VA launches weed information website

In collaboration with Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), the Veterans Health Administration has launched a new website dedicated to science communication and information about marijuana. It is intended as a continuously updated synthesis of scientific consensus on marijuana research, readily available to the public, although it is intended as a professional resource for healthcare workers.

Even in states where marijuana is completely legal, physicians providing services to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cannot legally prescribe medical marijuana or assist a patient in obtaining legal marijuana products. This is because marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, which is illegal at the federal level. VA doctors are legally allowed to discuss marijuana with patients, and veterans cannot be denied benefits for participating in state-legal marijuana programs, but many doctors and patients fear always the consequences of having broached the subject of cannabis in spite of everything. VA workers can be fired for legal use of marijuana on their own time, and possession of cannabis at any VA medical center is still strictly prohibited, even though adult-use marijuana is legal in that state.

To promote a healthier approach to discussing marijuana for veterans, the Systematically Testing the Evidence on Marijuana, or STEM, website was launched to share non-judgmental, evidence-based information about cannabis. The site systematically brings together studies and presents a compilation of their findings, methodologies and evidence gaps.

The site doesn’t seem to take a position on whether cannabis should be legal or banned. He reliably relayed information when two studies concluded that the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) prevented COVID-19 infections, for example, or when he reported that 68% of Americans believe the pot should be legal. It also acknowledges that the criminalization of cannabis has been proven to increase racial inequality.

The website hosts a state-by-state breakdown of the status of marijuana, legally and practically. It lists rates of cannabis use and addiction, as well as each state’s MCLaSS (Standard Medicalization of Cannabis Laws Scale) score, which determines how much medical marijuana is treated the same as drugs. traditional pharmaceuticals. Ohio has the highest MCLaSS score, followed by New York. Vermont and Oregon have the most cannabis use, with nearly 19% of the population having used weed in the past month according to information from STEM.

What evidence is published

Several “evidence summaries” are available on topics such as cannabis use during pregnancy and its effectiveness for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Cannabis use during pregnancy, according to 48 studies, appears to increase the risk of premature births, and there appears to be a tenuous link between a pregnant mother smoking marijuana and underweight newborns, although certainty evidence is weak. There do not appear to be any studies linking edible cannabis or tincture use to pregnancy problems. STEM concludes: “High-quality studies that consider cannabis formulation and dosage, as well as timing and duration of use, are needed to help elucidate associations between prenatal cannabis exposure and perinatal results.”

Regarding chronic pain, the compilation of results highlights the chemical composition of different cannabis products to show the correlation between THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis), CBD (cannabinol, a non-psychoactive but major component of plant) and pain. Formulas with high THC content resulted in the highest pain-relieving effects (as well as the highest rate of dizziness, which one would expect from a psychoactive drug), while a comparable amount of THC and CBD offered the second best results.

STEM points out that “whole plant formulations and CBD-predominant formulations remain unstudied,” which severely limits what we can know about the real consequences of patients self-medicating with cannabis herbal home remedies. real. “Most of the studies included patients with neuropathic pain. The effects of cannabis on people with other forms of chronic pain (such as low back pain or arthritis) have not been well studied,” the site warns.

STEM’s understanding of the effect of cannabis on PTSD is based on just seven studies, which show little to no effects in either direction. The lack of direct research is a huge hurdle, given that PTSD is one of the top conditions leading to the prescription of medical marijuana. “There is no evidence of effects of cannabis on quality of life,” reports STEM. “There is a need for high-quality randomized cannabinoid studies to determine if cannabis has any effects on PTSD symptoms.”

Population studies show that states where medical cannabis is legal “have lower average annual opioid overdose mortality than states without medical cannabis laws; a reduction in opioid-related deaths; a reduction in Medicare-funded opioid prescriptions,” writes Benjamin J. Morasco, PhD.

The one consistent finding from researchers at Oregon Health and Science University is the overwhelming lack of diversity and comprehensiveness in cannabis research, which is riddled with gaps hiding vital knowledge. Medical marijuana may already be widely prescribed by doctors and used for self-medication by large swaths of the US population, but formal scientific research on the effectiveness of cannabis for most of the problems it is associated with is sorely lacking. Even when a topic has been studied, such as chronic pain, there is a lack of research that focuses on different chronic conditions or uses different methods of cannabis ingestion, or different dosages, or CBD-dominant formulations, or cannabis-based medications. whole plants.

Cannabis research has been virtually banned in the United States for 50 years. While it was technically legal to study the cannabis plant for most of America’s recent history, researchers have been forced to go through countless legal hoops, sometimes taking years to obtain the right license. permission to study anything. Only cannabis grown by the University of Mississippi, the only federally approved research-grade marijuana grower, could be legally investigated due to roadblocks set up by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). University of Mississippi cannabis has repeatedly been found to be below average, barely psychoactive, closer to industrial hemp than commercial marijuana.

Whether cannabis is really harmful or medically useful is an important knowledge that mankind must acquire. Allowing scientific research is harmless and would make a compelling case for individuals and anti-cannabis factions, if science could actually find evidence of harm. Regardless of the reality, more scientific data collected on marijuana is a net positive for all.

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