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SCIENCE

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 18, 2017

    Medical marijuanaInhaled cannabis is effective and well-tolerated in patients with Tourette’s Syndrome, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience.

    A team of researchers at the University of Toronto retrospectively assessed the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis in 19 TS patients.

    Researchers reported, “All study participants experienced clinically significant symptom relief,” including including reductions in obsessive-compulsive symptoms, impulsivity, anxiety, irritability, and rage outbursts. Eighteen of 19 patients experienced decreased tic severity. Cannabis was “generally well tolerated” by study subjects.

    They concluded: “Overall, these study participants experienced substantial improvements in their symptoms. This is particularly striking given that almost all participants had failed at least one anti-tic medication trial. … In conclusion, cannabis seems to be a promising treatment option for tics and associated symptoms.”

    Placebo controlled data has previously determined that oral THC dosing also improves tics and obsessive-compulsive behavior in TS patients. However, patients utilizing inhaled cannabis have generally shown greater overall improvement.

    An abstract of the study, “Preliminary evidence on cannabis effectiveness and tolerability for adults with Tourette Syndrome,” is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 21, 2017

    pills_v_potPatients use fewer prescription drugs in states where access to medical cannabis is legally regulated, according to data published in the journal Health Affairs.

    Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the association between medical cannabis regulations and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries between the years 2007 and 2014.

    Researchers reported, “[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied.” They added, “If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.”

    The findings are similar to those previously published by the team which reported that medical cannabis access was associated with significantly reduced spending by patients on Medicare Part D approved prescription drugs.

    Separate studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, migraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

    An abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws may be associated with a decline in the number of prescriptions for medicaid enrollees,” appears here.

  • by NORML January 12, 2017

    for_painThe National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a comprehensive report today acknowledging that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain, and sharply criticized longstanding federal regulatory barriers to marijuana research – in particular “the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance” under federal law.

    Authors of the report also addressed various aspects of marijuana’s effect on health and safety, acknowledging that the substance may pose certain potential risks for adolescents, pregnant women, and for those who may be driving shortly after ingesting cannabis. In each of these cases, these risks may be mitigated via marijuana regulation and the imposition of age restrictions in the marketplace.

    Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:

    “The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising. This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.

    “A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone. Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.

    “Today, 29 states and Washington, DC permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have now been in place for nearly two decades. Eight states also permit the regulated use and sale of cannabis by adults. At a minimum, we know enough about cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to regulate its consumption by adults, end its longstanding criminalization, and to remove it from its Schedule I prohibitive under federal law.”

    The report marks the first time since 1999 that the National Academy of Sciences has addressed issues surrounding marijuana and health. Authors reviewed over 10,000 scientific abstracts in their preparation of the new report.

    You can read the full report here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 14, 2016

    Marijuana researchMedical cannabis administration is associated with improved cognitive performance and lower levels of prescription drug use, according to longitudinal data published online in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.

    Investigators from Harvard Medical School, Tufts University, and McLean Hospital evaluated the use of medicinal cannabis on patients’ cognitive performance over a three-month period. Participants in the study were either naïve to cannabis or had abstained from the substance over the previous decade. Baseline evaluations of patients’ cognitive performance were taken prior to their cannabis use and then again following treatment.

    Researchers reported “no significant decrements in performance” following medical marijuana use. Rather, they determined, “[P]atients experienced some improvement on measures of executive functioning, including the Stroop Color Word Test and Trail Making Test, mostly reflected as increased speed in completing tasks without a loss of accuracy.”

    Participants in the study were less likely to experience feelings of depression during treatment, and many significantly reduced their use of prescription drugs. “[D]ata revealed a notable decrease in weekly use across all medication classes, including reductions in use of opiates (-42.88 percent), antidepressants (-17.64 percent), mood stabilizers (-33.33 percent), and benzodiazepines (-38.89 percent),” authors reported – a finding that is consistent with prior studies.

    Patients in the study will continue to be assessed over the course of one-year of treatment to assess whether these preliminary trends persist long-term.

    Full text of the study, “Splendor in the grass? A pilot study assessing the impact of marijuana on executive function,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 11, 2016

    Marijuana researchInhaling cannabis improves symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Pain.

    Investigators at Tel Aviv University and the Rabin Medical Center in Israel assessed the impact of cannabis exposure on motor symptoms and pain parameters in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

    Researchers reported that cannabis inhalation was associated with improved symptoms 30-minutes following exposure. “Cannabis improved motor scores and pain symptoms in PD patients,” authors concluded.

    A prior Israeli trial evaluating the impact of cannabis on PD patients reported “significant improvement after treatment in tremor, rigidity, and bradykinsea (slowness of movement) … [as well as] significant improvement of sleep and pain scores.”

    Over 20,000 Israeli patients receive cannabis under a federally regulated program. Over 90 percent of those participants report significant improvements in pain and function as a result of their medicinal cannabis use.

    An abstract of the study, “Effect of medical cannabis on thermal quantitative measurements of pain in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” is available online here.

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