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Home
> Library > Health
Reports
> Recent Research on
Medical Marijuana

Recent Research on Medical
Marijuana

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Emerging Clinical Applications For Cannabis &
Cannabinoids
A Review of the Recent Scientific
Literature, 2000 — 2008

Get the PDF Version of this Document

Medical
Conditions

Foreword

Alzheimer’s Disease

ALS
Diabetes
Mellitus

Dystonia
Fibromyalgia
GI Disorders
Gliomas
Hepatitis C
HIV
Hypertension
Incontinence
Multiple Sclerosis

Osteoporosis
Pruritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sleep Apnea

Tourette’s
Syndrome

Despite continued political debates regarding the legality of
medicinal marijuana, clinical investigations of the therapeutic use
of cannabinoids are now more prevalent than at any time in history.
A search of the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed website
quantifies this fact. A keyword search using the terms
"cannabinoids, 1996" reveals just 258 scientific journal articles
published on the subject for that year. Perform this same search for
the year 2007, and one will find over 3,400 published scientific
studies.

While much of the renewed interest in cannabinoid
therapeutics is a result of the discovery of the endocannabinoid regulatory system, some of this
increased attention is also due to the growing body of testimonials
from medicinal cannabis patients and their physicians. Nevertheless,
despite this influx of anecdotal reports, much of the modern
investigation of medicinal cannabis remains limited to preclinical
(animal) studies of individual cannabinoids (e.g. THC or cannabidiol) and/or synthetic cannabinoid agonists
(e.g., dronabinol or WIN
55,212-2
) rather than clinical trial investigations involving
whole plant material. Predictably, because of the US government’s
strong public policy stance against any use of cannabis, the bulk of
this modern cannabinoid research is taking place outside the United
States.

As clinical research into the therapeutic value of
cannabinoids has proliferated exponentially, so too has
investigators’ understanding of cannabis’ remarkable capability to
combat disease. Whereas researchers in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s
primarily assessed cannabis’ ability to temporarily alleviate
various disease symptoms — such as the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy —
scientists today are exploring the potential role of cannabinoids to
alter disease progression. Of particular interest, scientists are
investigating cannabinoids’ capacity to moderate autoimmune
disorders such as multiple
sclerosis
, rheumatoid
arthritis
, and inflammatory
bowel disease
, as well as their role in the treatment of
neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s
disease
and amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis
(a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s
disease.)

Investigators are also studying the anti-cancer
activities of cannabis, as a growing body of preclinical and
clinical data concludes that cannabinoids can reduce the spread of
specific cancer cells via apoptosis (programmed cell death) and by
the inhibition of angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels).
Arguably, these latter trends represent far broader and more
significant applications for cannabinoid therapeutics than
researchers could have imagined some thirty or even twenty years
ago.

HOW TO USE THIS REPORT

As states continue to
approve legislation enabling the physician-supervised use of
medicinal marijuana, more patients with varying disease types are
exploring the use of therapeutic cannabis. Many of these patients
and their physicians are now discussing this issue for the first
time, and are seeking guidance on whether the therapeutic use of
cannabis may or may not be appropriate. This report seeks to provide
this guidance by summarizing the most recently published scientific
research (2000-2008) on the therapeutic use of cannabis and
cannabinoids for 17 separate clinical indications:

* Alzheimer’s
disease

* Amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis

* Diabetes
mellitus

* Dystonia

* Fibromyalgia

* Gastrointestinal
disorders

* Gliomas

* Hepatitis C

* Human
Immunodeficiency Virus

* Hypertension

* Incontinence

* Multiple
sclerosis

* Osteoporosis

* Pruritis

* Rheumatoid
arthritis

* Sleep apnea

* Tourette’s
syndrome

In some of these cases, modern science is now
affirming longtime anecdotal reports of medicinal cannabis users
(e.g., the use of cannabis to alleviate GI
disorders
). In other cases, this research is highlighting
entirely new potential clinical utilities for cannabinoids (e.g.,
the use of cannabinoids to modify the progression of diabetes.)

The
diseases profiled in this report were chosen because patients
frequently inquire about the therapeutic use of cannabis to treat
these disorders. In addition, many of the indications included in
this report may be moderated by cannabis therapy. In several cases,
preclinical data indicates that cannabinoids may halt the
progression of these diseases in a more efficacious manner than
available pharmaceuticals. In virtually all cases, this report is
the most thorough and comprehensive review of the recent scientific
literature regarding the therapeutic use of cannabis and
cannabinoids.

For patients and their physicians, let this
report serve as a primer for those who are considering using or
recommending medicinal cannabis. For others, let this report serve
as an introduction to the broad range of emerging clinical
applications for cannabis and its various compounds.

Paul
Armentano
Deputy Director
NORML | NORML
Foundation
Washington, DC
January 24, 2008

* The author
would like to acknowledge Drs. Dale Gieringer, Gregory Carter, Steven Karch, and
Mitch Earleywine, as well as NORML interns John
Lucy, Christopher Rasmussen, and Rita Bowles, for providing research
assistance for this report. The NORML Foundation would also like to
acknowledge Dale Gieringer, Paul Kuhn,
and Richard
Wolfe
for their financial contributions toward the publication
of this report.

** Important and timely publications such as
this are only made possible when concerned citizens become involved
with NORML. For more information on joining NORML or making a
donation, please visit: http://www.norml.org/join. Tax deductible
donations in support of NORML’s public education campaigns should be
made payable to the NORML Foundation.

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updated: Jan 23, 2008
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