Although a US congressional panel recently blocked medical cannabis research, deciding that the federal government’s search for potential solutions to the nation’s prescription opioid crisis should not include cannabis, other countries exploring cannabis research are seeing very interesting results.
Treatments with cannabinoids have been shown to have more benefits than risks, resulting in a growing number of physicians and patients calling for more clinical research and broader use of medical cannabis.
Some important news comes from the Negev desert of southern Israel, where, according to a new study from the Ben-Gurion University (BGU), medical cannabis users experience significant pain relief and function with only minor side effects. In Israel medical cannabis has been legal for treating pain and other symptoms for over a decade, and approximately 20,000 patients have a permission to use medical cannabis.
The research team, led by Prof. Pesach Shvartzman (Faculty of Health Sciences), presented their findings at the Sixth International Jerusalem Conference on Health Policy.
The study focused on the medical cannabis users themselves. Researchers observed socioeconomic characteristics, previous treatments, and side effects. They wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment to the patients’ overall improvement. Over 2,000 cancer and non-cancer patients participated in the study. Patients were interviewed by telephone in the first three months of treatment and subsequently every four months for two years.
Most study participants benefitted from treatment. Their symptoms of pain, anxiety, appetite, and overall mood was improved. Less than one in ten stopped taking the drug due to side effects or ineffectiveness after the first interview, and only 6% stopped after the second interview.
The result are impressive as almost all of the participants (99.6 percent) decided to try a medical cannabis prescription after trying some conventional medication that proved ineffective to their case. Almost 56% they sought for cannabis because of the unbearable side effects caused by their previous medication.
Another new study also provides evidence for the clinical efficacy of cannabis therapy.
In an article published in the latest issue of Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology (JBCPP), a Canadian researcher, says that cannabinoids have analgesic effects.
Mary E. Lynch, who is a leader in the field of alternative pain therapy, explained that 25 of 30 randomized controlled trials have proved that cannabinoids work effectively against pain. These findings are important because the numbers of patients with chronic pain will increase as a result of new therapies are increasing life expectancy.
As long as research proves that cannabis compounds like cannabidiol (CBD) provide relief to symptoms like pain and nausea associated with cancer and other pain conditions, and are proven to have a high degree of safety, society will continue viewing cannabis in a very light.
As research continues to show that cannabinoids can be used effectively in the management of pain, perhaps governments will continue to ease restrictions to these therapies.
In the US, that may also solve another of its major problems – the opioid abuse epidemic – because, as the Journal of the American Medical Association states, the rate of death due to overdose were 25% lower in state with legal medical marijuana laws.