Although results from many bench-scientific and preclinical animal trials support the use of medical cannabis for pain management, there is not yet an equal body of evidence in human clinical trials. However, this is, in part, due to the fact that, despite millennia of accounts supporting the use of cannabis to treat a large number of medical concerns, in the shorter history of cannabis research, the number of controlled, double-blind, placebo studies are limited, and to some points of view, may not even be possible. Additionally, in an era where increasingly more patients request cannabis therapy from their clinicians, health professionals are catastrophically undereducated on the topic. Furthermore, given the status of the modern opioid crisis, there is a growing need for alternative pain management strategies: states with medical marijuana laws experience significantly fewer opioid-related deaths than states lacking them. Additional research could reduce these deaths further and provide viable alternatives for patients seeking pain management when other therapies have failed.
Below are interesting clippings from this article, points that are either described eloquently or bring a welcome addition to the ongoing discussion:
Benjamin Caplan, MDInforming Doctors and Patients on Cannabis Use for Pain
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.“
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/
Article Title: A meta-opinion: cannabinoids delivered to oral mucosa by a spray for systemic absorption are rather ingested into gastro-intestinal tract: the influences of fed/fasting states.
Sativex® spray is made of a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD. It is marketed for use in the treatment of spasticity in patients with Multiple Sclerosis and is absorbed into the bloodstream through the oral mucosa. This absorption has the benefit of rapid absorption, as it avoids the slow process of digestion which is the typical path of absorption for edibles. This meta-opinion (expert opinion) review argues that Sativex is actually washed down by our saliva and digested through our gastrointestinal tract very much like edibles, and NOT merely absorbed in the mouth via oral mucosa, as the producers suggest. The authors reviewed several research studies which have found that the concentrations of THC and CBD in the body, following administration of Sativex differed if a patient had a meal or not beforehand. This would suggest that Sativex is indeed absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, rather than merely through the oral mucosa.
How this matters to consumers:
Toward a goal of reproducible dosing and effects, consumers would do well to understand the effects of various methods of absorption. Specifically, it is helpful to know that the effect of Sativex may be delayed if it follows a meal.
Crossing the Line: Care of a Pediatric Patient with Intractable Seizures and Severe Neuropathic Pain in Absence of Access to Medical Marijuana
A recent case report discussing a six-year-old patient suffering from a seizure disorder has exposed the difficulty is receiving treatment across state lines. The patient was prescribed medical marijuana that alleviated the severity and duration of her seizures but was weaned off of that medication when traveling to Nebraska for a therapeutic surgery, due to the legal status in the state. This case study exposes the difficulty of treating patients across the country due to the legal variability of cannabis across states.
Author’s summary reflections:
“The current state-specific approach to medical marijuana notably burdens patients, families, and health care systems with a fragmented approach to symptom management based on local context. The stigmatization or legal implications of medical marijuana in certain settings may lead well-meaning providers to avoid asking about use or to struggle with appropriate response. Provider response to parents reporting medical marijuana use in Schedule I settings notably varies from direct inquiry, feigned ignorance, or informed ignoring. Ideally, providers would compassionately and competently inquire about pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical interventions (to include medical marijuana use) as part of comprehensive palliative care symptom assessments.”
Forget CBD; flavonoids found in cannabis have been found to be 30 times more effective painkillers than aspirin, targeting inflammation at the source and making them great alternatives for pain killers. If produced on a larger scale, they could help get away from the opioid crisis.
As cannabis finds its place back into modern human culture quickly, there is much still to be learned. As the science grows and adapts to modern need and expectations, the “can we” may be out-pacing the “should we.” On the other hand, there are circumstances where modern culture really “should be” and is handicapped by years of misinformed stigma.
Here, a few controversial questions about cannabis:
Should teachers be allowed to use cannabis around children?
Should spiritual leaders be allowed to use cannabis, as they have for millennia?
Should taxi drivers be allowed to use cannabis on the job?
Should pilots be allowed to use cannabis?
To explore related information, click the keywords below:
Benjamin Caplan, MDVideo: Controversial Questions in Cannabis Today
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.
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.