Marijuana Access Appears to Help People With Not Just Chronic Conditions

Marijuana research—and advocacy—has come a long way, especially over the past few years.  And now that the US government has approved medicines based on chemical compounds found in the plant, the latest research is more important than ever. Of course, marijuana—or, many forms of it—is still illegal and that means there are limits to what research can be done.  But from what we are learning, all of this may soon change. 

For example, we have definitely learned that marijuana does not seem to have any benefit over conditions like dementia and glaucoma. Also, there is not much evidence at all, if any, that marijuana has a notable impact over conditions like Parkinson’s disease or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

But with all of the mixed results we may have seen surrounding marijuana, lately, chronic pain is one area in which a majority of patients say they have experienced a profound benefit.  At least, this is the conclusion of a new study, which was published this week in the journal Health Affairs.  The study also says that stiffness from MS and nausea related to chemotherapy were the next two most popular reasons for obtaining a marijuana prescription. 

Now, before going any further it should be noted that this new study did not measure whether or not marijuana had actually helped to improve these conditions; it only tracked reasons that doctors wrote prescriptions. Furthermore, the study confirmed much of what was already suspected about these scripts. 

Indeed, the study found that the vast majority—approximately two-thirds—of the 730,000 reasons given for prescribing or using [medical] marijuana was related to chronic pain.  However, patients involved with the study were allowed to report multiple pain conditions, and that might contribute additional inflation of estimates. 

As a matter of fact, the North American research team says that this survey overwhelmingly showed that upwards of 70 percent of patients would regularly substitute cannabis for their prescription medications, which were mostly opioids (painkillers). In addition nearly 50 percent of those surveyed substituted cannabis for alcohol; and 31 percent of those surveyed reported using marijuana in place of tobacco. Furthermore, of those who reported substituting weed for booze, 31 percent said they were able to stop drinking altogether and 37 percent said they reduced their intake by at least 75 percent.  And of those who claim that cannabis helped them cut back on tobacco, more than half reported they eventually stopped altogether.