While confirming that it can treat chronic pain in certain patients, a new 400-page analysis that gathers data from more than 10,000 scientific studies asserts that marijuana’s medical benefits as well as risks need further scrutiny.
Released Jan. 12 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in Washington, D.C., the report called for increasing research on the medical promises of cannabis and its products, including its chemical substances known as cannabinoids. It pointed to huge gaps in knowledge about the good and bad of cannabis use.
Marijuana currently has a federal classification of Schedule 1 drug, which means it has no accepted medical benefit and a high likelihood of abuse. Medical cannabis, however, is also legal in 28 states and DC, while recreational use is legal in eight of those and the District.
Confirmed Evidence For Certain Health Uses
“The legalization and commercialization of cannabis has allowed marketing to get ahead of science,” said psychologist Raul Gonzalez of Florida International University, reviewing the report before its publication.
The 16-person committee that produced the report accessed over 10,700 abstracts of cannabis studies published from Jan. 1, 1999 to Aug. 1, 2016, giving special weight to reviews that came out since 2011. They made at least 100 conclusions about marijuana’s health effects.
They saw enough evidence to support cannabis treatment for three uses, namely for treating chronic pain, reducing chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, and decreasing spasms from multiple sclerosis.
There was “limited evidence or insufficient evidence,” on the other hand, for therapies like calming ADHD in children, treating epilepsy, and improving appetite and weight gain in persons with HIV/AIDS.
The Good And Bad Of Cannabis
Other major takeaways include the following:
- Using marijuana during pregnancy can lead to lower birth weights, but it remains unclear what the long-term effects for kids are.
- There is not enough evidence relating to heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, but some proof that smoking weed could trigger a heart attack.
- There is little evidence of marijuana’s anti-inflammatory benefits, but also sparse evidence of how it affects immunity or the immune-compromised.
- There is little evidence that marijuana use ups the risk of using other drugs, including tobacco, but a link between use and being prone to substance dependence has been established.
- Marijuana use is not tied to cancers from smoking, including lung and neck cancers, although it could lead to respiratory issues in the long run.
- Marijuana use impairs learning, attention, and memory right away, but there is little evidence that such impairment could last in smokers and could negatively impact education and employment in those who start young.
The report, deemed “very valuable” by experts such as New York University Langone Medical Center director Orrin Devinsky, comes at a time when marijuana policy is being evaluated worldwide, not just in the U.S.
An international commission, just shy of one year ago, published a report in The Lancet urging the decriminalization of all drugs and saying prohibition is ineffective in combating use, addiction, or criminal activity.
While President Obama largely left the states alone in legislation on the matter, it remains unclear how President-elect Donald Trump will handle the cannabis situation.