Public faith in marijuana outpaces medical research, study finds — But Bob Livingston disagrees

(Editor’s note: We have published this article from The Philadelphia Inquirer via Tribune News Service to give you an example of propaganda. See our notes at the end where we refute the claims made by reporter Ian Haydon in this story. –BL)

Despite limited evidence, Americans have an increasingly positive view of the health benefits of marijuana. Nearly two-thirds believe pot can reduce pain, while close to half say it improves symptoms of anxiety, depression, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis, according to a new online survey of 9,003 adults.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among the 30 states, along with the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico, that have legalized medical marijuana. But scientists say hard data on the health effects of pot — positive and negative — are largely missing. Because marijuana is considered an illicit drug by the federal government, research has been scant, though there are efforts underway in Pennsylvania and nationally to remedy that.

“I am not surprised at all (by the survey). At the same time, I’m a little bit disturbed,” said Antoine Douaihy, senior academic director of addiction medicine services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He was not involved in the study.

Douaihy, who helped legislators craft Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana bill, believes “organizations are not educating the public well” when it comes to what is known about the benefits and risks of smoking, vaping, and eating marijuana.

“We don’t have enough studies that demonstrate the benefits of medical cannabis,” he said. “And the perceptions about the risks related to cannabis are going down, particularly among adolescents.”

In the survey, a majority of Americans — 65.7 percent — said that marijuana can help with pain management. “There is some evidence which is moving in that direction, but we need more studies,” said Douaihy. Among the 14.1 percent of respondents who reported using marijuana in the past year, 87.6 percent identified pain management as a benefit.

Other purported benefits included the treatment of diseases such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis; relief from stress, anxiety, or depression; and improved sleep and appetite. Close to a quarter of all respondents — 23.3 percent — also believe using marijuana can make it easier to get off other medications.

“Unfortunately we don’t know much about that at all,” said Douaihy. Apart from the lack of evidence for disease treatment, few studies have examined the interactions between cannabis and other prescription drugs. Patients with chronic health problems often take many medications. Adding marijuana to that list worries Douaihy, whose research has largely focused on treating patients with complex conditions such as addiction coupled with psychiatric disorders.

The survey, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was conducted by researchers at the University of California campuses at San Francisco and Davis, the Northern California Institute for Research and Education (a nonprofit veterans health research institute); and Columbia University.

In addition to unsupported beliefs about marijuana’s benefits, the survey also found that more than one in five marijuana users believe pot has no risks at all.

Although the risk of developing dependence on marijuana is lower than with opioids, for instance, “we have clear evidence that (marijuana) is addictive,” said Douaihy, though half of all respondents denied the link. Among marijuana users, only 20.8 percent recognized the potential for addiction. “One out of six adolescents who smoke cannabis gets addicted to it, and one out of 10 adults can get addicted and have serious consequences,” such as withdrawal, Douaihy said.

Among all respondents, 18 percent said that exposing adults to secondhand marijuana smoke is somewhat or completely safe. For marijuana users under 35, roughly 26 percent agreed. That’s despite the fact that inhaling any form of particulate matter damages cardiovascular health, the authors noted.

Why is public perception at odds with medical research? The survey authors cite aggressive cannabis marketing, “slanted” media coverage, and the ongoing trend toward legalization, including for recreational use.

“It’s concerning,” said Salomeh Keyhani, lead study author and professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. “Commercialization has been accompanied by marketing. The internet is inundated with articles that include inaccurate information that describe marijuana as not only safe but potentially beneficial for a wide variety of conditions,” she said by e-mail.

Keyhani said there is evidence that purified cannabinoids have some effect in the treatment of neuropathic pain, as well as nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Cannabinoids may also improve pain and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, she noted.

But she cautioned that “the idea that smoking marijuana prevents health problems has no evidence to support it. Smoking any substance is hazardous to health as inhalation of particulate matter is harmful.”

Douaihy said the medical community “wants to be open-minded. But at the same time, I’m not going to undermine the risks related to the use of cannabis.”

Keyhani, who received funding for the survey from the National Institutes of Health and the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, believes a “coherent federal policy” is needed for researchers to make progress, as well as more investment in research and public health education.

— Ian Haydon
The Philadelphia Inquirer


©2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Our Take

Government doublespeak on the health benefits of marijuana knows no bounds.

The National Cancer Institute, an agency of the federal government, now lists on its website recent studies showing marijuana kills cancer cells. Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Agency continues to oppose any and all efforts to remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, claiming it has “no currently accepted medical use.”

According to NCI, preclinical studies of cannabinoids have shown:

  • Cannabinoids can kill cancer cells in animals while protecting normal cells.
  • Cannabinoids protects against colon inflammation and may potentially reduce the risk of colon cancer in mice.
  • In a laboratory study of delta-9-THC in hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cells showed that cannabinoids damaged or killed the cancer cells. The same study of delta-9-THC in mouse models of liver cancer showed that it had antitumor effects. Delta-9-THC has been shown to cause these effects by acting on molecules that may also be found in non-small cell lung cancer cells and breast cancer cells.
  • In a laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells, CBD was shown to have caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells. Studies in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors.
  • A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in human glioma cells showed that when given along with chemotherapy, CBD may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells. Studies in mouse models of cancer showed that CBD together with delta-9-THC may make chemotherapy such as temozolomide more effective.
  • In animal studies, delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids have been shown to stimulate appetite and can increase food intake. Reduced appetite is a common problem experienced by chemotherapy patients.
  • Cannabinoids may prevent nerve problems (pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, and muscle weakness) caused by some types of chemotherapy, according to animal studies.
  • Cannabinoid receptors found in brain cells may have a role in controlling nausea and vomiting. Animal studies have shown that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids may act on cannabinoid receptors to prevent vomiting caused by certain types of chemotherapy.

The federal government has argued and continues to argue that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no medicinal value even while it patents marijuana extracts for health-related uses and as it was posed to grant a license to GW Pharmaceuticals for treating patients with multiple sclerosis with a cannabinoid-based drug called Epidiolex.

Cannabis marijuana medications have also been used with complete safety for the treatment of many health problems, including asthma, glaucoma, nausea, tumors, epilepsy, infection, stress, migraines, anorexia, depression, rheumatism and arthritis.

The NCI website claims, “No clinical trials of Cannabis as a treatment for cancer in humans have been found in the CAM on PubMed database maintained by the National Institutes of Health.” Yet, PubMed, aka the National Institutes of Health, aka another government agency, lists a number of studies that have been conducted. Also, the Schedule I listing severely limits or prohibits the ability of most research organizations to hold clinical trails.

The truth is, marijuana and its uses have been studied far more than most drugs the FDA approves for use on the general public – drugs that cure nothing but merely cover symptoms and generate billions of dollars for Big Pharma.

The federal government – and most local governments — is far more interested in using marijuana as a revenue stream in its fake “War on Drugs” than in allowing medical marijuana in its many forms to improve the lives of people with health problems.

All the “War on Drugs” has accomplished is to create suffering and death, a large prison population, a host of people with criminal records for victimless crimes, a more militarized police regime and great loss of liberty. –BL


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