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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 7, 2018

    Medical marijuanaCannabis therapy is safe and effective among elderly patients diagnosed with chronic pain, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Internal Medicine.

    Researchers from Hebrew University and the Ben Gurion University of Negrev in Israel assessed the use of therapeutic cannabis over a period of six months in a cohort of 1,186 patients above 65 years of age. The majority of patients enrolled in the trial suffered from pain or cancer. Under an Israeli federal program, over 32,000 citizens are licensed to utilize cannabis therapy.

    “After six months of treatment, 93.7 percent of the respondents reported improvement in their condition, and the reported pain level was reduced from a median of 8 on a scale of 0-10 to a median of 4,” researchers reported. The majority of respondents also reported “a significant improvement in [their] overall quality of life.”

    Furthermore, over 18 percent of the study’s participants “stopped using opioid analgesics or reduced their dose” – a result that led investigators to conclude, “Cannabis can decrease the use of other prescription medicines, including opioids.” Numerous prior studies, such as those compiled here, similarly show that pain patients typically mitigate or eliminate their opioid use during cannabis therapy.

    The adverse effects most commonly reported by participants were dizziness and dry-mouth.

    Authors concluded: “The older population is a large and growing part of medical cannabis users. Our study finds that the therapeutic use of cannabis is safe and efficacious in this population.”

    Read the abstract of the study, “Epidemiological characteristics, safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in the elderly,” here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 20, 2017

    Pain reliefChronic pain patients enrolled in a statewide medical cannabis access program are significantly more likely to either reduce or cease their use of opioids as compared to non-enrolled patients suffering from similar pain conditions, according to data published online in the journal PLOS One.

    A team of investigators at the University of New Mexico assessed opioid prescription use patterns over a 21-month period in 37 pain patients enrolled in the state’s medicinal cannabis program versus 29 non-enrolled patients.

    Compared to non-users, medical cannabis enrollees “were more likely either to reduce daily opioid prescription dosages between the beginning and end of the sample period (83.8 percent versus 44.8 percent) or to cease filling opioid prescriptions altogether (40.5 percent versus 3.4 percent).” Enrollees were also more likely to report an improved quality of life.

    Authors concluded, “The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain.”

    Prior studies similarly report that patients enrolled in cannabis access programs are more likely to reduce their use of opioids and other prescription drugs.

    Full text of the study, “Association between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients: A preliminary cohort study,” appears online here. NORML’s marijuana and opioids fact-sheet is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 30, 2017

    medical_mj_shelfMembers of the US House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs are demanding the Department of Veterans Affairs facilitate protocols to assess the efficacy of medical cannabis in veterans suffering from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress.

    Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz, along with nine other Democrat members of the Committee, authored an October 26, 2017 letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin stating: “[The] VA is uniquely situated to pursue research on the impact of medical marijuana on veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD given its access to world class researchers, the population it serves, and its history of overseeing and producing research resulting in cutting-edge medical treatments. … VA’s pursuit of research into the impact of medical marijuana on the treatment of veterans diagnosed with PTSD who are also experiencing chronic pain is integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the nation. We ask VA to respond … with a commitment to the development of VHA-led research into this issue.”

    In September, representatives from The American Legion addressed a separate letter to VA Secretary Shulkin encouraging the VA assist in an ongoing, FDA-approved clinical trial assessing the safety and efficacy of various strains of cannabis in veterans with PTSD. To date, the VA has refused to assist in patient recruitment for the trial. The VA has yet to publicly respond to the Legion’s letter.

    Survey data finds that military veterans report using cannabis therapeutically at rates far higher than the do those in the general population, and that many are already using it as an alternative to conventional medications in the treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 5, 2017

    mj_researchThe prolonged daily administration of cannabinoids is associated with a reduction in migraine headache frequency, according to clinical trial data presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology.

    Italian researchers compared the efficacy of oral cannabinoid treatments versus amitriptyline – an anti-depressant commonly prescribed for migraines – in 79 chronic migraine patients over a period of three months. Subjects treated daily with a 200mg dose of a combination of THC and CBD achieved a 40 percent reduction in migraine frequency – a result that was similar to the efficacy of amitriptyline therapy.

    Subjects also reported that cannabinoid therapy significantly reduced acute migraine pain, but only when taken at doses above 100mg. Oral cannabinoid treatment was less effective among patients suffering from cluster headaches.

    “We were able to demonstrate that cannabinoids are an alternative to established treatments in migraine prevention,” researchers concluded.

    Some five million Americans are estimated to experience at least one migraine attack per month, and the condition is the 19th leading cause of disability worldwide.

    According to retrospective data published last year in the journal Pharmacotherapy, medical cannabis consumption is often associated with a significant decrease in migraine frequency, and may even abort migraine onset in some patients.

    A just published review of several studies and case-reports specific to the use of cannabis and cannabinoids in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research concludes: “[I]t appears likely that cannabis will emerge as a potential treatment for some headache sufferers.”

    An abstract of the study, “Cannabinoids suitable for migraine prevention,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 28, 2017

    medical_mj_shelfPain patients report successfully substituting cannabis for opioids and other analgesics, according to data published online in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

    Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Kent State University in Ohio assessed survey data from a cohort of 2,897 self-identified medical cannabis patients.

    Among those who acknowledged having used opioid-based pain medication within the past six months, 97 percent agreed that they were able to decrease their opiate intake with cannabis. Moreover, 92 percent of respondents said that cannabis possessed fewer adverse side-effects than opioids. Eighty percent of respondents said that the use of medical cannabis alone provided greater symptom management than did their use of opioids.

    Among those respondents who acknowledged having recently taken nonopioid-based pain medications, 96 percent said that having access to cannabis reduced their conventional drug intake. Ninety-two percent of these respondents opined that medical cannabis was more effective at treating their condition than traditional analgesics.

    Authors concluded: “[M]ore people are looking at cannabis as a viable treatment for everyday ailments such as muscle soreness and inflammation. … [T]his study can conclude that medical cannabis patients report successfully using cannabis along with or as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication.”

    The study’s conclusions are similar to those of several others, such as these herehereherehere, and here, finding reduced prescription drug use and spending by those with access to cannabis. Separate studies report an association between cannabis access and lower rates of opioid-related abuse, hospitalizations, traffic fatalities, and overdose deaths.

    Full text of the study, “Cannabis as substitute for opioid-based pain medication: patient self-report,” appears online here.

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