April 29, 2014
Pros And Cons Of Using Medical Marijuana For Brain Disease Therapy
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
From multiple sclerosis to Tourette syndrome to Parkinson’s disease, medical marijuana research has been investigating multiple neurological conditions as potential targets for treatment and a new research review by the American Academy of Neurology has reported on the success of these various research endeavors.
"This review by the world's largest association for neurologists is intended to help neurologists and their patients understand the current research on medical marijuana for the treatment of certain brain diseases," said review author Dr. Barbara S. Koppel, of New York Medical College in New York. "The AAN review also highlights the need for more high-quality studies of the long-term efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in the treatment of neurologic diseases."
According to the review, medical marijuana in pill or oral spray forms could be used to remedy some symptoms of MS, but do not seem to be useful in managing drug-induced motions in those with Parkinson's disease. The researchers said they couldn't find evidence to determine if medical marijuana is beneficial in addressing motor issues in Huntington's disease, tics in Tourette syndrome and seizures in epilepsy.
The review found that medical marijuana was effective in treating MS symptoms such as spasticity, certain types of pain, numbness and an overactive bladder. While evidence of the drug’s effectiveness was produced from marijuana pills or sprays, studies involving the smoking of marijuana did not produce enough information to show effectiveness, the researchers said.
"It's important to note that medical marijuana can worsen thinking and memory problems, and this is a concern since many people with MS suffer from these problems already due to the disease itself," said Koppel.
The report noted several safety issues related to medical marijuana use. Negative effects reported in at least two scientific studies were nausea, greater weakness, attitudinal or mood variations, thoughts of suicide or hallucinations, wooziness or fainting signs, exhaustion, and feelings of inebriation. There was a single report of seizure.
They added that mood shifts and suicidal thoughts are a particular concern for patients with MS – who have an elevated risk for suicide or depression.
"What we're really hoping is, a lot more studies will come from this," Koppel said. "There's a place for it, and more work will need to be done to find out where its indications will be."
Currently legal in 21 states and Washington, DC – medical marijuana is only available for study through one federally-approved source, a reality that is said to hamper research. Because the drug has been legalized by states, it does not go through the Food and Drug Administration approval process.
With the medical marijuana legalizations and the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Washington State and Colorado, the drug appears to be gaining widespread mainstream acceptance and losing much of its former negative stigma.
In fact, a joint poll released in March by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal revealed that Americans think sugar is more of a health hazard than marijuana. The two news agencies said they surveyed 1,000 adults and found 15 percent choosing sugar as the most harmful substance with respect to overall health, compared to 8 percent for marijuana and 49 percent for tobacco.