The Institute of Medicine Report on the Health Effects of Marijuana

September 27, 2019 0 By Ewald Bahringer


[Music] when some misinformed people hear of the grand opening of a new plant-based medical practice one plant in particular may come to mind over the years I’ve gotten a lot of questions about cannabis and I figure it’s high time to try to clear the haze I didn’t want to just take a potshot token effort and end up with some half-baked puff piece there are burning issues about a growing industry with so much buzz and smoke and mirrors the science can really take a hit I mean are there acute chronic effects blunt trauma from impaired driving perhaps I wanted to give that straight dope weed out any dubious research and it’s been quite a trip 420 articles published within just the past few months this is the review everyone was waiting for the 2017 current state of evidence from the Institute of Medicine tasked with conducting a comprehensive review on the health effects of cannabis started out with 24,000 sources whittled it down to about 10,000 to produce this 468 page document what did they find I think it’s fair to summarize that they found the purported benefits to be much smaller and weaker than are often reported but so to the purported risks so good news for the recreational user who was mostly just worried about not getting cancer but bad news for the patient who actually wants it to help their cancer the only three benefits they could find substantial evidence for was as a treatment for chronic pain in adults chemo induced nausea and vomiting and relieving self-reported muscle tightness in patients with MS even archetypal medical marijuana indications like glaucoma failed to live up to expectations despite popular belief to the contrary extensive research over decades has documented that marijuana is not effective in the management of clinical glaucoma a disease of increased pressure within the eyeball I mean it does lower pressure but only for about an hour and so you have to smoke a dozen joints a day and even if you did smoke those few thousand a year your body gets used to it and so what little benefit there is disappears within a few months in most patients on the other hand conspicuously missing from this list of adverse side effects of long term or heavy use is any mention of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases like emphysema which you can get from smoking tobacco and similarly it doesn’t look like smoking marijuana increases the risk of respiratory cancers like lung cancer or head neck cancer though cannabis may increase the risk of testicular cancer there have been three studies so far on marijuana use and testicular cancer appearing to increase risk about 50% but only it seems for those smoking once a week or more or for 10 years or longer so what did they conclude overall were they for legalization opposed basically they concluded there simply isn’t enough research leaving patients health care professionals and policy makers without the evidence they need to make sound decisions either way further this lack of evidence based information poses a public health risk that’s one thing everyone on both sides can agree on the need for definitive clinical research otherwise we’re just left with anecdotes blogs and ads which don’t provide a sound basis for assessing the safety and efficacy of pharmacologic agents because cannabis is just a naturally occurring plant and cannot be patented the pharmaceutical industry is m.i.a what we need are large clinical trials until then we’re all just gonna be scratching our heads but where’s the funding gonna come from for drug companies interest in the plant is scant where is the payback big farm is interested in a reasoned approach however the development of newer cannabinoid modulators in profitable pill form will one day writes this pharmacology professor make the use of herbal cannabis a thing of the past [Music]