Medical Marijuana Research
Note: The Sanctuary Wellness Institute does not sell any marijuana products or CBD products
While marijuana has been used for its therapeutic benefits since ancient times, it has largely been looked down upon as a harmful recreational drug. Interest in marijuana as a medicinal drug arose again in the 19th century, and that is when modern research began.
William Brooke O’Shaughnessy – A Distinguished Name in Cannabis Science
While the therapeutic use of marijuana dates back to at least a thousand years, the modern history of medical cannabis has a 19th-century Irish physician, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, as a prominent character. He scientifically researched the drug’s benefits in India and introduced its healing properties to the Western world.
At a hospital in Calcutta, India, O’Shaughnessy conducted a series of experiments on animals (and even controlled trials on humans later on) by giving them marijuana and observing its effects, both positive and negative. His studies came to the conclusion that cannabis may be useful in a wide range of human diseases like cholera, rheumatic diseases, delirium, and infantile convulsions. He even tested out the drug on a patient with rabies, and while it didn’t save his life, it did decrease the severity of the symptoms before the patient passed away.
Michael Donovan’s Work on Cannabis and Neuropathic Pain
Michael Donovan, a chemist and licensed apothecary in a medical school in Dublin, executed and reported his medical marijuana research on cannabis in the 1840s. He presented an impressive series of cases where he had succeeded in using cannabis to alleviate pain in multiple patients suffering from migraines, neuropathies, or musculoskeletal ailments.
Present-Day Evidence-Based Applications of Medical Cannabis
While the future of medical cannabis seems quite promising, there are only a few conditions that have been thoroughly proven and supported by multiple studies to warrant its use. Its other potential uses are still being evaluated.
Probably the best-documented evidence of the therapeutic use of medical marijuana that everyone seems to agree on is its use in alleviating multiple sclerosis-related pain and spasticity. A number of research has been done on the subject and the drug has been found to have a significant role in the relief of symptoms.
Nausea and Vomiting
The effects of medical marijuana in relieving cancer-related nausea and vomiting have also been studied with positive results. However, its use is again controversial since the introduction of other effective medications with better reputations and fewer potential side effects.
Many researchers are of the opinion that medical marijuana should be used as a last resort when no other relevant treatment seems to be working.
Loss of Appetite or Weight Loss
Another proven use of medical marijuana is in conditions with loss of appetite, like HIV or cancer. However, those creating controversies argue that AZT, the HIV treatment drug, can easily take care of appetite, so medical marijuana may not be needed.
Of course, since the drug itself has a reputation for causing addiction and withdrawal problems in the long run, physicians are hesitant in prescribing it at all. However, the composition of medical marijuana has only a fraction of THC, marijuana’s primary psychoactive component that is responsible for its bizarre psychoactive effects.
…And the Research Continues
Current research is evaluating the doubtful but potential role of medical marijuana in conditions such as:
Though not strongly enough, previous research has hinted that medical marijuana might possess anticarcinogenic or antitumor properties. Cancer Research UK has, however, dubbed these claims ‘highly misleading’, and rightly so.
As this 2018 review summarizes the state of data on medical marijuana, making preposterous claims with the available research is not wise.
There have certainly been claims of medical marijuana causing a decline in the frequency of seizures.
Stage-two trials of experimental treatment of epilepsy with Epidiolex, a cannabis derivative, were performed in the US in 2015. A similar research was conducted in 2017 as well, which while supporting the efficacy of medical marijuana also indicated its side effects like sleepiness and liver trouble.
Research is lacking and data is limited, though, maybe because of the advent of specific anti-epileptic drugs that make cannabis use as an adjunct unnecessary.
Movement disorders (like Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s, and Tourette syndrome), dementia, diabetes, sleep disorders, and glaucoma are some other conditions that have been considered to respond well to medical marijuana treatment, but without enough evidence.
Hindrances in Research
Various federal regulations have made research on medical marijuana more challenging than it would be otherwise. One must seek the approval of and license from the authorities in charge before undertaking any such study. These formalities may take a month to a year.
The entire process of getting approval and the complication of steps required to become eligible to conduct research on medical marijuana delays the commencement of new researches and likely demotivates many who would have otherwise shown interest in the subject.
Kirstie is a Certified Cannabis Coach with over 10 years in the medical cannabis field. She has worked at The Sanctuary Wellness institute since 2021 and has helped countless patients with questions pertaining to medical cannabis.