Oncologists Should Recommend Cannabis-Based Medicine for Palliative Care
Earlier this June, a review was published that encourages oncologists to recommend cannabis products to their patients as a safe and effective method of palliative care. The opinion piece highlights how cannabis is a useful treatment for a variety of illnesses (nausea, vomiting, sleep, mood, anxiety), and encourages practitioners to prescribe cannabis for their patients so that they can appreciate the safety and effectiveness of the product.
A popular (and welcome) take on the vaping situation is coming out to support medical consumers as a type of victim of the circumstances. There is a level of scientific understanding that is a necessary, and still incomplete, part of the discussion. For example, some of the dominant methods of lab testing for cannabis (plate culturing) are based on food safety protocols that are generations old, incorporates a system of understanding that is not the only means of testing or understanding (genetic sequencing, for instance) and, while we have learned a great deal mastering the current testing, we may be missing important safety concerns.
Another critical area of growth at hand is the clinical understanding of the implications of mainstream cannabis consumption. We have some information, but there is always more yet to learn. In order for Cannabis Medicine to catch up with the accomplishments and accolades of modern Medicine, we must overcome generations (and engrained systems) of academic road-blockages. Still more stands in the way of a well-oiled, safe cannabis-consuming culture, and that is reproducibility of clean product and the assurance that a consume is obtaining (and consuming) clean, safe product. These are solved, perhaps with regulatory oversight and technology, either within the public or private sectors.
For example, one of the elements of the current medical market that is still in need of close inspection and consideration is the potential contamination of vaporized products related to the construction materials of vapor technology itself. Devices are often made with metal solder which can contain and propel cadmium and/or other metals that are unhealthy for consumption. Similarly, heated plastics and other construction materials may be unsuitable as conduits for consumption by inhalation.
Nevertheless, it is wonderful to see public interest and discussion on this subject, which seems to touch on never common to many. Open-minded discussion, incorporating differing viewpoints will help us all grow to become a healthier and safer, cannabis-consuming culture.
Kudos @abbierosner for this moving piece in CBD Today, “SENIORS, CBD, AND THE LAWS OF ATTRACTION” The article reviews an evolving #CBD playing field, the fears, the market, and a few sprinkled quotes by Dr Laurie Vollen, @JamiePaz, and me!
Restored Self: A Phenomenological Study of Pain Relief by Cannabis
In an Israeli qualitative study investigating the impact of cannabis use on chronic pain patients, all but one of the nineteen study participants experienced pain relief after cannabis use. Participants explained how cannabis allowed them to not just discontinue medications treating their pain, but also medications treating secondary outcomes of their pain, such as poor sleep and anxiety. Patients described feeling “a sigh of relief,” being “reborn” or being saved by cannabis use after years of debilitating pain and medication side effects.
Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:
The pathway through which cannabis works to combat pain is different from the usual pathways doctors have used for the last 90 years. Prior to the 1930s, cannabis was used routinely, just about everywhere, but political and social agendas kidnapped the medicine and hid it away from most of the mainstream and from routine medical education.
Patients often describe typical pain relievers as adjusting the impact of the pain. Reducing or quieting the pain, softening discomfort, allowing the sufferer to perform previously typical tasks without debilitation or dysfunction. Cannabis, on the other hand, is sometimes described as “taking the sufferer away from the pain,” rather than the other way around. The effects that cannabis can have on the reduction of inflammation, attention, memory, and relaxation, provide a new type of opportunity for relief.
Still, other patients describe the effects of cannabis through a lens of mental focus. Whereas in daily use we typically open a standard set of drawers, some have said, the use of cannabis allows the consumer to open up a different set of draws, and through this adjusted lens, to see discomfort from a different perspective.
For those suffering with chronic pain, years upon years of discomfort, suffering that, when paired with modern medicines, has only met frustration and further discomfort, cannabis is frequently seen as a welcome “sigh of relief.”
Current evidence of cannabinoid-based analgesia obtained in preclinical and human experimental settings
Pre-clinical animal models of pain provide a wealth of data supporting the pain-relief capabilities of cannabis; however, reproducing this data in human clinical trials has proved difficult. Data from the animal pre-clinical trials point to cannabinoids reducing stress responses and pain-evoked stress, desensitizing pain receptors, and increased pain sensitivity in animals that lack cannabinoid receptors. However, human trials present conflicting results: several studies have shown dose-dependent relationships, and in the current review this was experienced by many participants, wherein lower and medium doses provided pain relief, but higher doses triggered increased sensitivity to pain. Controlled studies may show a lack of impressive pain relief effects, personal reports of pain relief associated with cannabis use are nearly universal in retrospective reports. This suggests that there may be an important effect on well-being or mood, rather merely sensory pain. Furthermore, the relieving effects of cannabis appear to impact men and women differently.
Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:
Additionally, much of pain relief is subjective, in both sensation, description, and inside the study environment. The description of pain varies from person to person, and researchers may be asking the wrong questions to the right people or the right questions to the wrong people. In fact, a growing perspective is that this mismatch may be more common and more pronounced than previously recognized. The makeup of pain is also quite complicated. For instance, a limb might hurt, but if there is swelling or tenderness nearby, those may amplify the discomfort. How can we take the full picture into account in the form of helpful data points? What of the emotional or psychological impacts of pain? Is it even possible that such things can be fully understood, let alone measured reliably? Assuming that emotional phenomenon or stress/suffering can be conveyed to research scientists, how can we ever hope to compare one person’s experience to another’s? For example, one would imagine that frustration associated with the pain experienced by a venerable world war veteran, who has previously endured tremendous and complex pains and associated psychological trauma may be quite different from someone who has never experienced a particular pain before.
Cannabis-based medicines for chronic neuropathic pain in adults (Review)
In a recent Cochrane meta-analysis of studies investigating the use of medical cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain management, the authors determined that no results were what they could consider “high quality.” All data which related to degrees of pain relief, adverse events, and “Patient Global Impression of Change” were largely of very low or low quality, with some outcomes being of moderate quality. The meta-analysis concluded that no existing evidence backs up the use of cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain; however, the quality of evidence examined highlights the need for more controlled studies.
Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:
Depending on the system of organization one prefers, pain can be divided up into different subtypes. For one system, it’s three subtypes: neuropathic, nociceptive, and “other.” For another system, pain can be organized by timing (sharp, acute, chronic, breakthrough), location (bone, soft tissue, nerve, referred, phantom), or by the relative system (emotional, cancer, body.) This review discusses the subtype category of “neuropathic pain” as a means of grouping pain to study. The measures used to assess the pain are as subjective as the categories themselves. Clearly, compounding the two subjective divisions is unlikely to produce “high quality” data, but it is a misleading interpretation to take away that there is no good quality information to glean from the observations this review organizes, and also a misinterpretation to jump to an idea that cannabis is not helpful. Rather, given the statistical tools we currently use, and the subjective systems of understanding pain are not well-matched to translating the effects of cannabis on pain into this type of data.
Cannabis Use in Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury or Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury in Colorado
Spinal cord injury patients report that medical cannabis helped them alleviate many symptoms of their injury including spasticity, pain, sleepdisruptions, stress, and anxiety. Traumatic brain injury patients list their reason for use as reducing stress/anxiety and improving sleep. Both groups of patients reported recreational use prior to and following injury for a variety of reasons.
Dr. Caplan and the #MDTake:
Healing from traumatic injuries is never solely a matter of local tissue changes. The injured tissues, and the experience of being injured create ripple effects which can disrupt multiple other organ systems, and the entire experience of normalcy. A chemical stress response is one of the most common (and often adaptive) responses to an injury, but the burden of stress, adapting to a new illness, and associated loss of normalcy and sleep can be disastrous to the process of healing. As anxiety and sleeplessness snowball into daily problems themselves, a kernel of injury sometimes amplifies to become a life-altering change.
Sleep Disturbances, Psychosocial Difficulties and Health Risk Behavior
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.
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.