By rescheduling cannabis for medical use in the UK, the government has created opportunity for physicians and patients.
There are some conditions for which cannabis may show benefit, and increasing medical availability means doctors can further investigate its role.
“…medical cannabis may be effective for treating neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with dementia (i.e. agitation, disinhibition, irritability, aberrant motor behaviour, nocturnal behaviour disorders and aberrant vocalisation and resting care). There was also limited evidence of improvement in rigidity and cognitive scores as assessed by MMSE” (1)
“There is evidence to suggest that some cannabis-based medicinal products reduce chronic pain: Nabilone reduced functional impairment caused by pain compared to placebo in a population of 33 participants who had fibromyalgia. THC reduced mean functional impairment caused by pain in a population of 96 participants who had cancer.” (2)
A prospective observational study of 112 advanced cancer patients showed that pain scores and opioid use in patients started on medical cannabis were significantly lower than those who did not have treatment. (3)
In one study from Israel, in 279 cancer patients authorised to take cannabis, there was a reported 70% improvement in pain control and general well being. (4)
Is there a societal benefit?
Seed Change believes that reducing the stigma of cannabis amongst medical professionals may carry a longer term societal benefit of decreasing the harm of opioid use in society. Although the evidence is early, there are some trends that give us hope:
In a self-report survey study of 2,897 cannabis users in California, 97% of respondents ‘strongly agreed‘ that they were able to decrease the amount of opioids consumed when they used cannabis. (8)
States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate (95% CI, −37.5% to −9.5%; P = .003) compared with states without medical cannabis laws. (9)