Medical Marijuana Breakthroughs Over The Years
There’s a reason marijuana has been at the bottom of much controversy in the past few years, especially in the United States. For one, more than 10,000 researches have been done on marijuana, making it perhaps one of the most-studied plants on the planet.
From these researches, both concrete and suggestive types of evidence have pointed to the benefits of marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain, nausea, and multiple sclerosis. But interestingly, the legislative branch of the US remains perverse to scientific literature, holding its stance to classify the drug under its schedule I category, a label it slaps to substances that have “high potential for abuse and NO medical value.”
While its addictive potential remains inconclusive, there’s little doubt over the medical value of cannabis. In fact, many breakthroughs in medical cannabis in the past few years support this. Here are just a few.
Cannabis and Brain Cancer
In 2017, scientists from GW Pharmaceuticals announced positive results for its phase 2 placebo-controlled research on the combinatory effect of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on patients with glioblastoma multiforme. Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most fatal forms of cancer where 95 percent of patients die within five years after diagnosis despite exposure to aggressive therapies and safe surgical approaches.
For its efforts, GW Pharmaceuticals obtained the Orphan Drug Designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (USDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
A review paper on the application on cannabinoids in glioblastoma therapy published just this year further supports these findings.
Cannabis and Chemotherapy
The development of chemotherapy in the 1940s has helped save countless lives from cancer. But despite its revolutionary benefit, chemotherapy remains a temporary solution to a fatal disease that affects millions globally. This is why any newfound potential that may benefit cancer treatment easily grabs the attention of the medical industry.
Such is the case of cannabis when, in 2017, researchers from the University of St. George’s London showed that CBD is effective in killing leukemia cells when used alongside chemotherapy treatments.
Not long after, scientists from the Queen Mary University of London also reported that mice undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer survived almost three times longer when given CBD extracts.
Integrating cannabis into clinical care has been in the works in the past decade, specifically its use in managing the symptoms of cancer.
Cannabis and Alzheimer’s Disease
Previous studies have established the protective effect of cannabinoid on patients with neurodegenerative diseases. But a systematic review by Santibañez and colleagues in 2017 reveals there remains weak evidence of the effect of cannabis and related compounds on the symptoms of dementia and its progression. But only a year later, a team from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California was the first to show that THC promotes the removal of toxic clumps believed to start the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
This promising breakthrough is prompting more scientific work to be done to fully understand the biochemical mechanisms that render cannabis a powerful agent for the onset of the disease.
Cannabis and Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes the affected individual to feel pain all over the body. It also increases the individual’s sensitivity to pain. This condition is said to affect an estimated one in every 20 people and, unfortunately, has no known cure.
But US-based company Cannabis Science Inc. has made headlines in the past year for its development of a cannabis-based transdermal patch that lets a patient deliver specific doses of the medication through the skin and into the bloodstream.
The patch uses equal parts CBD and THC for the purpose without the need to ingest or inhale the drug. Last year, the company announced the patches’ release to meet the overwhelming demand of self-medicating patients worldwide.
Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis
Various review papers have looked into previous scientific examinations of cannabinoids and conclude that it may be beneficial for managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, including pain and spasticity.
In 2017, a leading team of neuroimmunology researchers from the University of Manitoba sought to confirm this with an ongoing research that will validate the effect of cannabis oils to treating neuropathic pain in MS patients. The initial preclinical study using mice has been successful and positive so far.
Cannabis and Epilepsy
There has been an increasing interest in the use of cannabis-based products for helping with treatment-resistant epilepsy. In a comprehensive review of prior studies on the subject conducted in October 2017, decreased frequencies in seizures are found in patients that used pharmaceutical-grade CBD products.
Although more studies are needed to examine its effect on more serious forms of epilepsy, these effectively demonstrate the efficacy of the substance for the management of the fourth most common form of neurological disorder known to date.
Cannabis and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many anecdotal records tell of the benefits of smoking marijuana to manage the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder that affects roughly 223.4 million people in the US alone. In 2015, a review on scientific literature has found suggestive evidence that this may be true, although it also notes the need for large-scale trials to really retrieve definitive conclusions.
Fortunately, a clinical trial has been rolled out to look at how different levels of THC may impact a sample of 76 participants. The study received a $2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Its results are much-anticipated.
Marijuana in the Workplace
Although the medical interest in marijuana may seem recent, the truth is the drug has been used as far back as 2900 BC. It has been extensively recorded in ancient Chinese medicine, in Egypt, in India, and the Middle East throughout the whole of human history. It became mainstream in the West in the 1840s.
The stigma attached to the drug has also waned in the recent decades, leading to a new era of relaxed legislation that allows more advanced scientific research to be done as regards the extent of the drug’s medical potential. Unfortunately, laws are still laws, and if you’re living in countries or states with strict marijuana laws, coming by medical marijuana products can require a bit of patience and effort.
This has particularly pronounced impact in the workplace, where hiring or recurring drug tests can be required, especially when employees are handling safety-sensitive positions, such as operating heavy machinery.
When faced with this situation, it’s important that you discuss with your doctor first about alternatives. It may also help you to talk to your employer to clear restrictions and limitations in workplace policies, perhaps even discuss the possibilities of review to reach a common ground.
On the other hand, employers should be proactive in training managers and staff on how to deal with issues that may come up regarding the matter and clarify their position in a clearly outlined company policy that specifies consequences of positive tests.
In the end, it’s an issue that will concern everyone regardless of whether you are a user or not. While consensus is yet to be reached on the federal level, states should have a collective, unified stance on medical cannabis to make the transition easier especially for the people who need it the most.