sleepiness, and euphoria,” explained the study’s lead author Penny Whiting, a senior research fellow at the University of Bristol in England.
She added, other common side effects include confusion, balance loss, and hallucinations.
The Swiss Federal Research
The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health sponsored a research team to systematically review the effectiveness of medical marijuana products.
The researchers specifically selected 79 clinical trials for their analysis. These studies examined the effects of medical marijuana itself, or drugs that contain plant-derived or synthetic compounds found in the herb.
Two Studies About Medical Marijuana Itself
Interestingly, whist they uncovered and included only two studies that evaluated medical marijuana as such, rather than a derivative, there are many more trials out there that involve the medicinal herb, but were not included in this analysis. Furthermore, there’s some debate about the report’s conclusions regarding the treatment of chemotherapy side effects.
The FDA’s Approval
“It’s somewhat confusing that the FDA has approved cannabinoids specifically for improvements in nausea, vomiting due to chemotherapy and weight gain in HIV, based on ‘low-quality’ evidence,” commented Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana group NORML.
Need for More Research
Dr. Robert Wergin, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, empathizes that more research is needed on the potential medical benefits of marijuana He argues that due to the compound complexities of marijuana, it’s challenging to determine if any single product works, either alone or in conjunction with other compounds.
Federal Classification Hinders Research
Wergin also noted that the federal classification of marijuana as a class I controlled substance obstructs the research necessary to outline potential benefits.
What if The Goal is Medical Usage?
In a joint editorial, two medical researchers from Yale University advocated for improved clinical research before states enact further medical marijuana legislation.
“If the goal is to make marijuana available for medical purposes, then it isn’t clear why the approval process should differ from that of other medications. Evidence justifying marijuana use for various medical conditions will require adequately powered, double-blind, randomized, placebo/active controlled clinical trials to test its short and long-term efficacy and safety,” articulated Dr. Deepak Cyril D’Souza and Dr. Mohini Ranganathan from the Yale University School of Medicine.
Inconsistent Federal Classification
Armentano accused the conclusion that marijuana products have some medicinal benefit of being inconsistent with the plant’s federal classification as a Schedule I controlled substance possessing no accepted medical utility.
He added that the U.S. government’s “reluctance to reconsider this position contradicts public opinion and proven science.”
For more on marijuana, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health website.