From calming the elderly in residential care facilities to treating epilepsy and PTSD and cancer treatment, valuable research is finally being done.
THAT cannabis is medicine is old news. What’s good news is that modern research is being done around the world to document the purported therapeutic benefits demonstrated in cannabis’ 4,000 years of medicinal use. This research is being done despite obstacles thrown up for at least the last 25 years by the federal government.
From calming the elderly in residential care facilities, treating epilepsy and PTSD to use as a cancer treatment, valuable research is finally being done. The odds against it happening in the United States are enormous since the Office of National Drug Control Policy mandated policy is to only support research designed to show the potential harm of drugs, not to examine their potential benefits.
Here are a few examples:
Cannabis has been shown, in Israel and Santa Rosa, Calif., to bring wide-ranging relief to residents of residential care facilities. With the introduction of medicinal cannabis into these facilities, the patients became less agitated, were happier, eat better, sleep better and require 20 percent fewer prescription medications.
GW Pharmaceuticals growers and producers of Epidiolex and Sativex (Nabiximol), two tinctures of whole plant cannabis products, are doing studies on Epidiolex in the United States for treating intractable epilepsy. Recent studies revealed a decrease in the severity and frequency of epileptic events with the use of this high-CBD (cannabidiol) tincture that is sprayed under the tongue.
Dr. Susan Sisely won rare government approval to do a controlled test of cannabis on treating veterans with PTSD. When she was blocked by an Arizona state legislator from doing the study at the University of Arizona, her study received private funding and is now being carried out in Colorado.
Dr. Jeff Hergenather has been following a number of patients with Crohn’s disease in a clinical observational study in Northern California. His medicinal cannabis patients report fewer bowel movements, better-formed stools and less abdominal pain. Many have been able to decrease or even stop prescription medication, such as Prednisone.
Australia appears on the verge of legalizing medicinal cannabis in the state of Victoria and nationally. This policy change has the support of several state governors and the prime minister. As a part of the legalization process, contemporary research studies are being done. These studies will be confirming studies done in the 1980s on cannabis’ anti-nausea and appetite stimulating effects. They will also be looking at the anti-seizure effects of cannabis first demonstrated in 1947.
Finally there are two studies being done to determine if cannabis inhibits the growth of cancer cells. A January 2008 review article out of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health reported on tissue culture and small animal studies, which demonstrated that cannabis and cannabinoids halt the spread of a wide range of cancers including breast, prostate, brain, lung, skin, pancreatic and colorectal cancer.
We have known since a 1974 study at the Medical College of Virginia that cannabis slows the growth of breast and lung-cancer cells in mice. Now we have studies on human cancer going on in England by GW Pharmaceuticals, in Jerusalem by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam (who characterized the chemical structure of THC in 1964) at Hebrew University, and in San Francisco on breast cancer by Dr. Sean McAllister.
All anyone interested in health and science can say is, “It’s about time.” There were great expectations when President Obama announced that he was going to follow the science. Yet his administration has done little to promote high-quality research and the demonstrated medicinal value of cannabis. Many scientists and clinicians — such as the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine headed by Dr. Greg Carter of the University of Washington, and the Society of Cannabis Clinicians — have been pleading for such research.
The federal government spends $25 billion a year on the National Drug Control Budget. As I pointed out, it is the official federal policy required by law that the National Institute on Drug Abuse only support research designed to show potential harm of drugs, not to examine the experiential, basic science and anecdotal, demonstrated benefits of cannabis.
This research is coming about in large part due to changing attitudes toward the medicinal potential for cannabis among both the general public and physicians. This change is based on both the historical use of cannabis as medicine and the thousands of modern research studies indicating the very real medical value of cannabis.
Likely even more important is the influence from the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. And the spark plug that started this change in attitude was the Compassionate Care Act in 1996 in California. These and other states’ initiatives have exposed many more people to the long history and science supporting cannabis as medicine.
More and more people have seen with their own eyes remarkable therapeutic results brought by the medicinal use of cannabis. These initiatives have helped spur on the demand for more research. Such research will help move cannabis and cannabinoids even more into the mainstream medicine so that people can benefit from the remarkable medicinal properties of cannabis.
Information in this article, originally published online only on Aug. 19, 2015, was corrected Sept. 3, 2015. An earlier version of this story used an incorrect figure for the National Drug Control Budget: In 2015, it is $25 billion.