UK Medical Cannabis Registry: a case series analyzing clinical outcomes of medical cannabis therapy for generalized anxiety disorder patients

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“This study aims to analyze changes in health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and safety in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) prescribed a homogenous selection of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs). Patients prescribed Adven CBMPs (Curaleaf International, UK) for GAD were identified from the UK Medical Cannabis Registry. Primary outcomes were changes in patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) from baseline up to 12 months, including GAD-7, Single-Item Sleep Quality Scale (SQS), and EQ-5D-5L. Adverse events were recorded using CTCAE version 4.0. A total of 120 patients were identified for inclusion, of which 38 (31.67%), 52 (43.33%), and 30 (25.00%) were prescribed oils, dried flower, and both formulations of CBMP. Associated improvements in GAD-7, SQS, and EQ-5D-5L at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months were observed compared to baseline (P < 0.010). There were 24 (20.00%) patients who reported 442 (368.33%) adverse events, most of which were mild (n = 184, 41.63%) and moderate (n = 197, 44.57%). This study reports an association between initiation of a homogeneous CBMP therapy and improvements in anxiety severity and HRQoL in individuals with GAD. Moreover, therapy was well-tolerated at 12 months follow-up. Further investigation through randomized controlled trials will ultimately be required to determine causation.”

Acute and Extended Anxiolytic Effects of Cannabidiol in Cannabis Flower: A Quasi-Experimental ad libitum Use Study

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“Objective: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have varying pharmacological actions with differential effects on acute and extended affective states, incuding anxiety. We aimed to study these effects on anxiety in legal market forms of cannabis. 

Method: This study makes use of a nonequivalent control group quasiexperimental design. Forty-two participants with anxiety symptions who were not using cannabis were compared to 258 participants with anxiety symptoms who used cannabis flower (∼3-4 times per week). Participants who used cannabis were randomly assigned to one of three legal market cannabis conditions; THC-dominant (24% THC, <1% CBD), THC+CBD (12% THC, 12% CBD), or CBD-dominant (<1% THC, 24% CBD). Changes in anxiety symptoms over 4-weeks were measured by the Patient Global Impression of Change (PGIC) scale and the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS). Acute changes in subjective mood immediately after cannabis use were measured by the Profile of Mood States (POMS) Elation, Tension, and Paranoia subscales and the Addiction Research Center Inventory intoxication scale. 

Results: While all participants reported anxiety reductions over the 4-week study on the PGIC (F=30.65, p<0.001) and DASS anxiety measures (F=115.88, p<0.001), ad libitum CBD-dominant cannabis use was associated with lower scores on the DASS anxiety subscale compared to THC-dominant use when accounting for frequency of use (difference=-1.03, SE=0.45, p=0.02). Similarly, acute CBD-dominant cannabis use was associated with lower scores on the POMS tension and paranoia subscales (POMS tension: CBD-dominant vs. THC-dominant: difference=-0.41 SE=0.1, p<0.001; CBD-dominant vs. THC+CBD: difference=-0.28, SE=0.07, p=0.04; POMS paranoia: CBD-dominant vs. THC-dominant: difference=-0.49, SE=0.1, p<0.001; CBD-dominant vs. THC+CBD: difference=-0.33, SE=0.09, p=0.01). Participants in all cannabis conditions experienced acute changes in positive mood and subjective drug effects. 

Conclusions: This study provides novel information on the impacts of legal market cannabis with varying ratios of THC to CBD in indviduals with anxiety symptoms. Findings suggest that THC did not increase anxiety and that CBD-dominant forms of cannabis were associated with acute tension reduction that may translate to longer-term reductions in anxiety symptoms.”

The impact of cannabidiol placebo on responses to an acute stressor: A replication and proof of concept study

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“Background: Our group has previously reported that cannabidiol (CBD) expectancy alone blunts markers of stress, particularly during anticipation, but it is not clear the extent to which such findings were specific to the methods utilized.

Aims: To examine CBD-related placebo effects on stress reactivity and anticipation and to validate a protocol to be used in a neuroimaging study.

Methods: Forty-eight healthy adults (24 female) were randomly assigned to be informed that they ingested a CBD-containing oil or a CBD-free oil despite receiving the same oil (CBD-free). Following oil administration, participants engaged in a laboratory stressor and were then incorrectly informed that they would engage in a second more difficult task following a waiting period. Subjective state (sedation, energy, stress, anxiety) and heart rate were assessed at baseline, post-oil administration, immediately following the first stressor, and while anticipating the second stressor.

Results: Subjective stress and anxiety were significantly elevated immediately following the stressor (p-values < 0.001). CBD expectancy was associated with increased subjective sedation (p < 0.01) and tended to be associated with blunted subjective stress (p = 0.053). Post hoc within-condition pairwise compassions suggested a return to pre-stressor levels during the anticipation period in the CBD condition for subjective stress and anxiety (p = 0.784, 0.845), but not the CBD-free condition (p = 0.025, 0.045).

Conclusion: Results replicate and extend previous findings that CBD expectancy alone can impact stress- and anxiety-relevant responses in the laboratory context.”

An observational study of clinical outcome measures in patients treated with cannabis-based medicinal products on the UK Medical Cannabis Registry

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“Introduction: While there is increasing evidence of the effects of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) on health-related quality of life (HRQoL), a major limitation of the current literature is the heterogeneity of studied CBMPs. This study aims to analyze changes in HRQoL in patients prescribed a homogenous selection of CBMPs.

Methods: Primary outcomes were changes in patient-reported outcomes (PROMs) at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months from baseline. The secondary outcome was an adverse events analysis. Statistical significance was defined as p < 0.050.

Results: 1378 patients prescribed Adven® CBMPs (Curaleaf International, Guernsey, UK) were included in the final analysis. 581 (42.16%) participants were current users of cannabis at baseline. 641 (46.51%), 235 (17.05%), and 502 (36.43%) patients were treated with oils, dried flowers, or a combination of the two, respectively. Improvements were found in all PROMs in each route of administration at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months from baseline (p < 0.010). Those prescribed dried flower only or both oils and dried flower experienced greater improvements in GAD-7, SQS, and EQ-5D-5L index values at 12 months (p < 0.050). There was no difference in outcomes between those prescribed dried flower only or dried flower with oils (p > 0.050). 3663 (265.82%) adverse events were reported by 297 (21.55%) patients.

Conclusion: There was an associated improvement in self-reported anxiety, sleep quality, and HRQoL in patients treated with the CBMPs. Those prescribed treatment formulations including dried flower were most likely to show a clinical improvement. However, these results must be interpreted with caution given the limitations of study design.”

“In conclusion, the CBMPs studied in this analysis were associated with an improvement in self-reported anxiety, sleep quality, and HRQoL, consistent with existing literature on CBMPs. Patients prescribed treatment formulations, including dried flowers, were most likely to show clinical improvement”

Terpenes in Cannabis sativa Inhibit Capsaicin Responses in Rat DRG Neurons via Na+/K+ ATPase Activation

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“Terpenes in Cannabis sativa exert analgesic effects, but the mechanisms are uncertain. We examined the effects of 10 terpenes on capsaicin responses in an established model of neuronal hypersensitivity. Adult rat DRG neurons cultured with neurotrophic factors NGF and GDNF were loaded with Fura2AM for calcium imaging, and treated with individual terpenes or vehicle for 5 min, followed by 1 µMol capsaicin. In vehicle treated control experiments, capsaicin elicited immediate and sustained calcium influx. Most neurons treated with terpenes responded to capsaicin after 6-8 min. Few neurons showed immediate capsaicin responses that were transient or normal. The delayed responses were found to be due to calcium released from the endoplasmic reticulum, as they were maintained in calcium/magnesium free media, but not after thapsigargin pre-treatment. Terpene inhibition of calcium influx was reversed after washout of medium, in the absence of terpenes, and in the presence of the Na+/K+ ATPase inhibitor ouabain, but not CB1 or CB2 receptor antagonists. Thus, terpenes inhibit capsaicin evoked calcium influx by Na+/K+ ATPase activation. Immunofluorescence showed TRPV1 co-expression with α1β1 Na+/K+ ATPase in most neurons while others were either TRPV1 or α1β1 Na+/K+ ATPase positive.”

“The neuromodulatory effects of cannabinoids have been recognized for millenia in traditional medicine, including for pain relief. Following the opioid crisis, attention has been focussed on developing alternatives including cannabinoid-based pain therapies, as chronic pain remains an unmet need. The best known of the phytocannabinoids is Δ9tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the only known psychoactive component, along with many other cannabinoids with potential therapeutic benefits, such as cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabigerol (CBG) [2]. Amongst the several hundred components in Cannabis sativa are terpenes, which are produced in small and varying amounts in different cultivars of C. sativa, leading to potential variation in their effects [3]. Some of these, including limonene, phytol, borneol, terpineol, and caryophyllene, provide pain relief via calcium channel inhibition [4]. Similarly, antinociceptive and anti-tumour effects of α-phellandrene were reported, although the mechanisms were unknown. Terpenes as a class of compounds are generally described as safe by the FDA, with low toxicity that extends their efficacy to a variety of indications including chronic pain and anxiety.”

The psychedelic effects of cannabis: A review of the literature

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“Cannabis and classic psychedelics are controlled substances with emerging evidence of efficacy in the treatment of a variety of psychiatric illnesses. Cannabis has largely not been regarded as having psychedelic effects in contemporary literature, despite many examples of historical use along with classic psychedelics to attain altered states of consciousness.

Research into the “psychedelic” effects of cannabis, and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular, could prove helpful for assessing potential therapeutic indications and elucidating the mechanism of action of both cannabis and classic psychedelics.

This review aggregates and evaluates the literature assessing the capacity of cannabis to yield the perceptual changes, aversiveness, and mystical experiences more typically associated with classic psychedelics such as psilocybin. This review also provides a brief contrast of neuroimaging findings associated with the acute effects of cannabis and psychedelics.

The available evidence suggests that high-THC cannabis may be able to elicit psychedelic effects, but that these effects may not have been observed in recent controlled research studies due to the doses, set, and settings commonly used. Research is needed to investigate the effects of high doses of THC in the context utilized in therapeutic studies of psychedelics aimed to occasion psychedelic and/or therapeutic experiences.

If cannabis can reliably generate psychedelic experiences under these conditions, high-THC dose cannabis treatments should be explored as potential adjunctive treatments for psychiatric disorders and be considered as an active comparator in clinical trials involving traditional psychedelic medications.”

“Psychedelic drugs in the treatment of psychiatric disorders”

Improved Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Related Sleep Disturbances after Initiation of Medical Marijuana Use: Evidence from a Prospective Single Arm Pilot Study

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“Introduction: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating disorder experienced by a subgroup of individuals following a life-threatening trauma. Several US states have passed laws permitting the medical use of marijuana (MMJ) by individuals with PTSD, despite very little scientific indication on the appropriateness of marijuana as a therapy for PTSD. This prospective pilot study of adults with confirmed PTSD in Florida (FL) investigated whether PTSD symptoms, sleep quality, affect, and general physical and mental health/well-being improved post-initiation of MMJ treatment.

Methods: Participants, N = 15, were recruited from two MMJ clinics in Gainesville and Jacksonville, FL. To be eligible, participants had to be 18 years of age or older, not currently on MMJ, and willing to abstain from recreational marijuana, if using any, until the State Medical Cannabis Card was obtained, screen positive for PTSD. Participants were assessed at baseline (pre-MMJ initiation) and 30 and 70 days post-MMJ initiation using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), PROMIS Global Health V1.2, and semi-structured marijuana and other substance use assessment.

Results: PTSD symptom severity as measured by total PCL-5 score improved significantly at 30- and 70-day follow-ups. Similarly, statistically significant reductions in nightmares were reported at 30- and 70-day follow-ups. Corresponding improvements in sleep were noticed with participants reporting increased duration of sleep hours, sleep quality, sleep efficiency, and total PSQI score. Likewise, negative affect and global mental health improved significantly at follow-up. According to the post hoc analyses, the most statistically significant changes occurred between baseline and 30-day follow-up. The exception to this pattern was nightmares, which did not show significant improvement until day 70.

Conclusion: The findings of this study highlight the potential of MMJ in improving patient outcomes for those with PTSD, particularly concerning sleep disturbances, which often do not respond to currently available treatments.”

Effects of Two Cannabidiol Oil Products on Self-Reported Stress Relief: A Quasi-Experimental Study

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“Introduction: Estimated rates of past-month cannabidiol (CBD) use in the general public are 13-26% and emerging research examines CBD as a potential adjunct treatment for several medical conditions, including stress-related disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, and chronic pain). However, little is known about the effects of different CBD products on self-reported stress. The present study compared the effects of two delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-free CBD tincture products – (1) an isolate CBD oil and (2) a broad spectrum CBD oil – on self-ratings of effectiveness of the product and ability to manage stress.

Methods: This quasi-experimental study reports on a total of 374 participants who completed either a 30- or 60-day regimen. Participants were instructed to use a 1,000 mg CBD isolate product at will, and then switch over to a 1,000 mg broad spectrum product for the remainder of the regimen (i.e., next 15 or 30 days). Self-reported effectiveness of the product and its ability to help manage stress was compared between the isolate and broad spectrum products. We also examined overall impression, quality, taste, and adverse effects of each product.

Results: Overall, both products were rated to be highly effective and able to assist with stress management. Participants reported that the broad spectrum product’s effectiveness (p < 0.001) and ability to reduce stress (p < 0.001) as greater than the isolate product across both regimens. However, participants preferred the taste of the isolate product over that of the broad spectrum across regimens (p < 0.05). For the 30-day regimen, participants reported a more positive overall impression of the isolate as compared to the broad spectrum (p < 0.001); however, overall impression did not differ between the products in the 60-day regimen. There was no difference in adverse effects or quality between the products, across both regimens.

Conclusion: These results fit with prior studies suggesting anti-stress effects of CBD. Ratings were higher for the broad spectrum as compared to the isolate product, which is consistent with prior data suggesting that cannabinoids can work synergistically to maximize benefits. Nonetheless, more controlled studies are needed to explore these effects in nonclinical and clinical populations.”

Anxiety Modulation by Cannabinoids-The Role of Stress Responses and Coping

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“Endocannabinoids were implicated in a variety of pathological conditions including anxiety and are considered promising new targets for anxiolytic drug development. The optimism concerning the potentials of this system for anxiolysis is probably justified. However, the complexity of the mechanisms affected by endocannabinoids, and discrepant findings obtained with various experimental approaches makes the interpretation of research results difficult. Here, we review the anxiety-related effects of the three main interventions used to study the endocannabinoid system: pharmacological agents active at endocannabinoid-binding sites present on both the cell membrane and in the cytoplasm, genetic manipulations targeting cannabinoid receptors, and function-enhancers represented by inhibitors of endocannabinoid degradation and transport. Binding-site ligands provide inconsistent findings probably because they activate a multitude of mechanisms concomitantly. More robust findings were obtained with genetic manipulations and particularly with function enhancers, which heighten ongoing endocannabinoid activation rather than affecting all mechanisms indiscriminately. The enhancement of ongoing activity appears to ameliorate stress-induced anxiety without consistent effects on anxiety in general. Limited evidence suggests that this effect is achieved by promoting active coping styles in critical situations. These findings suggest that the functional enhancement of endocannabinoid signaling is a promising drug development target for stress-related anxiety disorders.”

“Three hypotheses have been put forward so far on the role of endocannabinoids in emotional and behavioral control.

  • The endocannabinoid system controls behavior by its interactions with the stress system (HPA-axis) and ensures normal functioning by eliminating excessive stress responses at all three levels: the hormonal, neural, and behavioral.
  • The endocannabinoid system contributes to the integration of perception and execution, by allowing this adaptation to the environment. It buffers maladaptive responses and protects against psychiatric symptoms.
  • The endocannabinoid system promotes an active coping with challenges, which confers the organism advantages in critical situations. This may be the common denominator of its anxiolytic- and antidepression-like effects.

These three hypotheses appear complementary rather than contradictory. All three suggest that the endocannabinoid system is a valid target for the treatment of psychiatric conditions associated with dysregulated affect. The task is to find the agent that achieves the goal with minimal risks.”

An Individual’s Lived Experiences of Taking Cannabis-Based Medicinal Products (CBMPs) to Treat Anxiety

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“This report documents the case of a patient (the author) participating in a clinical trial of medical cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.)-the Sapphire Access Scheme, run by the Sapphire Medical Clinic as part of the UK Medical Cannabis Registry-to explore the impacts of cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) on anxiety. For most of my life, I have experienced often very serious bouts of poor mental health arising, in part, from childhood abuse, and have been diagnosed with several mental health conditions which constitute disabilities. I have received various conventional treatments and multiple alternative therapies. However, none of these have enabled me to consistently manage my conditions long-term, and I often suffer relapses. As part of the Sapphire Access Scheme, I complete regular quantitative questionnaires regarding the impacts of the CBMPs on my anxiety and have also obtained the clinic’s permission to qualitatively document and write up the impacts of CBMPs on my mental health. Here, I present a preliminary autoethnographic exploration of my lived experiences of CBMP use over the first four months of the trial, which show that even within such a short space of time, CBMPs have had a positive impact on treating what had previously been treatment-refractive chronic anxiety.”