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  • 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.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 4, 2017

    Marijuana researchScientists have conducted over 140 controlled clinical trials since 1975 assessing the safety and efficacy of whole-plant cannabis or specific cannabinoids, according to a new literature review published in the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences.

    A pair of German researchers identified 140 clinical trials involving an estimated 8,000 participants. Of these, the largest body of literature focused on the use of cannabis or cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic or neuropathic pain. Authors identified 35 controlled studies, involving 2,046 subjects, assessing the use of marijuana or cannabinoids in pain management. In January, the National Academy of Sciences acknowledged that “conclusive or substantial evidence” exists for cannabis’ efficacy in patients suffering from chronic pain.

    Cannabinoids have also been well studied as anti-emetic agents and as appetite stimulants. Researchers identified 43 trials evaluating marijuana or its components for these purposes, involving total 2,498 patients. They also identified an additional 14 trials examining the role of cannabis or cannabis-derived extracts in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

    Researchers also identified several additional trials evaluating the use of cannabis or cannabinoids for Crohn’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, epilepsy, and various other indications.

    A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that new drugs typically gain FDA approval on the basis of one or two pivotal clinical trials.

    Full text of the study, “Medicinal uses of marijuana and cannabinoids,” appears online here.

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