Case Study

Study Finds “Insufficient Evidence” to Support the Use of Medical Cannabis for Pain Management

In Summary:

In a recent review of systematic reviews and controlled studies, researchers were unable to find sufficient evidence to support the clinical use of medical cannabis or the pharmaceutical formulations for gastrointestinal, cancer, or rheumatic pain, or weight loss in cancer of AIDS. Many data from previous studies were either statistically insignificant or were of low quality. However, the authors did find that existing literature sufficiently supported the treatment of neuropathic pain with cannabis. Additional controlled studies may shed more light on the use of cannabis for general pain management. Interestingly, while the authors do raise two important limitations of the studies that they highlight in the article (inadequate size of some studies and generally limited supply of traditional scientific studies from which to draw conclusions) they do not address some of the more fundamental concerns with the reporting.

Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:

The limitations of studies in cannabis are numerous and an important consideration for researchers as they study cannabis, and equally essentially to consider for those of us reading the study product. To my personal count, there are at least 40 different types of biases that can skew data in a way that delivers information other than a precise description of actual events. This study, as many like it, presumptuously assumes that, if data doesn’t show a trend that so-mocked “anecdotal” data shows, then surely the anecdote must be incorrect. What if the reviews are simply not yet accurately recording what human iteration has discovered repeatedly for millennia?

The conclusion the review draws follows:

Conclusion: The public perception of the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of cannabis-based medicines in pain management and palliative medicine con- flicts with the findings of systematic reviews and prospective observational studies conducted according to the standards of evidence-based medicine.

BUT…

Is the right question for science to question the validity of the stories that individuals are telling, against an imperfect science of information collection, as well as the limited scope of statistical validity for understanding data? Or is the right task for science to question its own methods of assumptions in discovery and understanding?

On the one hand, we have millions of people calling the color of the ocean “blue.” On the other hand, we have data that tells us that water, in fact, has no color. Similarly, the anecdotes from cannabis consumers are telling a story that is starkly different from the currently available data.

For those interested in combing through a close inspection of the many ways that data can be misrepresented and misunderstood, check out https://first10em.com/bias/

and/or watch the video below:

View this review (yellow link) or download:

This paper is also stored here:   http://bit.ly/34NXhQV      inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDStudy Finds “Insufficient Evidence” to Support the Use of Medical Cannabis for Pain Management
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Adolescent Cannabis Use Linked to Sleep Disturbances

Sleep Disturbances, Psychosocial Difficulties and Health Risk Behavior

Summary info:

A Dutch study investigated sleep disturbances in adolescents. Sleep disruption was linked to cannabis use, psychosocial difficulties, health risk behavior, and increased suicidality. Additionally, gender disparity in results suggests that girls may be more susceptible to sleep disturbances than boys , a result consistent with past recognition of some gender discrepancies in cannabis activity. These results highlight the importance of discouraging haphazard cannabis use, during adolescence, and the need for further gender-focused research surrounding sleep habits and cannabis use.

Dr Caplan, CED Foundation, and the #MDTake:

There are a few important issues that converge in this review. Generally, the question of adolescents’ use, (as an alternative way of describing the question of effects on a developing brain.) Also, this paper raises valuable questions about how cannabis may be interacting with sleep hygiene, for better or for worse. Psychosocial impact and risky behaviors are very complex topics to engage, even with a fairly large population sample of (n=16,781.) There are lots of intercorrelated topics assessed, analyzed, and discussed in the review, and it is all-too-easy to want to find causal patterns that are not apparent, again for better or worse, unless one chooses to construe the results or interpretation with causation in mind. Realistically, it is very likely to find overlap in a population of adolescents who have psychosocial difficulties, engage in risky behaviors, have increased risk of suicidality, and consume cannabis. To point to one of the components, arbitrarily, as the primary cause of the others is to unnecessarily and unjustly oversimplify a complex set of circumstances. The essential tenet, different genders seem to react differently with cannabis, is an excellent take-away, and also that we have much more still to learn.

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This paper is also stored here:    http://bit.ly/314TsEC     inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDAdolescent Cannabis Use Linked to Sleep Disturbances
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Hope for Cannabis as a Future Treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome

Single center experience with medical cannabis in Gilles de la Tourette syndrome

A small study on adult Tourette’s patients demonstrated a reduction in tics after treatment with medical cannabis. Treatment with cannabis resulted in a global impression of efficacy score of 3.85 out of 5, signifying an improvement of symptoms. However, many patients reported undesirable effects that resulted in their withdrawal from the trial. Cannabis holds potential for Tourette’s syndrome treatment, however, more work is required to better understand what is causing the positive effects and to flush out reproducible benefits while minimizing the undesirables.

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This paper is also stored here:    http://bit.ly/34gcp9k     inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDHope for Cannabis as a Future Treatment for Tourette’s Syndrome
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Vape-Gate 2019: Review of The Risks of vaping

Risks on the Production Side of the Market:

  • Bacteria: Within facilities that lack appropriate oversight, any bacteria present during the manufacturing of a vaped product can be a source of risk for the consumer.
  • Fungus: Similarly, fungus can be a normal part of ambient air and life on earth, particularly around plants and soil. If production facilities do not have state-of-the-science monitoring or control mechanisms to limit mold, fungus can accumulate during the manufacturing process and can be transmitted to consumers.
  • Particles: Nicotine- or cannabis-containing products that are not produced in regulated facilities (home-grown and/or street-sold real or counterfeit products) may contain dangerous solvents, including solutions that contain lipid content that does not belong inside human lungs. Equally concerning, even in states with strict regulatory oversight over cannabis, the regulations may not cover particulate matter which may come into the consumer’s body from the containers that store tested cannabis products. For example, labs across the US have identified particles of vapor cartridge construction materials that become airborne during the heating process of vaporization. There is currently no testing standard for such circumstances. More, the sheer volume of particles emitted by a tool producing vapor is unregulated. With respect to its effects on the lungs, it is likely that there are meaningful differences (and potential risk differences) between a vaporizer which produces a small cloud of particles compared with one that produces a large, dense cloud.
  • Nicotine/E-liquids: Many nicotine vaporizers contain flavoring, coloring, preservative liquids that can be irritating to the lungs and breathing architecture. Non-nicotine liquid mixers can include sugary substances which promote dangerous growth of bacteria, inside the lungs.
  • Supervision: Street or home-produced products lack quality control measures to ensure that they are made safely, and/or contain safe ingredients, and are being delivered inside safe devices. In contrast, most FDA-overseen nicotine products and state-overseen cannabis production facilities limit many risk factors for currently-known threats to health

Risks on the Consumer Side of the Market:

  • Bacteria: Once purchased, products exposed to everyday life can acquire potentially dangerous bacteria after they are produced and sold. When used with poor maintenance practices, or by a consumer with hygiene practices that may add additional risk, bacterial infections can arise.
  • Fungus: Like bacteria exposure and potential infections, mold/fungus can accumulate after a vaping product is purchased. Good maintenance/cleansing practices help to prevent this risk, and appropriate hygiene around the consumption of vaping products typically minimizes this concern.
  • Particulate Matter: When using and re-using vaporizer tools (pens, vaporizer ovens, edibles), foreign particulate matter may break-off from cartridges, or may accidentally enter into products that were previously free of these contaminants. Many of the popular vaporizer cartridges, for example, seem to come from three facilities in China and are sold, worldwide, because of the attractive low price-point. Across the US, lab evidence has discovered evidence of small particles of the cartridges themselves (plastics, metals, other materials.) These particles can cause irritation to, or have toxic local effects on, the lungs. These reactions can certainly stimulate an inflammatory response which is sometimes equally uncomfortable as the offending irritation.
  • Coughing: Vaporizing a product which causes the user to cough excessively can risk the accidental aspiration of bacteria or particles from the mouth. These particles, if small enough, can cause inflammation or infection in the lungs.
  • Nicotine: In addition to the well-documented increased risk of cancer from the consumption of nicotine, this chemical is an irritant to the tissues with which it interacts, causing arterial wall constriction and thickening. It increases blood pressure and heart rate, promotes increased inflammation and suppresses normal immune system function. More, it also artificially elevates dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, with poorly understood consequences that are unlikely to be healthy for the lungs.
  • Maintenance: Vaporizing old or poorly-kept products may ignore the very real effects of deterioration of materials which may pose health concerns. A product which is not well-maintained or regularly cleaned may contain infectious particles, irritating particles, toxic elements which may also be found in a pocket or storage container (insecticides, animal poisons, other chemicals which may preserve or protect during production or travel)

Individual Differences:

Between the production and the consumer sides of the vaporization arena, individual differences and outside influences can have a tremendous impact on the experience of vapor. Someone with a history of lung disease may tolerate a very different product than someone without such a history. Similarly, someone with a weakened immune system may have a more difficult time healing from an average exposure (to an irritant or an infectious particle) than someone with different circumstances. These are not likely to explain a large incidence of illnesses, but in addition to the concerns above, they may help explain a smaller portion.


Some of the Medical Illnesses Potentially Associated with Vaping:

1. Pneumonia (bacterial)

2. Aspiration Pneumonia

3. Idiopathic Acute Eosinophilic Pneumonia

4. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (extrinsic allergic alveolitis)

Typically this is related to the components of e-cigarettes: nicotine, propylene glycol/glycerol, ethylene glycol, any of >7000 flavorings, metals including tin, lead, nickel, chromium, manganese, and arsenic (have all been found in e-cigarette liquids), also nitrosamines common to tobacco, carbonyl compounds, volatile organic compounds, and phenolic compounds.


General Recommendations for Safer Consumption:

  • Use state-supervised companies, including dispensaries for cannabis-related vaporizer materials, and reputable nicotine suppliers
  • Convection vaporizer ovens that involve safe heating materials (ceramic, glass, quartz) are preferable to vaporizer cartridges.
  • Any means of detaching product from direct contact with a heat source is preferable. For example, stainless-steel containers that hold product, and are then placed into a heating chamber, is likely to be safer than placing product directly against heat.
  • Safe heating elements: chamber-based convection/conduction heating
  • Avoid direct contact with coils, and avoid combustion
  • Use fresh products from state-sponsored dispensaries or stores
  • Avoid products that are repeatedly reused (including vaporizer pens and vaporizer heating tools that stay full of organic material for more than a brief period of time
  • Prefer systems that include the opportunity to easily clean and replace individual used components
  • Use rubbing alcohol to clean any heating tools regularly

In Infographic form :


Sample Reference News Articles:

All about Vitamin E Acetate:

1.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/31/health/vaping-marijuana-ecigarettes-sickness.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

2.

3.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/09/05/contaminant-found-vaping-products-linked-deadly-lung-illnesses-state-federal-labs-show/

4.

https://www.foxbusiness.com/healthcare/electronic-cigarettes-vapes-scott-gottlieb

5.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/26/fake-juul-pods-fill-shelves-after-vaping-giant-pulled-fruity-flavors.html

6.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-08-25/knockoff-cannabis-products-headache-for-california-legal-weed

To explore related information, click the keywords below:

Benjamin Caplan, MDVape-Gate 2019: Review of The Risks of vaping
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Psychiatric Disorders Reduce Survival Among Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Disease Patients

Psychiatric comorbidity increases mortality in immune-mediated inflammatory diseases

Summary Information:

A new study finds that a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, and/or bipolar disorder increases mortality rates for patients of one of three immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMID):

1) multiple sclerosis (MS), or

2) inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or

3) rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Depression and bipolar disorder can cause poor health behaviors in patients, as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders are “associated with increased inflammation and immune dysregulation.” Suicide risk and attempts are increased among IMID patients with mental illness, compared with IMID patients who are not also suffering from one of these additional battles. Given that cannabis has shown promise in treating both inflammation and a range of psychiatric disorders, there is reason to be optimistic for further cannabis research to uncover multifunctional treatment options.  

Dr Caplan and the #MDTake:

Clinically, it’s rare to see medical patients who have only one concern. Sure, there are some who are hoping that cannabis will help them to treat seizures, headaches, anxiety, sleep troubles, or terrible back pain, but more often, it is a combination of several troubles that each add to a cumulative tipping point.

Naturally, very few individual systems act alone. When a body part is injured, sleeping (or not sleeping) effects the course of illness. Similarly, feeling less anxious, or improving sleep, may make symptoms of a struggle with consistent headaches seem more tolerable. Even when there aren’t direct connections between symptoms, a treatment which implements a systemic treatment can have multiplied benefits.

Many patients have found that cannabis offers them a way to attack more than one problem, with a single actor. Some with Diabetes are finding that some formulations are not only helping them reduce blood sugar levels, but also reducing appetite. Similarly, some patients with ADD are turning to cannabis options which may help them focus, without their ability to get to sleep at night.

To a related note, many elderly patients are treated with too many medications. Modern Western medical treatment often compels patients into silos of treatments by isolated specialists, who are not always monitoring the patient as a being beyond individual organ systems. Medications, such as cannabis, which have the opportunity to treat more than one system, without multiplying the risk of potential drug-drug interactions presents a much safer approach to care

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This paper is also stored here:  http://bit.ly/2MRDfiP       inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDPsychiatric Disorders Reduce Survival Among Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Disease Patients
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Medical Marijuana Offers Benefits Comparable to Prescription Medication, Without the Side Effects

Title: Preferences for Medical Marijuana over Prescription Medications Among Persons Living with Chronic Conditions: Alternative, Complementary, and Tapering Uses

In a survey of 30 patients using medical cannabis for a range of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, hepatitis C, PTSD, among others, patients reported an array of benefits they have reaped from cannabis use. Patients successfully used cannabis in several ways: as an alternative to prescription medication, complementarily with prescription medicine, and to gradually replace use of prescription medication.

Benefits described by participants included the effects of cannabis lasting longer than that of opioids, lower risk of addiction, fewer side-effects. Patients also saw their sleep, anxiety, appetite, and adverse reactions improve with the use of medical cannabis. Larger, more controlled studies may suggest cannabis more affirmatively as an alternative or complementary therapy with prescription medications.

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This paper is also stored here:    http://bit.ly/2wqDDdQ     inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDMedical Marijuana Offers Benefits Comparable to Prescription Medication, Without the Side Effects
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New Developments of Cannabinoid-Based Drugs

Title: Novel approaches in clinical development of cannabinoid drugs

A pamphlet has recently been published that highlights new approaches in the clinical development of cannabinoid-based therapies. The pamphlet begins with a look into how current cannabinoids affect patients based on gender, stress, physiological variations, and also delves into how cannabis works on the body in general.

A novel therapy that features an oral version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and a synthetic activator of cannabinoid-receptor-1 (CB1) is explored in this piece and frames it to be a promising future therapy. The pharmacological properties of these two novel therapies were optimized during development after various analysis techniques, forming medications that the authors hope to see in future clinical trials. 

Although the authors remain hopeful that their cannabis-based therapies will reach clinical trials soon, trials featuring cannabinoids are difficult to test in a formal setting because of a dire lack of funding. The federal government still lists cannabis as a Schedule I substance, under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that the federal government does not support the idea that cannabis has any medical use. Considering the legal status of cannabis, only privately-funded studies are able to take place, and unfortunately, that leaves cannabis research in an area of complete bias and prohibitively underfunded. Considering the massive literature supporting a myriad of novel therapeutic benefits, this is a costly reality to the health and well-being of millions.


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This paper is also stored here:    http://bit.ly/2K7bbVX     inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDNew Developments of Cannabinoid-Based Drugs
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The Effect of Chronic Cannabis Use on Volumetric Alterations in Brain Regions

Title: Neuroanatomical alterations in people with high and low cannabis dependence

A recent article has been published revealing some volumetric alterations in specific brain regions in people who report dependence on cannabis. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed that the volume of certain regions, including the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the caudate, in cannabis dependent users, were all reduced in size, relative to recreational cannabis users who did not use cannabis chronically. Future research will likely focus on the effects of the structural alterations on patients’ reward, stress, and addiction-relevant circuitry to examine the possible relevance of cannabis dependance on those circuits. 

There are certainly possibilities that suggest this volume difference could be of concern, but there are also a great number of explanations (more than likely) whereby this is related to another variable that we have not yet fully appreciated.

Currently, cannabis use is thought to have a little-to-no risk of addiction (beyond any “normal” product of medical value, such as coffee or eyeglasses), because it does not act directly on the reward circuit. Opioids have a high risk of addiction, and therefore a concerning safety profile, in part because of the direct effect of the opioid system on the reward pathway of the central and peripheral nervous systems. While the endocannabinoid system has been observed to act directly up the reward circuit, it does so in subtle, soft ways, making it an ideal adjunct therapy for opioids to help with pain management. Current research provides inconsistent results and appropriately emphasizes a need for more testing to validate the possibility of cannabis as a recommended pain medication. 

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This paper is also stored here:    http://bit.ly/2K5JNYn     inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDThe Effect of Chronic Cannabis Use on Volumetric Alterations in Brain Regions
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Can specific, isolated Cannabinoids reduce Cannabis Dependency?

Using cannabis to decrease dependency on cannabis? An Australian study shows promise using Nabiximols to target receptors and diminish the rate of relapse. The spray of equal parts CBD and THC had regular smokers smoking 19 fewer days than those on placebo

The News article: http://bit.ly/2YbSrN1

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This paper is also stored here:    http://bit.ly/2YlBNuf     inside the CED Foundation Archive

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Benjamin Caplan, MDCan specific, isolated Cannabinoids reduce Cannabis Dependency?
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Video: Do-It-Yourself Cannabis Tinctures

One of the terrific realities of modern Cannabis is that it is possible, and often quite simple, to make effective products at home. With suitable education and access to testing facilities, the soil, nutrients, and plant growth can be supported at home, lab-tested for make-up and potency, as well as safety-checked for potential microscopic contaminants, and ultimately, individualized medicine can be created right at home!

Here is a sample instructional for just one way that cannabis tincture can be made at home. There are countless others and hopefully, many that are yet to be discovered!

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Benjamin Caplan, MDVideo: Do-It-Yourself Cannabis Tinctures
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