Is the actual benefit of therapeutic cannabis high enough to justify its generalization? This is the question that countries, including Europe, which have not yet authorized such use, intend to answer. Australian researchers now suggest that medicinal cannabis has the potential to “significantly” improve the overall quality of life of patients with certain chronic illnesses.
Australia, South Korea, Thailand, and the United States (some states) are among the nations that allow cannabis for therapeutic purposes, but this is far from being the case everywhere in the world. A new study led by Australian researchers could shed new light on the question of the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis on the quality of life of certain patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses, suggesting beneficial effects on health and levels of fatigue of those involved.
This work was led by researchers from the University of Sydney, Australia, where the prescription of therapeutic cannabis has been authorized since 2016. For the purposes of this research, the scientists interviewed 2,327 patients suffering from chronic illnesses (chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, depression) to whom medicinal cannabis was prescribed between November 2020 and December 2021. The survey focused in particular on their health-related quality of life, their relationship to pain and sleep, but also on their levels anxiety and depression, before starting therapy, then after two weeks of treatment, and subsequently once a month for three months.
Published in the journal PLOS One, the findings suggest “statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements” in overall health-related quality of life and fatigue in patients with the aforementioned chronic conditions, during the first three months of treatment. study. The researchers say they also observed “significant improvements“moderate to severe anxiety and depression. Only patients suffering from insomnia did not report overall improvement in their sleep problems. But the authors specify in a press release that “more research and Development on the cannabis oil products used in this study may be necessary in order to successfully treat (these) patients.
Limits not to be neglected
According to the authors of the study, “These results suggest that medical cannabis may be effective in helping manage previously incurable chronic illnesses“. It should nevertheless be noted that this work is essentially based on self-declaration, ultimately not allowing a direct link to be established between the improvement in quality of life and the use of therapeutic cannabis. The scientists ‘have also not quantified the adverse effects within the framework of this study, nevertheless indicating “that 30 patients officially withdrew from the study due to ‘undesirable side effects’“.
Numerous scientific studies have established, in recent years, a link between the therapeutic use of cannabis and the reduction of pain in patients suffering from various diseases, including cancers. The fact remains that this research follows one another, and sometimes contradicts each other, some mentioning improvements considered insignificant or weak. This is the case of work made public in 2021, in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), by a panel of international experts. They only came up with “a weak recommendation for a trial of non-inhaled medical cannabis or cannabinoids for people with chronic pain, if standard care is not enough.”
Their research was based on a meta-analysis of 32 randomized trials”exploring the pros and cons of medical cannabis” for the treatment of chronic pain. At the end of their work, the researchers concluded that “mild to very small improvements in pain intensity, physical functioning, and sleep quality“, as well as a “close balance between the benefits and harms of medical cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain“.
While the proliferation of studies on the subject does not seem to dispel the vagueness surrounding the use of therapeutic cannabis, the impact of which is considered real but limited, Europe announced last March the extension of its experimentation started in March 2021. Initially launched for a period of two years with 3,000 patients, it aims in particular to determine whether therapeutic cannabis can ultimately be generalized in the country.