Despite current federal law, research efforts are yielding significant therapeutic value.
In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a report on the state of cannabis research. Its central finding? There is “conclusive or substantial evidence that marijuana or related compounds can effectively treat chronic pain, nausea caused by chemotherapy treatment for cancer, and spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.” More research on both the benefits and risks of marijuana is called for, according to a reviewof the findings explaining that researchers who want to study the drug still face significant obstacles.
The continued Schedule I listing of cannibus by the DEA remains the central roadblock to more research. This is because of the many bureaucratic hurdles the law creates. The DEA report also acknowledged another barrier, noting the limited supply of marijuana for researchers in the US.
In spite of regulatory challenges, research and innovation in the sector is cultivating innovation. For example, according to information released from a large-scale controlled clinical study presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 69th Annual Meeting in Boston, therapies containing cannabidiol may reduce seizures in children and adults with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), a severe form of epilepsy by as much as 50%. Cannabidiol, said the AAN, is a molecule from the cannabis plant that does not have the psychoactive properties that most people associate with ingesting or smoking marijuana.
Children and adults with LGS have multiple kinds of seizures, including drop seizures and tonic-clonic seizures, symptoms that incur loss of consciousness and convulsions. Although the drop seizures of LGS are often brief and relatively non-life threatening, seizures can cause injuries and accidents that send people to the emergency room.
Any reduction in drop seizure frequency, said AAN, is a benefit. Studies reveal such seizures are hard to control and do not typically respond well to therapeutic intervention. "Our study found that cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise difficult to control," said study author Anup Patel, MD, of Nationwide Children's Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus. "This is important because this kind of epilepsy is incredibly difficult to treat. While there were more side effects for those taking cannabidiol, they were mostly well-tolerated. I believe that it may become an important new treatment option for these patients."