In the upcoming issue on Annals of Internal Medicine, a recent study conducted by University of California on the efficacy of medical marijuana in treating chronic pain and MS showed that the majority of participants believed in effectiveness of medical cannabis, despite the fact that there is no actual scientific data to back up those claims. As stated by the lead author of the study Dr Salomeh Keyhani, “They believe things that we have no data for.” This shows just how well anecdotal evidence can permeate our culture and change societal ideas towards drugs – in comparison to a 2015 survey in which just slightly over half of Americans believed cannabis had medical benefits.
Medicinal Benefits to Cannabis
In another survey conducted by Civilized and PSB which studied 1,600 North American non-cannabis users, 73% of individuals said they believed cannabis had medical benefits.
Unfortunately, the legal status of marijuana on a federal level stops scientists from being able to carry out large-scale, definitive studies on the health benefits of medical cannabis. Currently the only FDA approved cannabis-based medicine is Epidiolex, an anti-seizure medication for children suffering with severe epilepsy produced by the UK company GW Pharmaceuticals. Under federal law, cannabis (and all of its related substances) is categorized as a “Schedule I” status along with drugs like LSD and heroin, which classifies it as having serious risks and no health benefits. If that was really the case, then why have 31 states across America enacted some form of medical cannabis laws?
A recent survey of over 200 oncologists across America showed that while the overwhelming majority – 80% in fact - of doctors will have a discussion with their patients about using marijuana to treat the pain and nausea that comes with undergoing cancer treatments, only 30% felt knowledgeable enough to give their patients adequate advice with regards using medicinal marijuana. With medical cannabis now legal in around 60% of the country in some capacity, the fact that federal laws prevent medical professionals from being fully competent enough to inform their patients about medical marijuana use is a dangerous paradox.
However, the good news is that around half of doctors were still happy to prescribe medical cannabis for their patients, despite their lack of knowledge on the topic. This shows that even our medical professionals who don’t know all that much about it, still trust the overwhelming anecdotal evidence that shows the benefits of using medical cannabis.