Cannabis Better Than Prescription Drugs?

2. Fibromyalgia (FM)

More and more patients with FM are finding effective relief from cannabis.

So say the results of a recent online survey of over 1,300 subjects conducted by The National Pain Foundation and NationalPainReport.com. Among those surveyed, 379 subjects said that they had used cannabis therapeutically. Sixty-two percent of them rated the substance to be “very effective” in the treatment of their condition.

By comparison, among those FM patients who had used Cymbalta (Duloxene), only eight percent rated the drug as “very effective,” and 60 percent said it did “not work at all.” Among those who had used Lyrica (Pregabalin), ten percent said that drug was “very effective,” versus 61 percent who reported no relief. Among those who had used Savella (Milnacipran), ten percent rated the drug as effective, and 68 percent said it was ineffective.

Commenting on the survey results, Dr. Mark Ware — associate professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University in Montreal — told the National Pain Report, “We desperately need someone to step up and explore this potential for the efficacy of cannabis.”

Ware, whose own clinical research has demonstrated inhaled pot’s efficacy in subjects with hard-to-treat refractory pain, added:

“The scientific rationale is there. There are some early preliminary, proof-of-concept clinical trials that demonstrate cannabis may be effective. Now your study adds additional weight that patients are reporting that cannabis may be better than the existing therapies. I think that this really should provide incentives for researchers to take a hard look at clinical trials to really explore that in much more detail.”

Some investigators already have. In 2006, German scientists reported that the administration of oral THC significantly reduced both chronic and experimentally induced pain in patients with fibromyalgia. Subjects in the trial were administered daily doses of 2.5 to 15 mg of THC, but received no other pain medication during the study. Among those participants who completed the trial, all reported significant reductions in daily pain and electronically induced pain.

More recently, Spanish researchers assessed the use of cannabis treatment of Fibromyalgia. A cursory review of the results indicates why so many FM patients are preferring pot over pills.

Investigators reported, “The use of cannabis was associated with beneficial effects on some FM symptoms. … After two hours of cannabis use, VAS (visual analogue scales) scores showed a statistically significant reduction of pain and stiffness, enhancement of relaxation, and an increase in somnolence and feeling of well being.”

3. Epilepsy

By far the most common approach to treating epilepsy is to prescribe antiepileptic drugs. Commonly prescribed drugs include clonazepam, phenobarbital, and primidone. Some relatively new epilepsy drugs includetiagabine, gabapentin, topiramate, levetiracetam, and felbamate. Many medications amplify side effects such as fatigue and decreased appetite. Epilepsy medication also may predispose people to developing depression or psychoses.

Several lines of evidence now suggest that cannabinoid compounds are anticonvulsant and empirical evidence in many children is establishing conclusive evidence that cannabinoid therapy may be the most effective treatment available for epileptics.

In “The Endogenous Cannabinoid System Regulates Seizure Frequency and Duration in a Model of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy”, Robyn Wallace explained that the data not only shows the anticonvulsant activity of exogenously applied cannabinoids but also suggests that endogenous cannabinoid tone modulates seizure termination and duration through activation of the CB1 receptor. By demonstrating a role for the endogenous cannabinoid system in regulating seizure activity, these studies define a role for the endogenous cannabinoid system in modulating neuroexcitation. The endogenous cannabinoid system thus provides on-demand protection against acute excitotoxicity in central nervous system neurons.

See also: High on Health – Cannabinoids in the Food Supply

Anti-convulsant drugs have potentially serious side-effects, including bone softening, reduced production of red blood cells, swelling of the gums, and emotional disturbances. Other occasional effects include uncontrollable rapid eye movements, loss of motor co-ordination, coma and even death. In addition, these medications are far from ideal in that they only completely stop seizures in about 60% of patients.

Large amounts of anecdotal reports and patient case studies indicate the assistance of cannabis in controlling seizures. Cannabis analogues have been shown to prevent seizures. Patients report that they can wean themselves off prescription drugs, and still not experience seizures if they have a regular supply of cannabis.

The British company, GW Pharmaceuticals pursued advanced clinical trials for the world’s first pharmaceutical developed from raw marijuana instead of synthetic equivalents. In response to urgent need expressed by parents of children with intractable epilepsy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now allowing Investigational studies of purified CBD (cannabidiol) for seizures.

Ben Whalley and colleagues at the Center for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics, University of Reading, using mouse models of epilepsy, established safety and showed that CBD and another cannabinoid, CBDV, exert anti-seizure and anti-inflammatory effects. This research came to the attention of families in the US who had loved ones with epilepsy.

The British Medical Association has stated that cannabis may prove useful as an ‘adjunctive therapy’ for patients who cannot be kept satisfactorily free of seizures on current medications. Likewise, the National Institutes of Health workshop considered that this is ‘an area of potential value’, based largely on animal research showing anticonvulsant effects.

Charlotte’s Web is a sativa marijuana strain that has gained popularity as a good option for treating seizures as well as a range of other medical conditions. This medical potency is due to its high-CBD content, which was specifically cultivated by Colorado breeders The Stanley Brothers for a young epileptic patient named Charlotte. This strain is effective with little to no psychoactive effects, making it great for those who don’t want their medication to affect their daily tasks.

4. Multiple Sclerosis

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has alerted the public that patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) have developed serious brain infections after taking the drug Gilenya (fingolimod).

Other drugs like Tysabri are antibody treatments designed to block certain white blood cells that cause MS when they attack nerves. the problem is they have a history of also making patients vulnerable to infection. Biogen and Elan yanked theirs off the market after two cases of the brain disease were confirmed among patients taking the drug; a month later, a third case was confirmed. The FDA allowed the drug to return to the market in July 2006 after they stated benefits outweighed the risks, no doubt with some help from Big Pharma.

GW received government approval in 1998 to develop cannabis-based plant extracts. Their flagship product Sativex is a highly defined extract containing an approximately 50-50 mix of CBD and THC that has been approved by regulators in the UK and more than 20 other countries for treating pain and spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

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