Home Medical News Hype over Medical Marijuana for treating health issues may be exaggerated, researchers find

Hype over Medical Marijuana for treating health issues may be exaggerated, researchers find

by Vaishali Sharma

According to a study published in JAMA Network Open by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers, obtaining a medical marijuana card (MMC) to use cannabis products to treat pain, anxiety, or depression symptoms led to the onset of cannabis use disorder (CUD) in a significant minority of people while failing to improve their symptoms. Researchers discovered that those seeking treatment from anxiety and depression were more likely to acquire addicted signs of CUD, implying the need for tighter controls over the dispensing, usage, and professional follow-up of persons who lawfully access cannabis through MMCs.

“There have been many claims about the benefits of medical marijuana for treating pain, insomnia, anxiety and depression, without sound scientific evidence to support them,” says lead author Jodi Gilman, PhD, with the Center for Addiction Medicine at MGH. “In this first study of patients randomized to obtain medical marijuana cards, we learned there can be negative consequences to using cannabis for medical purposes. People with pain, anxiety or depression symptoms failed to report any improvements, though those with insomnia experienced improved sleep.” Particularly disturbing to Gilman was the fact individuals with symptoms of anxiety or depression — the most common conditions for which medical cannabis is sought — were most vulnerable to developing cannabis use disorder. CUD symptoms include the need for more cannabis to overcome drug tolerance, and continued use despite physical or psychological problems caused by the cannabis.”

As of December 2021, 36 states and the District of Columbia have commercialised the use of “medical” cannabis for a variety of health problems through medical marijuana cards. These cards require the written approval of a licenced physician, who is typically not the patient’s primary care provider but a “cannabis doctor,” who may provide authorization to patients with only a cursory examination, no recommendations for alternative treatments, and no follow-up under the current system. Indeed, the medicinal marijuana sector operates outside of the regulatory framework that governs most medical areas.

“Our study underscores the need for better decision-making about whether to begin to use cannabis for specific medical complaints, particularly mood and anxiety disorders, which are associated with an increased risk of cannabis use disorder,” says Gilman. Regardless of the specific health condition for which cannabis is sought, Gilman believes that regulation and distribution of cannabis to people with medical marijuana cards must be greatly improved. “There needs to be better guidance to patients around a system that currently allows them to choose their own products, decide their own dosing, and often receive no professional follow-up care.”

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

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