Report on the Health Effects of Cannabis
by Charlie Bott
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive review of currently published research on the health effects of marijuana in January. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research, was compiled by the Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana, whose 16 members include doctors and professors from across the country.
The findings on therapeutic effects show conclusive evidence that cannabinoids are an effective treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, as well as substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain and for spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis.
There is also moderate evidence that cannabinoids can be effective in treating sleep disorders, and limited evidence that cannabinoids can be an effective treatment for Anorexia, Anxiety, PTSD, Tourette Syndrome, and Traumatic Brain Injury/Intracranial Hemorrhage.
The limitations of the current research become clear, however, in the committee’s inability to make a conclusive statement on whether cannabis is an effective treatment against cancer. Although their search found 2,260 studies on using cannabis to treat cancer, only 35 of these studies met the standards to be included in the survey, and all but one of those were pre-clinical studies.
Strikingly, cannabinoids showed an anti-tumor effect against gliomas in every one of the 16 in vivo studies conducted. Because this research has not moved on to the clinical stage, however, the evidence is considered too preliminary to make a definitive statement on whether or not cannabinoids are an effective treatment against gliomas.
Given the potential therapeutic benefits, one of the committee’s strongest conclusions is that, “These limitations highlight the need for substantial research to provide comprehensive and conclusive evidence on the therapeutic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids.”
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