There are more than 2 million people registered in medical cannabis programs across the country. Even with so many people using marijuana for medicinal purposes, very little is considered “settled science” when it comes to the effectiveness of cannabis to treat disease. Programs run by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have shown efficacy in certain instances – such as managing the seizures which result from pediatric epilepsy, alleviating anorexia in AIDS patients, as well as easing nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy treatments. However, the determination that medical cannabis has broad health benefits has not been forthcoming – perhaps due to its federal designation as a Schedule 1 drug. 

However, a recent study performed in partnership by Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Realm of Caring Foundation has given medical cannabis advocates reason to be hopeful that the climate may be changing. The purpose of the study was to determine if medical cannabis users experienced any actual health benefits from their usage of the substance. The study, published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in June 2020, provides early indications of real medical benefits for cannabis, resulting in calls for more funding and clinical trials to begin as soon as possible.

Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shares that the results were surprising to him – but not in the way you think. The participants reported less pain, better sleep, and reduced anxiety, which was expected. But the study also disclosed that medical cannabis users took less prescription medication than their peers and were less likely to be admitted to a hospital or visit an emergency room. 

“It wasn’t surprising to me that people claim to feel better when using medical cannabis,” Vandray stated, “but it was unexpected to see that these people utilized less health care resources.”

He continued, “When we evaluated people before and after using medical cannabis, and then saw the exact same changes seen in the cross-sectional comparison between cannabis users and controls, that’s when we knew we had a compelling validation showing actual medical benefit.”

Study Parameters and Results

Survey participants included more than 800 medical cannabis users and approximately 460 people not using the drug. The data revealed to researchers that medical cannabis users experienced:

* 8% better quality of life on average

* 9% reduction in pain scores

* 12% reduction in anxiety scores.

In regards to the utilization of traditional healthcare resources, medical cannabis users seem to be enjoying better health than those who do not take medical marijuana for their conditions. The data indicated that medical cannabis users:

* take 14% fewer prescription medications

* were 39% less likely to have visited an emergency room in the previous month

* were 46% less likely to have been admitted to a hospital during the last month

The results were compelling enough for experts to continue more targeted research in this area. “This study was a 30,000-foot view of the landscape, and now we need to drill down to see what conditions are actually benefited from medical cannabis use,” says Vandrey.

Vandrey’s team has plans to study epilepsy, anxiety, and autism in more depth in the future, emphasizing the real benefits medical cannabis provides.

For 2 million patients who rely on medical cannabis every day for relief and treatment, the results of these studies are validation for their own experience. As researchers continue to collect real data on the effects of medical cannabis on chronic conditions and overall health, the medical community is bound to take note.

Neurology of Cannabis founder Dr. Daniel P. Stein has utilized cannabis in the treatment of thousands of patients across a wide spectrum of health conditions. If you are interested in learning more about if medical marijuana can help you, call our Sarasota offices for more information.