Author: “People are stopping or reducing prescription drugs to use medical cannabis. It’s a serious issue.”
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Depending on who you speak with these days, marijuana is either a miracle drug capable of curing virtually all ailments, or a harmful drug that turns its users into braindead stoners. American society’s relationship with marijuana is a complicated one, and it is no doubt undergoing a significant period of evolution as cannabis steadily becomes legalized and accepted in more and more states. Still, there’s no denying that marijuana can help alleviate symptoms associated with certain conditions, and non-psychoactive CBD is now being used by seemingly millions for everything from anxiety to pain relief.
That being said, there are often discrepancies between what marijuana advocates believe about the plant, and the latest medical findings. A group of researchers from the University at Buffalo put nearly 500 people attending a marijuana advocacy event to the test regarding the accuracy of their cannabis beliefs. The survey revealed that the majority of participants were very much uninformed.
“There is a big discrepancy between what the empirical evidence is saying and what people believe,” says lead author Daniel Kruger, PhD, in a release. “We’ve gone back to the 19th century miracle cure. People are using cannabis and cannabinoids for everything and anything, and we don’t have enough systematic research on whether it’s effective for these conditions. People are stopping or reducing prescription drugs to use medical cannabis. It’s a serious issue.”
The research team set up a table at Hash Bash, an annual marijuana advocacy event at the University of Michigan. During the event, attendees were given surveys asking about their marijuana use and where they usually obtained their information on cannabis. Survey participants were also asked to answer questions including, “Which of the following conditions do you think marijuana is effective in treating?” and “Which of the following conditions/events do you think marijuana use increases the risk for?”
Then, all the responses were compared to the most recent findings by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) regarding marijuana’s medical benefits and risks.
Besides illustrating significant discrepancies between what many marijuana enthusiasts believe the substance is capable of, and what medical science has actually proven, the survey results also revealed a troubling lack of understanding when it comes to potential risks.
For instance, a mere 22% of respondents stated that using marijuana while pregnant isn’t a good idea. “That was really striking,” Kruger comments. “There is evidence that marijuana use could lead to lower birth weights.”
Most respondents stated that cannabis can help treat cancer, depression, and epilepsy. However, according to NASEM, there really isn’t all that much conclusive evidence that cannabis helps any of those three conditions. Many people also said that marijuana helps cure irritable bowel syndrome, despite there being no empirical evidence suggesting that is true.
To be fair, Marijuana is still a Schedule I substance, meaning scientists technically aren’t permitted to perform the clinical trials necessary for official NASEM conclusions. So, it is quite possible that marijuana is indeed helpful in treating these conditions. The real problem here isn’t that marijuana has passionate advocates, it’s that it seems the vast majority have already accepted as fact many benefits that just haven’t been definitively proven — yet.
“These results highlight the disconnect between marijuana advocacy and policies and the lack of scientific evidence. We need more scientifically rigorous research to inform health messages that provide guidance about the use and effectiveness of cannabis and cannabinoids for a wide range of medical conditions,” comments study co-author R. Lorraine Collins, PhD, associate dean for research in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.
The study is published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.