Mar 24

Medical Cannabis Reduces the Use of Prescription Drugs

In the rallies of the 1960s the clarion call was, “Power to the People!” In the information age of online blogs and forums, a similar theme is echoed in the “Wisdom of the Masses”. For example, today, more and more people are taking their health into their own hands. Case in point, medical cannabis users are reported to have a greater degree of trust in medical cannabis compared to mainstream prescription drugs.

Citing a Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine study entitled Preferences for Medical Marijuana over Prescription Medications Among Persons Living with Chronic Conditions…, the Chicago Tribune reported that all participants indicated a deep dissatisfaction with prescription medications.

Researchers tracked the use of prescription drugs by chronic sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, spinal cord injury/disease and cancer enrolled in the State of Illinois Medical Marijuana Program. The results of the first-ever peer-reviewed scientific study on this topic indicated that medical cannabis may help reduce the use of opioids and other prescription medications.

The research, conducted at Chicago’s DePaul College and Rush University, studied 30 participants at an average age of 45. Those enrolled in the study concluded that cannabis relieved their pain faster than prescription drugs, with fewer side effects.

In the study, cannabis was primarily substituted for opioids in various degrees, but also for anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants and OTC pain relievers. Based on the encouraging results, lead researcher, DePaul Assistant Professor Douglas Bruce, expects that cannabis may ultimately be used to treat an entire range of conditions, including PTSD, cancer and fibromyalgia.

Patients losing patience

When the story was posted to drugabuse.com, the comments looked like this:

Madison S.
I like this topic. It makes marijuana more recognized in the field of medicine. I think Marijuana will undergo more tests before it can be legal in some places but I’m confident it is on its way to becoming one of the top treatments for many ailments.

Freddie A.
Many people are seeking pain relief from gastro-related illnesses but the medicines they are taking today often make internal inflammation worse. The study of marijuana as an alternative is not a joke. It can help change our society.

Scott A.
I like that you talked about how cannabis could be used to eventually replace anti-inflammatories. I have been looking for ways to deal with arthritis pain. It would be nice to use something besides opioids for inflammation because it would be less addictive.

April F.
Cannabis works great! My pain level has dropped astronomically, my sleep has improved (I actually SLEEP now), my appetite, desire… everything is coming back. I feel so fortunate!!

The Chicago Tribune independently interviewed a 26-year-old woman (unconnected to the study) who said that cannabis helped her beat her battle with drug abuse. She had become addicted to several of the almost 20 different drugs prescribed to treat her condition and was quoted as saying, “Medical cannabis is the reason I’m opiate-free now. It gave me my life back by making my pain manageable – without inebriating me or having me form another dependence.”

Previous research at the University of Georgia discovered that medical centers with cannabis dispensaries reported fewer opioid overdoses. In addition, a brief published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states that have legalized marijuana reported a 25% lower average death rate per year due to opioids.

“One of the most compelling things to come out of this, is that people are taking control of their own health and most providers would agree that’s a good thing,” concluded Dr. Bruce. However, he warned that “the lack of provider knowledge around what cannabis does and doesn’t do, the difference in products and ingestion methods and dosing, is all kind of a Wild West.”

From Farm to Pharma

In efforts to tame that “Wild West”, many companies, medical centers and research institutions around the world are concentrating their knowledge and experience to take a more pharmaceutical approach to the development of medical cannabis.

Although cannabis is commonly used for medical purposes, today, its only therapeutic considerations are scent, strain or the ratio of its two most well-known ingredients, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Limiting the considerations to these three characteristics is unwarranted because the plant contains literally hundreds of different compounds and little is yet known about their potential synergistic interactions.

“New and more specified cannabis products must be developed to comply with medical standards for the use of the plant,” explained Prof. Hinanit Koltai of Israel’s Volcani Institute of Plant Science. “We have to create full molecular profiles of cannabis-based drugs and then test various mixtures of compounds for therapeutic activity and effectiveness.”

Redefining cannabis as a medicinal: (1) Extract key elements, (2) Analyze chemical makeup, (3) Create molecular profiles, (4) Identify active compounds and synergistic mixtures, (5) Define biological pathways targeted by the cannabis-derived molecules, (6) Synthesize/purify them, (7) Characterize the ADME/Tox for the newly-identified active molecules, (8) Estimate therapeutic doses, and (9) Breed and designate cannabis strains for a specific activity or indication. (Image: European Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 132 (2019) 118–120)

To design and develop this new generation of cannabis-based drugs, “we need to accurately characterize absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination-vs-toxicity (ADME/Tox) and identify therapeutic doses,” Dr. Koltai added. “The creation of pharma-grade cannabis products is a pressing unmet medical need worldwide.”