Study Claims Medical Marijuana Ineffective for Certain Illnesses

All across the nation, states are legalizing or considering legalizing medical marijuana for a variety of different medical uses, including Crohn’s Disease, ALS and HIV, among others. However, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has suggested that medical marijuana may not be effective for many of the illnesses that supporters claim it helps.

The study reviewed 79 randomized controlled clinical trials, which included a total of 6,426 participants. Researchers examined the effectiveness of 10 medical conditions that medical marijuana is purported to treat, which are as follows: nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, appetite stimulation in HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or paraplegia, depression, anxiety disorder, sleep disorder, psychosis, glaucoma or Tourette syndrome.

For chronic pain, researchers found “moderate-quality evidence” that cannabinoids were beneficial. Trials testing pain resulting from fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and HIV-associated sensory neuropathy did not show any results. There was some evidence that medical marijuana helped with muscle spasticity resulting from multiple sclerosis or paraplegia, but it was considered statistically insignificant.

Trials testing appetite stimulation for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS showed that there was some evidence to support its effectiveness. Researchers found almost no evidence to support that medical marijuana helps those suffering from Tourette’s, glaucoma, social anxiety or sleep disorders.

Researchers also found that 80 percent of participants suffered from side effects, compared to 62 percent of those in the control group. The majority of those side effects were all too common to regular marijuana users, such as drowsiness and cotton mouth.

Of the 80 percent that suffered side effects, 6 percent experienced vomiting and hallucinations; however, 4 percent of those that took a placebo pill reported the same side effects.

While this may seem like a damning study, there are several problems with the report. To start, although researchers examined 79 clinical trials, not every trial examined marijuana’s effectiveness on the same illnesses. For example, researchers used only 28 trials to examine marijuana’s effect on chronic pain and only 14 to examine muscle spasticity.

Also, none of the clinical trials actually used marijuana; they used FDA-approved synthetic drugs, dronabinol and nabilone. Dronabinol only contains THC and nabilone only mimics the chemical. If you know anything about marijuana, you know that marijuana contains more than 60 cannabinoids that work together to produce results, also known as the entourage effect.

It is ineffective to use isolated THC or synthetically replicated THC as a means of examining the efficacy of medical marijuana.

Although this study is flawed, it does serve to underscore the importance of conducting additional studies on medical marijuana. We still don’t know all of marijuana’s uses or risks, but we can continue to investigate them as new studies are published.

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