Cannabis has been around for millennia, but our knowledge of the plant is still in its infancy because of marijuana prohibition. That's one of many findings coming out of a massive cannabis report released earlier this week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The committee responsible for the report was made up of representatives from top universities around the world, who reviewed more than 10,000 studies published since 1999 in preparation for the publication. Which is the most substantial report to date on the science of cannabis.
Here are 5 positive takeaways from the latest science on cannabis and cannabinoids (i.e. cannabis extracts and derivatives).
1. Munchies as Medicine
“Thank God for the munchies,” stoner comedy star Tommy Chong once said. Some consumers detest cannabis-induced cravings, but Chong claimed that they saved his life by keeping his appetite healthy while undergoing cancer treatment.
Now science backs up his claim. According to the report, there is firm evidence that oral cannabinoids like nabiximol can treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. And that can save lives by keeping patients healthy while they recover.
2. Pot as Painkiller
One of the biggest takeaways from the report is that marijuana works as a painkiller. Researchers found firm evidence that cannabis is effective for treating chronic pain in adults.
And that data could save lives. Right now, opioids are involved in almost 30,000 overdose deaths a year in America. A health crisis that often begins with patients abusing prescription painkillers like oxycontin.
So cannabis could also become a treatment for America’s devastating opioid crisis.
3. De-escalating M.S.
Researchers also found firm evidence that oral cannabinoids could improve multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms – which include muscle stiffness as well as involuntary muscle spasms.
Left untreated, those symptoms can cause others to escalate, resulting in painful pressure sores and loss of mobility in limbs. So cannabis could help patients with MS regain and maintain a higher quality of life.
4. Cannabis Kills Insomnia
If you’ve ever had a couch guy crash at your pad, you probably know that joints can put people to bed better than guzzling gallons of warm milk.
Now science is backing up that anecdotal evidence. According to the report, there is moderate evidence that cannabinoids are effective for combating sleep disturbances stemming from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.
Moderate evidence means that a finding is supported by many studies of decent quality with very few studies offering opposing findings.
5. More Findings on the Horizon
The above hits highlight therapeutic uses of cannabis that scientists are most sure about. But there are a number of other exciting findings that could become firm evidence in the future.
These include using cannabis and cannabinoids to
- help patients with HIV or AIDS increase their appetite and decrease weight loss due to their conditions.
- treat social anxiety disorders
- alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
- decrease the likelihood of mortality or disability following traumatic brain injuries
Hopefully more research will soon turn this findings into verified breakthroughs.
Banner image: Tommy Chong says cannabis saved his life by keeping his appetite healthy while undergoing cancer treatment.. (Sterling Munksgard/Shutterstock)