Cannabis Should Be Part Of ‘Modern Medical Arsenal,’ Researchers Say

BEERSHEBA, Israel — While cannabis has been used medicinally for hundreds of years, yet only recently have studies delved into determining whether it is safe and effective. Now, a group of researchers with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel want medicinal cannabis to become as conventional as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. They are urging the medical community to recognize the treatment as another powerful tool of modern medicine.

“We feel it is absolutely imperative to not only present the current state of affairs, but also propose the development of the scientific research program within the paradigm of evidence-based medicine,” said Victor Novack, study lead and a professor at the university, in a statement.

Anecdotal evidence over the centuries has shown cannabis to have medicinal benefits for pain management, as a sleep aid and for other medical needs. Although recent legal restrictions have made it difficult to research, a growing number of studies since 2012 are beginning to turn the tide.

For this latest research, the authors conducted two major studies tracking cannabis use in cancer patients and the elderly. In the first study, cancer patients needing help with sleep problems and pain relief were given cannabis. Of the 2,970 patients tracked between 2015 and 2017, 95.9 percent found cannabis to help with both issues. The second study analyzed the use of cannabis in elderly patients suffering from several health problems, including pain and cancer, during the same time period. Again, the researchers established that cannabis is safe and effective in the elderly and may actually reduce the amount of prescription medicines needed, including opioids.

Researchers are calling for more evidence-based research that includes data from double-blind randomized-controlled trials. They also hope that future studies will clear up some of the ethical issues involved in prescribing cannabis and will lead to a better understanding by doctors of when cannabis might be useful as well as recommended dosages.

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“Our ultimate aim should be to scientifically establish the actual place of medical cannabis derived products in the modern medical arsenal,” said Novack.

The study, along with research on other uses of medicinal cannabis and its derived products, was presented in a March 2018 special cannabis-related issue of the European Journal of Internal Medicine.

“This Medical Cannabis special issue covers everything you wanted to know about medical cannabis,” said Novack. “We hope that it will provide physicians with a contemporary summary of different aspects related to medical cannabis and guide choices for indications where the evidence is sufficient to initiate the treatment. We also hope the articles will facilitate the conversation on the future of medical cannabis research and its accommodation into mainstream medicine.”