Speaking at the second World Cannabis Congress, Philippe Lucas—Vice President, Global Patient Research and Access for Tilray—turned a few preconceived notions about cannabis on their head.
Starting off his speech on 'The Impact of Medical Cannabis on the Use of Opioids and Other Drugs', Lucas revealed that he gets very frustrated when people say there is no research on cannabis. This statement is contrary to what you may hear in the mainstream media, and even from some cannabis experts.
Having been in the industry for over 25 years both as a patient and patient provider, Lucas has seen a rise in clinical and observational cannabis research, but also points out that "there are over 30,000 articles on PubMed" on cannabis as a therapeutic treatment. "And, there is lots of research to look forward to. Coming out of McGill, there is research about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), [elsewhere there's] phase 2 and phase 3 study on nausea associated with chemo. We really broke through by providing cannabis to U.S. researchers. Including clinical and observational research on autism [and] HIV/AIDS."
The second stereotype that he turned on its head was that of the average user. Based on data analysis by the University of British Columbia, 57 percent of users of medical cannabis are female, very well-educated, and on average 51 years of age. Lucas said that many doctors think the average user is 18 years old and male; however, "more and more women are turning to medical cannabis because they aren’t being well-treated by traditional medicines" – particularly to treat things like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, anxiety and more.
What’s even more interesting was the correlation Lucas made between the high incidence of people self-identifying as using cannabis for chronic pain, and the comorbidity of chronic pain and mental health – in other words, those who have chronic pain have high incidence of mental health issues. In fact, six out of the ten reasons why people identify as using cannabis are related to pain or mental health. Some of the conditions that were included in the studies he quoted are (including the ones mentioned above): insomnia, depression, stress, headaches/migraines, epilepsy, nausea and chemotherapy induced loss of appetite and GI issues.
Just prior to closing his solo presentation and jumping into a panel discussion on cannabis and the opioid crisis, he brought up some statistically significant outcomes. They were:
- When research started, baseline opioid use was reported by 28.1% of patients whereas after six months of consistent cannabis use, that dropped to 11%;
- After six months of consistent cannabis treatment, mean opioid users went down 78% in milligrams of opioids used per day, and;
- With daily (sometimes more) cannabis use, they saw a 21% increase in retention of treatment for opioid agonist therapy (using medications to prevent withdrawal and reduce cravings).
At the same time that researchers were seeing these results, they saw that across psychological and physical metrics, quality of life was increasing. And other studies confirmed the same results.
"This is very convincing data that cannabis is helping," said Lucas.