A Weedmaps News piece, looking earnestly at cannabis and arthritis. As the title suggests, arthritis sufferers are, indeed, leading the way for advancing cannabis as pain medicine.
“We know cannabis is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that functions differently from other drugs like Tylenol, Ibuprofen, steroids, or the biological options that work on the immune system and can present severe side-effects,” Caplan told Weedmaps News. “We don’t see that w/ cannabis”
“There is still not enough of what modern medicine calls the gold standard- randomized trials or review trials that collect multiple studies – but anecdote is not meaningless,” Caplan said.
“Stories we hear from individuals are very meaningful and worthwhile,” Caplan said. “We live in a scientific culture that thinks we should discount anecdotes and only pay attention to the highest quality data, which I think is misleading and not fair.”
Benjamin Caplan, MDArthritis Sufferers Lead the Way for Advancing Cannabis as Pain Medicine
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/
Cannabinoid receptor 2: Potential role in immunomodulation and neuroinflammation Review
Previous research and characterization of cannabinoid receptors (CBs) have consistently demonstrated the therapeutic potential for many medical conditions. CB1, the receptor responsible for the intoxicating (and other psychoactive) effects of cannabis, has demonstrated the ability to modulate concentrations of certain other neurotransmitters, giving it the capability of acting as an antidepressant. Additionally, mice lacking CB1 receptors exhibited increased neurodegeneration, increased susceptibility for autoimmune encephalomyelitis, and inferior recovery to some traumatic nerve injuries. The CB2 receptor is generally attributed to support for modulating the immune system and calming some of the body’s natural, core inflammatory signaling systems. Activation of the receptor has been found to associate with neuroinflammatory conditions in the brain, and in appropriate circumstances, can result in the programming of cell death among some immune cells. This effect points toward a role in communication, inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, evidence points to CB2 holding significant potential in HIV therapy. Binding partners of CB2 inhibit the HIV-1 infection and help to diminish HIV replication. Historically, these staggering findings have escaped traditional modern medical understanding. Further investigation into the therapeutic potential of cannabis, with respect to the treatment of inflammation, depression, autoimmune diseases, and HIV is at a minimum, clearly warranted for a more comprehensive understanding of effective medical therapy.
Dr Caplan and the #MDTake:
The main points here no longer seem to be investigational trends, but just pillars of Cannabis Medicine that are embarrassingly new, and poorly recognized by the modern medical establishment. While the bulk of consumers, including patients, may not engage with the science on a molecular basis, by iterative or intuitive science, individuals are diligently discovering what forms of cannabis serve their personal interests more effectively. This is, through a scientific lens, a trial-and-error adventure through products, which have various ratios of cannabinoid-receptor activation or inhibition, that ultimately achieves a similar result, which is a clinical relief for a particular ailment. Does the fact that the process does not begin with a clear understanding of the involved receptors and receptor modulators really matter? If one of the primary objectives of Medicine is to treat and/or ease suffering, and the products are built upon a bedrock of chemical safety (misuse, inappropriate, or misinformed production of products notwithstanding), it should not matter that people discover it by happy accident, or through more direct achievement.
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.
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)
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:
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.
Article title: Atrioventricular Nodal Reentrant Tachycardia Triggered by Marijuana Use: A case report and review of the literature
The effect of cannabis on the heart is not yet well-understood. This report highlights a case of one 40-year-old patient who had, an hour after smoking cannabis, a specific type of cardiac rhythm abnormality (arrhythmia) called atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT). There is a physical component of this abnormality, an errant track where aberrant rhythms re-enter the heart and can cause rapid heartbeats (tachycardia.) In the discussion, the authors suggest that cannabis use, at higher doses, may stimulate the parasympathetic system, which happens to be involved in electrical current tracks in our heart. The authors further hypothesize that in susceptible people, as in this case, cannabis may affect this electrical pathway in the heart, and may disrupt a stable rhythm.
Dr Caplan and the #MDTake:
Abnormal heart rhythm disorders can be life-concerning conditions, however, there have only been 17 or so reported cases (see Table 1) of life-threatening cases in the medical literature. As it is exceedingly rare, it can be difficult to determine if cannabis is implicated or not.
Including rare, serious heart conditions, relatively benign circumstances, and conditions related to structural heart disease, arrhythmias are a relatively uncommon condition. Nevertheless, CED Clinic has seen many patients who have atrial fibrillation, a smaller but significant number of patients who have stable low or elevated heart rates, and a rare few with irregularly irregular abnormalities. Some patients have embraced cannabis while anticoagulated (helpful to reduce the risks of potentially dangerous clots), and some who are engaging with cannabis have been treated surgically. The approach to cannabis that most seem to prefer is a slow, gradually increasing dosage routine, where one can become accustomed to low doses, prior to advancing to something which may be more therapeutic, while minimizing the potential cardiac impact. Fortunately, to date, we have observed no grave repercussions that seemed caused, correlated or attributable to cannabis.
Article title: Acute Cardiovascular Effects of Marijuana Use
The authors of this systematic review combed through multiple previously published studies, looking at the short-term cardiovascular effects of THC on the body. The cardiovascular effects they covered included: changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and blood flow to the brain (cerebrovascular circulation).
This review showed that for blood pressure, the results were undecided, as some studied showed a drop in blood pressure, while others did not. For heart rate, the studies showed an increase after consuming marijuana, but quantity and duration were not mentioned. As for blood flow to the brain, only one study showed a potential decrease while the others found no change. The THC percentage of the products used (mainly inhaled ones) ranged from 1.2% to 17.5%.
Dr Caplan and the #MDTake:
This limited review aims to evaluate the effects of THC on blood pressure, heart rate and blood flow to the brain, but it has important limitations. In terms of how the changes were recorded in the studies and the relevant amounts (of what is changing) were not mentioned. For instance, while the study did show that THC may increase heart rate in the short term, it is not clear what the relevance is, what risk this may poses to consumers if any. Past literature has shown that heart muscle can respond to specific cannabinoids, both in the lab and in animals trails. Several case studies have reported individuals with grave reactions, although these concerns have yet to be replicated in a controlled manner, nor correlated with any specific circumstances or components of cannabis. Toward a goal of maximizing safety, caution is likely warranted for those consuming cannabis with known cardiac risk factors (including heart dysfunction, blood pressure concerns, rhythm abnormalities, and others) particularly with regard to the consumption of high THC products.
Clinically, there is a distinct trend of people who have found heart rate effects with their cannabis use, mostly increased heart rates at the beginning of use (both when first beginning to consume cannabis as well as early on during an episode of consumption.) There seems to be a tolerance to the heart rate effects because many report that this effect wanes over time. There are a clear group of patients for whom cannabis lowers blood pressure, but also groups for who it either has no effect or increases blood pressure. The long-term trend again seems that tolerance plays a role in bringing all extremes to the middle ground. Regarding blood flow, there seems to be a clear increase in local blood flow with topicals and, at least among CED Clinic patients, no observable relationship between cannabis use and blood flow, from a macroscopic perspective.
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.