The effectiveness of self-directed medical cannabis treatment for pain

Complementary Therapies in Medicine“The prior medical literature offers little guidance as to how pain relief and side effect manifestation may vary across commonly used and commercially available cannabis product types. We used the largest dataset in the United States of real-time responses to and side effect reporting from patient-directed cannabis consumption sessions for the treatment of pain under naturalistic conditions in order to identify how cannabis affects momentary pain intensity levels and which product characteristics are the best predictors of therapeutic pain relief.

Between 06/06/2016 and 10/24/2018, 2987 people used the ReleafApp to record 20,513 cannabis administration measuring cannabis’ effects on momentary pain intensity levels across five pain categories: musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, nerve, headache-related, or non-specified pain. The average pain reduction was –3.10 points on a 0–10 visual analogue scale (SD = 2.16, d = 1.55, p < .001).

Whole Cannabis flower was associated with greater pain relief than were other types of products, and higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels were the strongest predictors of analgesia and side effects prevalence across the five pain categories. In contrast, cannabidiol (CBD) levels generally were not associated with pain relief except for a negative association between CBD and relief from gastrointestinal and non-specified pain.

These findings suggest benefits from patient-directed, cannabis therapy as a mid-level analgesic treatment; however, effectiveness and side effect manifestation vary with the characteristics of the product used.

The results suggest that Cannabis flower with moderate to high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol is an effective mid-level analgesic.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229919308040

“UNM study confirms cannabis flower is an effective mid-level analgesic medication for pain treatment. Cannabis likely has numerous constituents that possess analgesic properties beyond THC, including terpenes and flavonoids, which likely act synergistically for people that use whole dried cannabis flower, Cannabis offers the average patient an effective alternative to using opioids for general use in the treatment of pain with very minimal negative side effects for most people.”  https://news.unm.edu/news/unm-study-confirms-cannabis-flower-is-an-effective-mid-level-analgesic-medication-for-pain-treatment

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Urgent need for “EBMM” in pediatric oncology: Evidence based medical marijuana.

Publication Cover“Marijuana has been used by many different civilizations for numerous different purposes, including its use for medical indications. Recently, there has been significant media coverage of the efficacy of medical marijuana in the treatment of seizures in children with Dravet syndrome, and this has led many to search for other possible pediatric indications for cannabinoids, including many different indications in pediatric cancer. However, there is very little evidence on safety or efficacy of cannabinoids in children being treated with cancer. This commentary accompanies a recent paper by a group in Israel who have published their experience of medical marijuana in 50 children and adolescents with cancer, showing excellent satisfaction and better symptom control, and without significant adverse drug reactions. This study from Israel is an excellent first step, but prospective well-designed trials of medical marijuana in pediatric oncology are urgently needed.”

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Attitudes and Beliefs About Medical Usefulness and Legalization of Marijuana among Cancer Patients in a Legalized and a Nonlegalized State.

View details for Journal of Palliative Medicine cover image “There is a growing preference for the use of marijuana for medical purposes, despite limited evidence regarding its benefits and potential safety risks. Legalization status may play a role in the attitudes and preferences toward medical marijuana(MM).

Objectives: The attitudes and beliefs of cancer patients in a legalized (Arizona) versus nonlegalized state (Texas) regarding medical and recreational legalization and medical usefulness of marijuana were compared.

 

Results: The majority of individuals support legalization of marijuana for medical use (Arizona 92% [85-97%] vs. Texas 90% [82-95%]; p = 0.81) and belief in its medical usefulness (Arizona 97% [92-99%] vs. Texas 93% [86-97%]; p = 0.33) in both states. Overall, 181 (91%) patients supported legalization for medical purposes whereas 80 (40%) supported it for recreational purposes (p < 0.0001). Patients preferred marijuana over current standard treatments for anxiety (60% [51-68%]; p = 0.003). Patients found to favor legalizing MM were younger (p = 0.027), had worse fatigue (p = 0.015), appetite (p = 0.004), anxiety (p = 0.017), and were Cut Down, Annoyed, Guilty, and Eye Opener-Adapted to Include Drugs (CAGE-AID) positive for alcohol/drugs (p < 0.0001).

Conclusion: Cancer patients from both legalized and nonlegalized states supported legalization of marijuana for medical purposes and believed in its medical use. The support for legalization for medical use was significantly higher than for recreational use in both states.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31386595

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jpm.2019.0218

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Cannabis and Epilepsy.

 Publication Cover“In recent years, the use of cannabidiol in the treatment of refractory epilepsy has been increasingly investigated and has been gaining public support as a novel way to treat these disorders.

Marijuana has been used for medical purposes for thousands of years, and a lot of research has been conducted over the last several decades into the chemistry and pharmacology of marijuana and its many compounds, including cannabidiol.

There are historical and recent scientific developments that support the use of cannabidiol in rare severe epilepsy syndromes.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31385740

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15504263.2019.1645372?journalCode=wjdd20

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Pharmacology of Medical Cannabis.

 “The Cannabis plant has been used for many of years as a medicinal agent in the relief of pain and seizures. It contains approximately 540 natural compounds including more than 100 that have been identified as phytocannabinoids due to their shared chemical structure. The predominant psychotropic component is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), while the major non-psychoactive ingredient is cannabidiol (CBD). These compounds have been shown to be partial agonists or antagonists at the prototypical cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. The therapeutic actions of Δ9-THC and CBD include an ability to act as analgesics, anti-emetics, anti-inflammatory agents, anti-seizure compounds and as protective agents in neurodegeneration. However, there is a lack of well-controlled, double blind, randomized clinical trials to provide clarity on the efficacy of either Δ9-THC or CBD as therapeutics. Moreover, the safety concerns regarding the unwanted side effects of Δ9-THC as a psychoactive agent preclude its widespread use in the clinic. The legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes and for recreational use in some regions will allow for much needed research on the pharmacokinetics and pharmocology of medical cannabis. This brief review focuses on the use of cannabis as a medicinal agent in the treatment of pain, epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases. Despite the paucity of information, attention is paid to the mechanisms by which medical cannabis may act to relieve pain and seizures.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31332738

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-030-21737-2_8

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Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide

Publication Cover“In the current study we use a synthetic control group design to estimate the causal effect of a medical marijuana initiative on suicide risk.

In 1996, California legalized marijuana use for medical purposes. Implementation was abrupt and uniform, presenting a “natural experiment.” Utilizing a panel dataset containing annual frequencies of Total, gun, and non-gun suicides aggregated by state for the years 1970–2004, we construct a control time series for California as a weighted combination of the 41 states that did not legalize marijuana during the analysis period. Post-intervention differences for California and its constructed control time series can be interpreted as the effects of the medical marijuana law on suicide. Significance of the effects were assessed with permutation tests.

Our findings suggest that California’s 1996 legalization resulted in statistically significant (p<.05) reductions in suicides and gun suicides, but only a non-significant reduction in non-gun suicides (p≥.488). Since the effect for non-gun suicides was indistinguishable from chance, we infer that the overall causal effect was realized through gun suicides. The mechanism could not be determined, however. Participation in the medical marijuana program legally disqualifies participants from purchasing guns. But since most suicides involve guns, it is possible that the effect on total suicide is driven by gun suicide alone.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13811118.2019.1612803

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Strong reasons make strong actions: medical cannabis and cancer—a call for collective action

Logo of curroncol“Call it cannabis, not marijuana or weed.

It has been more than 17 years since the Canadian prohibitory regulations on the use of medical cannabis began to ease and more than 17 weeks (more than 6 months by the time of publication) since the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) became law. Cannabis use for medical purposes has been part of the historical record and medical writings for millennia. However, it is only in the last 30 years that the workings of the human endocannabinoid system have been described and its receptors discovered. Amazing as all of those developments have been, the challenge of reintegrating cannabis into the science of modern medicine—and particularly care for patients with cancer—is a need whose time has come.

Surveys inform us that patients with cancer are using cannabis to manage symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatment. More concerning is that their use is for a medical need occurring outside the confines of modern cancer care, with patients accessing their cannabis from friends and family, and often from casual or unlicensed suppliers. Beliefs in the benefits of cannabis—for its yet unfounded therapeutic potential—are commonly held or supported by poor-quality evidence. Patients and their caregivers are inundated with media stories about a budding industry and its mergers and acquisitions while it grows to meet a need for what is regarded by some as overlooked and undertreated ailments. How should oncologists and the oncology team, trusted as the informed and compassionate advocates for their patients, reconcile the overwhelming public attention being given to this product—growing more, creating new routes of administration, and reaching for new uses—with the work needed to further the science of cannabis as it pertains to cancer care?

The onus is on us, the community of cancer care providers, to act.

Therapeutic and clinical developments in oncology are resulting in improvements in the survival of many patients. Costly immunologic therapies are promising and are being implemented for a variety of cancers. New science about the microbiome, about cancer detection, and about targeted therapies are being researched. And yet, contrasted against those celebrations of scientific ingenuity are the glaring gaps in the work pertaining to cannabis to settle unsubstantiated claims and anecdotal observations of this elixir for the ages. As clinicians and scientists, we must work to generate the needed evidence-based outcomes and to document or dispel the potential interactions and sequelae between cannabis and prescribed cancer treatments. “There are in fact two things, science and opinion, the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance”.

The frameworks to lead this charge are ours to create. The current legal framework is focused on issues of access and control to regulate production, distribution, and sale. The medical framework for cannabis research is more tenuous, concentrated in silos of expertise as a result of the previous prohibitory environment. The study of cannabis is ripe for development, but even intra-institutional endeavors require help. The machinery of science requires some assembly and repurposing to address the new challenges.

If the current and future oncology landscape is a challenge for those working in cancer care, we must remember that patients deserve our compassion as they attempt to navigate this emotional journey with or without cannabis. More importantly, they need our support and deserve to see us take leadership in cannabis research. Oncologists who have expertise in both the clinical and scientific worlds must inform the necessary work. We must be the architects of its design, building bridges to industry and patients, while engaging our academic institutions.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6588059/

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[Survey of neurologists regarding their attitudes toward medicinal cannabis and the effects of evidence-based cannabis education].

“While more than half of the respondents in both groups showed some acceptance toward the usage of cannabis for research purposes, there was a stronger tendency to accept the use of cannabis for medical purposes in the informed group. Since this acceptance was more often displayed by respondents who had adequate knowledge of the medical use of cannabis, this suggests that providing information on cannabis is useful in promoting acceptance. The result of the survey indicated that a portion of neurologists acknowledges the usefulness of cannabis, and that one’s receptivity toward cannabis can be improved if adequate information is provided about cannabis.”   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31243253

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/clinicalneurol/advpub/0/advpub_cn-001299/_article/-char/ja/

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Therapeutic impact of orally administered cannabinoid oil extracts in an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis animal model of multiple sclerosis.

Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications“There is a growing surge of investigative research involving the beneficial use of cannabinoids as novel interventional alternatives for multiple sclerosis (MS) and associated neuropathic pain (NPP).

Using an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) animal model of MS, we demonstrate the therapeutic effectiveness of two cannabinoid oil extract formulations (10:10 & 1:20 – tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol) treatment.

Our research findings confirm that cannabinoid treatment produces significant improvements in neurological disability scoring and behavioral assessments of NPP that directly result from their ability to reduce tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) production and enhance brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) production.

Henceforth, this research represents a critical step in advancing the literature by scientifically validating the merit for medical cannabinoid use and sets the foundation for future clinical trials.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31213295

“Cannabinoid treatment produces improvements in neurological disability scoring. Cannabinoid treatment also improves behavioral assessments of neuropathic pain.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006291X19311568?via%3Dihub

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The origins of cannabis smoking: Chemical residue evidence from the first millennium BCE in the Pamirs.

 Science Advances: 5 (6)“Cannabis is one of the oldest cultivated plants in East Asia, grown for grain and fiber as well as for recreational, medical, and ritual purposes. It is one of the most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world today, but little is known about its early psychoactive use or when plants under cultivation evolved the phenotypical trait of increased specialized compound production. The archaeological evidence for ritualized consumption of cannabis is limited and contentious. Here, we present some of the earliest directly dated and scientifically verified evidence for ritual cannabis smoking. This phytochemical analysis indicates that cannabis plants were burned in wooden braziers during mortuary ceremonies at the Jirzankal Cemetery (ca. 500 BCE) in the eastern Pamirs region. This suggests cannabis was smoked as part of ritual and/or religious activities in western China by at least 2500 years ago and that the cannabis plants produced high levels of psychoactive compounds.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31206023

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/6/eaaw1391

“Earliest evidence for cannabis smoking discovered in ancient tombs”  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/06/earliest-evidence-cannabis-marijuana-smoking-china-tombs/

“The First Evidence of Smoking Pot Was Found in a 2,500-Year-Old Pot”  https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/2500-year-old-chinese-cemetery-offers-earliest-physical-evidence-cannabis-smoking-180972410/

“Earliest Evidence of People “Smoking” Weed Found in 2,500-Year-Old Chinese Pots”  https://www.sciencealert.com/ancient-pots-from-china-reveal-humans-smoking-cannabis-2-500-years-ago

“Oldest evidence of marijuana use discovered in 2500-year-old cemetery in peaks of western China” https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/06/oldest-evidence-marijuana-use-discovered-2500-year-old-cemetery-peaks-western-china

“Cannabis use for medicinal purposes dates back at least 3,000 years.”  https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq#section/_7

“Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.” https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq

“The use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes dates back to ancient times.” http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/cannabis-pdq#section/all

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