Medicinal cannabis, or medicinal marijuana, is a therapy that has garnered much national attention in recent years. In the United States, cannabis is approved for medicinal use in 28 states, the District of Expert Opin Pharmacother. . But managing all of these developments also requires closely weighing the benefits and risks of medicinal and recreational marijuana use. Vermont's embrace of legal, recreational cannabis has left the medical establishment in the dust, says a Burlington-based neurologist.
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Well-designed studies are the most effective way for us to understand what medical benefits cannabis may have. But research on cannabis or cannabinoids is particularly difficult. In order to study cannabis, a researcher must first request permission at the state and federal level. This is followed by a lengthy federal review process involving inspections to ensure high security and detailed record-keeping.
In our labs, even the very small amounts of cannabinoids we need to conduct research in mice are highly scrutinized. This regulatory burden discourages many researchers. Designing studies can also be a challenge. Bias is a limitation of any study that includes self-reports. These studies are also limited by using whole cannabis, which contains many cannabinoids, most of which are poorly understood. Placebo trials can be a challenge because the euphoria associated with cannabis makes it easy to identify, especially at high THC doses.
People know when they are high. Another type of bias, called expectancy bias, is a particular issue with cannabis research. This is the idea that we tend to experience what we expect, based on our previous knowledge. For example, people report feeling more alert after drinking what they are told is regular coffee, even if it is actually decaffeinated. Similarly, research participants may report pain relief after ingesting cannabis, because they believe that cannabis relieves pain.
The best way to overcome expectancy effects is with a balanced placebo design, in which participants are told that they are taking a placebo or varying cannabis dose, regardless of what they actually receive.
Studies should also include objective, biological measures, such as blood levels of THC or CBD, or physiological and sensory measures routinely used in other areas of biomedical research.
At the moment, few do this, prioritizing self-reported measures instead. Abuse potential is a concern with any drug that affects the brain, and cannabinoids are no exception. Cannabis is somewhat similar to tobacco, in that some people have great difficulty quitting. And like tobacco, cannabis is a natural product that has been selectively bred to have strong effects on the brain and is not without risk. Although many cannabis users are able to stop using the drug without problem, percent of users have difficulty quitting.
Repeated use, despite the desire to decrease or stop using, is known as cannabis use disorder. As more states more states pass medical cannabis or recreational cannabis laws, the number of people with some degree of cannabis use disorder is also likely to increase. It is too soon to say for certain that the potential benefits of cannabis outweigh the risks. But with restrictions to cannabis and cannabidiol loosening at the state level, research is badly needed to get the facts in order.
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Experts Gather at National Conference to Discuss Medical Marijuana Risks and Benefits
What Do We Know about Marijuana's Medical Benefits? widespread speculation on the internet, the use of cannabis to reduce epileptic seizures is supported. She is part of the UW Cannabis Law and Policy Project, which provides thought leadership on the responsible development of recreational and medical. A medical expert who specializes in cannabis education. who focuses on advancing Canada's public health approach to substance use.