Patients Using Medical
Marijuana Than Thought
Despite limited evidence of marijuana's
medicinal value, it's being used by many people with multiple
sclerosis and epilepsy who believe the drug is an effective treatment,
say two Canadian studies in the June 8 issue of Neurology.
One study included a survey of
136 patients from the University of Alberta Epilepsy Clinic. Nearly
half said they'd used marijuana in their lifetime; one in five
had used it in the past year; 15 percent had used it in the past
month; 13 percent used marijuana more than 48 days a year; and
8 percent used it more than half the days of the year.
Odds of frequent marijuana use
were 10 times greater for those who had had epilepsy for at least
five years, and eight times greater for those who had frequent
The researchers suggest that epilepsy
patients who experience more frequent seizures may be more likely
to try alternative treatments such as marijuana.
"Studies suggest one-third of the
general population use alternative health care on a yearly basis,"
study author Dr. Donald Gross said in a prepared statement.
"Not surprisingly, patients tend
to look to alternative therapies in situations where conventional
medicine has been unsuccessful, in particular, for chronic medical
situations. The finding of increased marijuana use in epilepsy
patients with longer duration of disease and frequent seizures
is consistent with the findings regarding other forms of non-conventional
therapies," Gross said.
It may also be possible that increased
marijuana use results in increased seizure frequency, he added.
The second study included a survey
of 205 multiple sclerosis patients in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Of
the 34 patients who said they were medical marijuana users, more
than half believed it was a very effective treatment and more
than half also said they'd used it within the previous 24 hours.
Nearly 20 percent of the patients
said they used marijuana more than one time a week. Eight of them
said they use it more than once a day.
"We have learned several things
from these patients," study author Mark Ware, of McGill University
in Montreal, said in a prepared statement.
"Firstly, that pain and spasms
are not the only reasons for use, and the effects of marijuana
on mood, sleep and stress are important areas of therapeutic need
and should be addressed in clinical trials. Secondly, there is
a wide variance in doses used, ranging from single puffs to more
than a gram at a time. Clinical trials will also need to include
early dose-finding phases and allow for subject variability in
dose adjustments," Ware said.
"Thirdly, marijuana appears to
be well-tolerated, though some subjects experienced intolerable
side effects and deterioration of symptoms," he added.
Here's what the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration says about medical
Reference Source 101