Review of JAMA article on MMJ?

In June of 2015, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published an article titled Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. This article looked at cannabis and cannabinoid drugs and their efficacy for treating specific conditions. This is an excellent article for anyone who has or is considering obtaining a medical cannabis card. In this blog post, we will look at this article in depth to see what it truly says about the effectiveness of medicinal marijuana.

This research study attempted to evaluate the effectiveness of cannabinoids for the following conditions: nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, appetite stimulation in HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis and paraplegia, depression, anxiety disorder, sleep disorder, psychosis, glaucoma, or Tourette syndrome. It is important to note that the researchers only looked at randomized clinical trials that had been performed. What this means is that a research trial was only included if it had a control group of patients who did not undergo medicinal marijuana treatment. This is an important distinction as the majority of current studies on medicinal marijuana do not compare a medicinal marijuana group to a control group. There is, of course, a good reason for this distinction. It is very time consuming and expensive to perform randomized clinical trials, thus limiting the institutions that are able to adequately conduct these studies. It is also important to note that randomized controlled trials are the most scientifically sound and provide the most reliable data.

The conclusions from the research team state that there is moderate quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity and there is low quality evidence suggesting improvements in nausea and vomiting, weight gain associated with HIV/AIDS, sleep disorders, and Tourette syndrome. There is one big problem with stating results in this manner. Using the terms ‘moderate’ and ‘low’ are subjective and have the potential to be biased by the researchers personal feelings on medicinal marijuana. A better way to look at the results is through the statistics, which are objective and not predisposed to this same bias. When looking at the statistics, an improvement was demonstrated in nausea and vomiting, reduction in pain, and a reduction in spasticity. While a statistical improvement was not noted in weight gain, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, psychosis, glaucoma, and Tourette syndrome, the results regarding these conditions were all noted to be inconclusive. This often times is due to the low number of patients in each study that makes it very difficult to observe any statistical difference. This is noted as the power of the study and many of the studies reviewed were underpowered. Essentially, this means that while there is good research that supports the use of medicinal marijuana with certain conditions, the majority of the research published on medicinal marijuana is inadequate. While this article is a great start to understanding the health benefits of medical marijuana, it is necessary to continue to push the boundaries of medical marijuana research to fully understand all of its health benefits.

As a patient with a medical marijuana card, it is always important to consult with your medical marijuana doctor regarding the latest research to make sure you are receiving the best treatment for your condition. We hope this blog has provided you with a better understanding of some of the most current research available on medical marijuana and can make that discussion with your medical marijuana doctor just a little bit easier