By Dr. Peter Kadile
Prop 64 was passed in California last November, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Medicinal marijuana use has been legal in California since 1996. While I have heard with great skepticism from some people that marijuana can essentially cure just about every ailment, there are medical benefits from the use of marijuana.
In a recent presentation to the American Academy of Family Physicians National Conference by Dr. Jose M. David of Albany Medical College, Dr. David discussed the medical evidence regarding medicinal marijuana. A Medline (database of medical journal articles) search from 1948 to 2016 found 562 articles mentioning cannabis. There have been 40 clinical trials published about the benefits of medical marijuana. The strongest evidence for the use of medical marijuana was for chronic pain, neuropathic pain and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. The use of cannabis for chronic pain is worth noting since opioid abuse was just declared a national emergency and it has been shown that cannabis can be substituted for opioids and can be just as effective in controlling pain.
What has the evidence shown thus far for medical marijuana:
Cancer treatment– studies have reported that medical synthetic cannabis inhibits certain cancer growth and spread of cancer
Epilepsy– conflicting results in studies
Headaches– lack of randomized controlled trials
Neuropathy (pain due to nerve damage)- limited studies
Inflammatory Bowel Disease– can help reduce inflammation and pain
Chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting – Not enough comparison studies with conventional medications to prove superiority of medical marijuana.
Despite the lack of consistent benefits of medical marijuana seen in the current medical literature thus far, I have personally seen the benefits of medical marijuana in some of my patients with chronic pain.
Now marijuana is a drug and all drugs have side effects. The side effects can be harmful.
Medical Adverse Effects
Cannabis Induced Arteritis
Cannabis Induced Posterior Circulation Stroke
Chronic cough, bullous emphysema, COPD
Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome
Impaired short term memory
Impaired motor coordination
High risk for motor vehicle accidents
Paranoid ideations, psychotic symptoms
As more states are legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, the medical research on the benefits of medical marijuana will continue to grow. The strongest evidence thus far is that medical marijuana has been shown to be effective for chronic pain, especially neuropathy. It is also worth noting that marijuana does not kill patients (no case of overdose has ever been reported).