On January 12th, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released a study detailing their recommendations on the use of cannabis and cannabinoids. The study was based on a comprehensive examination of more than 10,000 research abstracts published after 1999 covering the effects of cannabis on 11 categories of health topics and concerns, including therapeutic; cancer incidence; respiratory disease; prenatal, perinatal, and neonatal outcomes; psychosocial and mental health concerns. The full study can be found here (link).
One of the major concerns from the research committee was that there are specific regulatory barriers, including the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance, that impede the advancement of cannabis and cannabinoid research. However, the study did detail several positive results on the impact of cannabis and cannabinoids for therapeutic usage including;
- Conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of treatment for chronic pain in adults, antiemetic’s in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (oral cannabinoids) and for improving patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms (oral cannabinoids).
- Moderate evidence of the effectiveness of improving short-term sleep outcomes in individuals with sleep disturbance associated with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis (cannabinoids, primarily nabiximols (Trade name Sativex)).
- Limited evidence of the effectiveness of increasing appetite and decreasing weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS (cannabis and oral cannabinoids), improving clinician-measured multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms (oral cannabinoids), improving symptoms of Tourette syndrome (THC capsules), improving anxiety symptoms, as assessed by a public speaking test, in individuals with social anxiety disorders (cannabidiol) and improving symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.
The committee had determined that “conclusive” in this case represented evidence with many supportive findings from good-quality studies with no credible opposing findings. “Moderate” evidence being findings from good- to fair-quality studies with very few or no credible opposing findings and “limited” relating to supportive findings from fair-quality studies or mixed findings with most favouring one conclusion. Even with the Committee’s concerns on the regulatory barriers limiting proper access and information, these findings represent a major step forward for an industry still searching for wide spread legitimacy.
The NASEM committee added a number of recommendations on the advancement of research and understanding the long-term effects of cannabis including;
- To develop a comprehensive evidence data base on the short- and long-term health effects of cannabis use (both beneficial and harmful effects) that addresses key gaps in the current evidence.
- To promote the development of conclusive evidence on the short- and long-term health effects of cannabis use.
- To ensure that sufficient data is available to inform research on the short- and long-term health effects of cannabis use.
- The development of a committee of experts tasked to produce an objective and evidence-based report that fully characterizes the impacts of regulatory barriers to cannabis research and that proposes strategies for supporting development of the resources and infrastructure necessary to conduct a comprehensive cannabis research agenda.
Basically the committee has concluded that there is conclusive evidence to show the use of cannabis and cannabinoids has tremendous therapeutic results but the total impact and long terms results are not yet known due to a lack data, insufficient research and regulatory barriers.