Ask any college student – or 7-Eleven cashier – about the effect of marijuana on the appetite and you’re bound to get a long answer about late-night snack binges. Less often spoken about is marijuana’s effect on relieving chronic pain, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other chronic diseases.
A new study out of Israel looks to change that. Led by Zach Klein, a specialist in medical marijuana policy and the director of the documentary Prescribed Grass, researchers at Tel Aviv University tested medical marijuana on 19 nursing home residents. Patients were treated with cannabis in the form of powder, oil, vapor, or smoke three times daily over the course of a year.
Klein says the results of his small study, which has not been peer-reviewed, are encouraging. Seventeen of the 19 patients regained lost weight, and symptoms of pain, stiffness, tremors, insomnia, and PTSD decreased drastically. Their moods and communication skills also improved, and they had fewer nightmares and flashbacks, according to Klein.
“After I found this, everything has been better,” Moshe Rute, a Holocaust survivor stricken by nightmares and the effects of a stroke told the Times of Israel. “I’m still a Holocaust child, but I’m finally able to better cope.”
The 80-year-old Hadarim resident is one of 11,000 Israelis with permits from the government to use marijuana for medical purposes, a number that is growing rapidly.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the future,” Klein said to the Times. “This is God’s doing, and it’s marvelous in our eyes.”
Perhaps as important as the improvement in pain management and quality of life was marijuana’s ability to replace some of the medication taken by the patients. By the end of the study, 72 percent were able to reduce the number of drugs they were taking daily. This includes medication for Parkinson’s disease, pain relievers, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers, many of which can have debilitating and severe side effects.
“We know how to extend life, but sometimes it’s not pleasant and can cause a great deal of suffering, so we’re looking to alleviate this, to add quality to longevity,” head nurse Inbal Sikorin told the Times. “Cannabis meets this need. Almost all our patients are eating again, and their moods have improved tremendously.”
The country that discovered tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, in the 1960’s doesn’t have the stigma attached to marijuana that the United States does, as even senior rabbis have no qualms with its use or spread.
Klein is working on a new study at Israel’s Reuth Medical Center, in which he hopes to establish a connection between medical cannabis and improved swallowing. One of the biggest concerns with chronically ill patients is food intake, and Klein believes that cannabis, which can stimulate regions of the brain associated with swallowing reflexes, will have a positive impact.