Published on August 3rd 2023
We’ve rounded up some of the most recent research in the field of cannabis medicine, including its potential therapeutic effects in a number of debilitating chronic conditions.
While more studies are needed, new findings indicate potential for cannabis as a tool to manage symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS )- or motor neurone disease – Parkinson’s, epilepsy and chronic pain. Meanwhile, researchers also suggest that a history of cannabis use may not be associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.
Read on to take a closer look at the research.
ALS patients report benefits from cannabis
Researchers in France carried out what is thought to be the first large-scale study exploring the ‘real-life’ experiences of patients using cannabis to manage symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
ALS, also known as motor neurone or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a rare neurological condition leading to loss of muscle control and eventual paralysis.
Over 20% of survey respondents admitted to using cannabis, the majority of which used CBD and/or what the authors describe as ‘cannabis weed’. Patients reported benefits in both motor (rigidity, cramps, fasciculations) and non-motor (sleep quality, pain, emotional state, quality of life, depression) symptoms.
The authors conclude: “The findings support the need for further research on the potential benefits of cannabis use for the management of ALS motor and non-motor symptoms. Cannabinoids could be an important addition to the spectrum of treatment options for ALS symptoms.”
CBD leads to ‘dramatic reduction’ in epileptic seizures
A recent observational study adds to the growing evidence base to support the safety and efficacy of CBD in the treatment of epilepsy.
Researchers evaluated the experiences of 42 patients who had received a prescription for CBD. Results showed that 29% of participants experienced a reduction in seizure frequency of more than 80% and 23% saw a reduction of more than 30%.
The authors conclude: “CBD was a safe and effective therapeutic option for highly drug-resistant patients, leading to a dramatic reduction in seizure frequency in over one-fourth of them, including off-label indications.”
Cannabis reduces chronic pain levels – even at low doses
An oral spray containing CBD and THC was found to produce clinically significant reductions in chronic back and neck pain.
Researchers in Australia assessed the safety and efficacy of an oromucosal spray containing 10mg THC and 25mg CBD in 28 patients with moderate to severe back or neck pain who were unresponsive to over-the-counter non-opioid analgesics. They found that patients experienced a reduction in pain even at the lowest dose.
“There were significant reductions in pain [at] all doses,” the authors concluded.
“There was also a reduction in pain interference in all domains including general activity, mood, walking ability, normal work, relationships, sleep, and enjoyment of life by dose”.
Cannabis ‘not associated’ with increased risk of high blood pressure
Researchers in the US have concluded that a history of cannabis use is not associated with an increased risk of either high blood pressure or hypertension.
They assessed the relationship between cannabis consumption and blood pressure/hypertension in a nationally representative sample of nearly 10,000 middle-aged adults. The authors determined that those with a history of using cannabis for the past year had no higher risk of either high blood pressure or hypertension as compared to non-users.
They conclude: “The lack of association found in the present study contributes to the observational evidence suggesting frequent cannabis use over decades may not be associated with increased blood pressure or hypertension in middle aged US adults.”
Effects of CBD and THC in Parkinson’s patients
In a bid to better understand the effects of CBD and THC in Parkinson’s disease, researchers compared the experiences of patients prescribed CBD/THC treatment with others not taking any.
Even in a small sample there was a wide variation in the products and administration methods being used, as well as the perceived effects.
Individuals who were taking CBD/THC had lower scores on a scale of cognitive impairment but ‘no detectable differences’ in more specific neuropsychological measures. They also had more non-motor symptoms, but no differences in motor symptom levels. Some also reported improved pain levels, sleep, and reductions in anxiety.