With more and more scientific evidence being accumulated, it is becoming clear that cannabis is not just a plant used by some for recreational purposes. Researchers are reporting new findings, according to which the compounds found in cannabis can help alleviate a number of symptoms and improve cognitive function.
In a new study carried out by a team of scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Israel), it was revealed that consumption of cannabis can relieve chronic pain, even if it is caused by cancer. The results are quite promising, as some of the participants managed to stop taking other drugs for pain relief, and the side effects they experienced were minimal.
The study covered a cohort of seniors age 65 or older who were suffering from chronic pain. There were 2,746 patients from Israel who had various diseases causing them pain, such as cancer, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, and Parkinson’s. All of them were monitored for six months. The ways they consumed the cannabis they were prescribed differed: 25% of the patients smoked it, around 67% used oil infused with cannabis, and the rest vaporized it. Over 60% of the study participants had to take pain-numbing medications to alleviate symptoms, most of which were associated with cancer.
The researchers asked the patients to assess their pain using a 10-point scale before and after treatment. After six months of cannabis intake, their pain level was reduced from 8 to 4 in 93% of cases. Almost 60% of the participants reported that their quality of life, which used to be defined as “very bad” or just “bad”, improved and could now be considered “good” or even “very good”.
More than 18% had their condition improved to such an extent that they no longer needed to take opioid analgesics or at least could reduce the dosage. The total number of patients who reported significant or moderate health improvement made up 70%.
The salutary effect was not accompanied by serious adverse effects: dizziness and dry mouth were experienced by 9.7% and 7.1% of the participants respectively, suggesting cannabis can be a substitute for opioid-based drugs, as far as treatment of particular diseases and conditions is concerned.
The study is important for many reasons. As the population is aging rapidly, especially in developed countries, the need for more cost-effective – and simply effective – medications and therapies is becoming more and more urgent. With healthcare costs increasing every year and senior Americans representing 14% of the US population, it is evident that looking for better ways to relieve pain can be beneficial both for the health of citizens and to the government.
In some countries, the share of senior (65 or older) cannabis users is 33% (as far as cannabis consumption for medical uses is concerned). Despite the fact, there are few researches into how the plant compounds affect this group of people. The new study is a contribution to this field, in which a lot remains unrevealed.
Pain relieving is not the only cannabis medical use being researched. It is reported that THC, the chemical responsible for the notorious mind-altering effect, can boost learning and memory in seniors. While the compound has been tested only on rodents, recent findings suggest cannabis can help halt cognitive function decline.
Another research looked into other effects of cannabinoids, and how it affects the nervous system. It appears that they may have therapeutic use and be effective at treating some neurodegenerative diseases, as well as reduce excitotoxicity.
Admittedly, there is enough evidence to conclude that cannabis could have medical uses. However, since there may be adverse effects, it is highly recommended that you consult a doctor before using it, as consumption of cannabis could harm your health as well.