In this section, we will give you an overview of what research has taught us about the medical use of cannabis. Please note that effects might be negative when cannabis is being used for non-medical purposes. All the information provided below is based on medical research.
A review study by Guzman (2003) shows that it is well-established that cannabinoids have alleviating effects on some symptoms that are related with cancer. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting and pain. But more important, various studies have shown that cannabinoids can reduce tumor growth and progression (Sarfaraz, 2008). The cannabinoids induce direct growth and death of tumor cells by modulating key cell-signaling pathways. They can kill tumor cells without affecting the healthy cells surrounding the tumor. Cannabinoids do not produce the same toxic effects as conventional chemotherapies.
Another study concluded that cannabinoids exhibit a remarkable anticancer activity in preclinical models of cancer. Further clinical studies are needed to help clarify whether cannabinoids could be helpful in the fight of cancer (Velasco, Hernandez-Tiedra, Davila & Lorente, 2016).
Recent research has shown that cells that are being pre-treated with THC and CBD marijuana extracts may help kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. The very same research proved a dramatic incline in tumor volumes when cannabinoids were used together with radiation (Scott, Dalgleish & Liu, 2014).
Cannabinoids have found to be effective against chronic pain in Multiple Sclerosis (Svendsen, Jensen, & Bach, 2004; Rog, Nurmikko, Friede & Young, 2005); they have little or no effect in patients with acute pain. Also, chronic pain with causes like tumor pain, rheumatism and fibromyalgia has been found to be reduced with cannabinoids (Johnson et al., 2010).
A recent study (Haj-Dahmane & Shen, 2014) found that cannabinoids may be helpful in treating depression that results from chronic stress.
Parents of children with treatment-resistant epilepsies reported a high rate of success in reducing seizure frequency with the use of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis. The majority of these children have Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy that often does not respond to available treatments (Porter & Jacobson, 2013).
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that can result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss; it is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Potentially, cannabinoids could become a useful treatment for glaucoma because of their neuroprotective properties and their ability to effectively reduce intraocular pressure (Tomida, Pertwee, Azuara-Blanco, 2004).
Cannabinoids have been found to significantly increase appetite in HIV patients, patients with tumor diseases (Jatoi et al. 2002; Regelson et al., 1976), and Alzheimer’s disease (Strasser et al., 2006).
THC was found to significantly decrease the time it takes to fall asleep in physically healthy insomniacs (Cousens & SiMascio, 1973).
Other research proved that THC can reduce spontaneous sleep-disordered breathing and blocks serotonin-induced exacerbation of sleep apnea (Prasad, Radulovacki & Carley, 2013).
A large study on the treatment of spasticity amongst 572 patients with MS showed that 47,6% responded to the treatment during the first 4 week single-blind period of therapy. During the second phase of the study, a 12-week double blind, placebo-controlled trial, the cannabis showed significantly reduced spasticity and frequency of spasms and improved sleep quality (Novotna et al., 2011).
Cousens, K., & DiMascio, A. (1973). THC as an hypnotic. Cousens, K. & DiMascio, A. Psychopharmacologia (1973) 33: 355. doi:10.1007/BF00437513
Grotenhermen F., Müller-Vahl K. (2012). The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids. Dtsch Arztebl Int, 109 (29–30), 495–501.
Guzman, M. (2003). Cannabinoids: Potential Anticancer Agents. Nature Reviews Cancer, 10, 745-755.
Haj-Dahmane, S., & Shen, R. (2014). Chronic Stress Impairs 1-Adrenoceptor-Induced
Endocannabinoid-Dependent Synaptic Plasticity in the Dorsal Raphe Nucleus. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34 (44), 14560-14570.
Jatoi, A., Windschitl H.E., Loprinzi C.L., et al. (2002). Dronabinol versus megestrol acetate versus combination therapy for cancer-associated anorexia: a North Central Cancer Treatment Group study. J Clin Oncol, 20, 567–73.
Johnson J.R., Burnell-Nugent M., Lossignol D., Ganae-Motan E.D., Potts R. & Fallon M.T. (2010). Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of THC:CBD Extract and THC extract in patients with intractable cancer-related pain. J Pain Symptom Manage, 39, 167–79.
Novotna et al. (2011). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, enriched-design study of nabiximols (Sativex), as add-on therapy, in subjects with refractory spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. European Journal of Neurology, 18 (9), 1122-31.
Porter, B.E., & Jacobson, C. (2013). Report of a parent survey of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis use in pediatric treatment-resistant epilepsy. Epilepsy Behavior, 29 (3), 574-577.
Prasad, B., Radulovacki, M.G., & Carley, D.W., (2013). Proof of Concept Trial of Dronabinol in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Psychiatry
Regelson W., Butler J.R., Schulz J., et al. (1976). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol as an effective antidepressant and appetite-stimulating agent in advanced cancer patients. In: Braude M.C., Szara S (eds.): Pharmacology of marihuana. Vol 2. New York: Raven Press, 763–76.
Rog D.J., Nurmikko T.J., Friede T., & Young C.A. (2005). Randomized, controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in central pain in multiple sclerosis. Neurology, 65, 812–9.
Sarfaraz, S., Adhami, V.M., Syed, D.N., Afaq, F., & Mukhtar, H. (2008). Cannabinoids for Cancer Treatment: Progress and Promise. Cancer Research, 68(2), 339-342.
Scott, K.A., Dalgleish, A.G., & Liu, W.M. (2014). The combination of cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol enhances the anticancer effects of radiation in an orthotopic murine glioma model. Moleculair Cancer Therapy, 13 (12), 2955-2967.
Strasser F., Luftner D, et al. (2006). Comparison of orally administered cannabis extract and delta- 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in treating patients with cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome: a multicenter, phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial from the Cannabis-In-Cachexia-Study-Group. J Clinical Oncology, 24: 3394–400.
Svendsen K.B., Jensen T.S., & Bach F.W. (2004). Does the cannabinoid dronabinol reduce central pain in multiple sclerosis? Randomised double blind placebo controlled crossover trial. BMJ 2004; 329: 253.
Tomida, Pertwee, & Azuara-Blanco (2004). Cannabinoids and Glaucoma. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 88(5), 708-713.
Velasco, G., Hernandez-Tiedra, S., Davila, D., & Lorente, M. (2016). The Use of Cannabinoids as Anticancer Agents. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 64, 259-266.
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