REALity March 2018 –
There is little research to support any benefit from medical marijuana. The little evidence that exists suggests using marijuana as medicine may be doing more harm than good, according to the family doctors’ association advisories in Alberta and British Columbia. The Alberta College of Family Physicians has distributed more than 32,000 advisories to family physicians, summarizing the lack of scientific literature on the subject. In November, 2017 it sent out a second directive describing the adverse effects of marijuana reported by some of the few studies available. These include hallucinations, paranoia, dizziness and low blood pressure.
This advisory was distributed because of the increasing pressure on family physicians from patients requesting marijuana for medical reasons. Health Canada has released data indicating that the number of clients registered with licensed medical marijuana producers, jumped to more than 200,000 by June, 2017 which is about 2.7 times greater than the 75,166 people registered at the same time in 2016. In fact, registrations have more than tripled in both 2016 and 2015. Medical marijuana has become a challenging issue in Canada.
Health Canada has also published a lengthy information bulletin on medical marijuana which is topped with a disclaimer warning that marijuana is not an approved therapeutic product, and the department does not endorse its use.
Research on Medical Marijuana Difficult to Obtain
Research on medical marijuana is not easy to obtain. In the first place, drug companies do not obtain any benefit from researching the product. The latter only conduct research when it has developed a drug for which it hopes to obtain a patent. There is no patent obtainable on medical marijuana. As a result, there is no profit in the drug manufacturers researching it. While a positive outcome in research of medical marijuana might not have much of an effect on the drug industry’s bottom line, a negative outcome, on the other hand, could seriously harm profits. Hence, the drug industry has absolutely zero interest in researching medical marijuana.
Also, in order to undertake competent research on medical marijuana, it is necessary that there be a control group to be given a placebo to determine if there is any difference with actual marijuana use. Those taking the placebo, however, know that they have not been given marijuana since they do not experience any of its effects when consuming the placebo. Until such time as a credible placebo is developed (if ever) that simulates marijuana’s effects, looks and smells for all intents and purposes, but does not have the actual ingredients in marijuana that is being tested, it is difficult to prove that marijuana provides medical relief.
The outstanding problem with medical marijuana remains that doctors are hesitant to prescribe marijuana to their patients due to a lack of knowledge around dosage. In addition, a report published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease which studied 26,000 people, of which 1000 were regular marijuana users, indicates the users showed a global reduction of blood flow in nearly all regions of the brain, but especially to the hippocampus. Alzheimer’s disease affects the hippocampus first as it progresses in patients, and according to one of the co-authors of the study, Dr. Cyrus Raji, of the University of California, what surprised the team of researchers was the low blood flow in the brains of those examined. It was already known that marijuana was toxic to the brain. If drug companies are reluctant to fund marijuana research why doesn’t the federal government do so?
It recently provided a limited sum of money for research, but the reason that it refuses to fund intense research was suggested by Michael DeVillaer at McMaster University, an expert on the spread of drug problems and analysis of drug policy. According to DeVillaer the federal government’s hesitation to devote more funding to cannabis research may stem in part from a reluctance to find evidence of harm from a product that produces so much tax revenue. He went on to say, “We’d hope they would put their responsibilities to support public health research over their hunger for revenue, but research just doesn’t ever seem to have been part of the government’s agenda.”