And now the US is embracing medicinal cannabis again – it’s legally available in 25 states for conditions such as Aids, anorexia, arthritis, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraine, muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, seizus and sevreere nausea.
The list is for comparison: in the UK, the only indication for medical cannabis is for painful, tightening muscle spasms (spasticity) in multiple sclerosis. Sativex, an oral spray that uses two chemical extracts from the cannabis plant – delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – was the first medicinal cannabis licensed in the UK. Medicinal cannabis, you see, does not mean treating yourself by smoking weed. Cannabis comes as a proper drug – Sativex costs too much for the health watchdog Nice to recommend and only a handful of specialist doctors will prescribe it.
Last week’s report from the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reformrecommended medicinal cannabis for chronic pain, spasticity, nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy and for anxiety. There is good evidence to use cannabis products or “natural” cannabis, they said, for all these conditions – and moderate evidence for use in sleep disorders, fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder. The evidence came from a review based on 20,000 references – although, in places, they were quite generous in their rating of the evidence.
A systematic review of the same question – the benefits and adverse effects of medicinal marijuana – was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last year with similar conclusions – but found the evidence overall to be weaker, and not there at all for anxiety.