Medical Marijuana 2020

What does medical research say?

Frequently Asked Questions 

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What does medical research say?

38. Are there any studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of medical marijuana?
The New England Journal of Medicine published research in 2017 that showed patients with Dravet syndrome who used CBD-oil (derived from the marijuana plant) had fewer convulsive seizures. Dravet syndrome is a complex childhood epilepsy disorder that is associated with drug-resistant seizures.

The European Journal of Internal Medicine published groundbreaking research indicating the therapeutic use of marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for symptoms associated with cancer and pain in patients over age 65 and may decrease the use of other prescription medications, including opioids. 

The American Pain Society reported in the Journal of Pain that the daily use of marijuana can be a safe component of a carefully monitored pain management program when conventional treatments have been considered medically inappropriate or inadequate.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published a report in 2017 of a rigorous review of scientific research published since 1999 about the health impacts of marijuana and the products derived from marijuana.  The report concluded there is conclusive or substantial evidence that marijuana and its derivative cannabinoids are effective: 

  • For the treatment of chronic pain in adults.

  • For the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting

  • For improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms 

39. Why isn’t there more ongoing research?
Marijuana is one of the tightest-controlled substances under federal law. The U.S. government considers it a Schedule I drug, meaning the Drug Enforcement Administration considers it to have no medical value. To do research on marijuana, scientists need approval from several federal departments, which is rare because the government considers it Schedule I.

Conducting clinical research in the United States on medical marijuana involves receiving approval from several federal agencies. This includes a registration from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); obtaining the marijuana for research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), within the National Institutes of Health; and review by the FDA of an investigational new drug (IND) application and research protocol. Additionally, because marijuana is currently listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA has additional Schedule I-level security requirements at the site marijuana will be studied. These bureaucratic hurdles have hindered many research facilities from researching the effects of marijuana on various medical conditions. However, there is considerable medical research being conducted in other parts of the world. 

40. Has there been any research conducted on the effectiveness of medical marijuana used in treat PTSD among veterans?
There is only one FDA-approved study trial for the effects of marijuana in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study is being conducted in Scottsdale, Arizona and is in Phase-2 of research. Because this research is ongoing, no results have been published from this study yet.

Some limited studies suggest a potential decrease in PTSD symptoms with the use of medical marijuana, however there is a lack of large-scale trials confirming these findings at this time.

41. Why does the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi support the initiative?
The Mississippi Epilepsy Foundation and the national Epilepsy Foundation are committed to supporting physician-directed care, and to exploring and advocating for all potential treatment options for epilepsy, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil and medical cannabis. They support safe, legal access to medical cannabis and CBD if a patient and their health care team feel that the potential benefits of medical cannabis or CBD for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks. 

42. Is medical marijuana dangerous and addictive like opioids? Is it a “gateway” drug?
Although, many prescribed medicines can be dangerous and are addictive, there is not conclusive evidence that medical marijuana is dangerous and/or addictive. In fact, the body is able to stop receiving medical marijuana without the withdrawal symptoms that one may experience from use of opioids, and medical marijuana has been found to help opioid-dependent or addicted individuals to safely and effectively come off their opioids without experiencing the severity of painful withdrawal symptoms, which often are the reason why people continue using opioids instead of successfully stopping the use of them.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported in Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base that, " ‘there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.’ The report cautioned the acceptance of any data on marijuana as a gateway drug because it may not apply the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  Just because marijuana could be available for medical use does not mean that users would be more likely to turn to harder illicit drugs. Finally, there is a broad social concern that legalizing medical marijuana might increase its use among the general population. There is no convincing data that shows that the illegal use of marijuana would increase if the medical use of marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse potential.”

43. How does medical marijuana affect the opioid crisis in America?
A study by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) documented that opioid overdoses are as much as 25% lower in states where medical marijuana has been made available as an alternative to opioids compared with states without medical marijuana laws.  There are no reported deaths from a marijuana overdose; however, opioid overdoses continue to climb. The New York State Department of Health recently began urging doctors to consider medical marijuana as an alternative to prescribing opioids for patients with severe pain. New York joins New Jersey and Pennsylvania as states that are using marijuana to treat opioid withdrawal. The JAMA researchers concluded that if medical marijuana legalization can continue to be linked to reductions in opioid overdose deaths, then the legalization of medical marijuana can be advocated as part of a comprehensive attack to reduce the risk of opioids.