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Medical uses of cannabis — a scientific review

I don’t know how we got to this point, but there are so many claims about the medical uses of cannabis, you would think it was the miracle drug of all time. Smoke some cannabis and suddenly everything from pain to cancer to neurological disorders disappear.

Since I don’t take medical claims lightly, and I always want to determine if there is good, solid clinical evidence, what is called science-based medicine, supporting these claims, I decided to dig into a few of them. And what I found is that either the evidence is lacking or that the evidence shows it doesn’t work. I’m not surprised.

I personally have no issue with smoking marijuana, since other “drugs”, like alcohol, are completely legal and socially acceptable. I think that the legalization of cannabis will reduce much of drug trafficking, reduce the burden of law enforcement and penal system costs, and have other beneficial effects for society.

But if you’re going to make wild claims about the medical benefits of cannabis, which don’t stand up to real scientific evidence, then I got to say “stop.” If you want to smoke cannabis because it relaxes you, fine, but if you’re going to get into my face with fake medical information, don’t be insulted if I laugh heartily.

This article will tackle a few of the most popular claims, but it won’t cover them all. Leave a comment if you want me to look into a medical claim about cannabis that I didn’t cover.

Read More »Medical uses of cannabis — a scientific review
alternative medicine cancer

Treating cancer with alternative medicine — it’s dangerous

As I have mentioned before, I occasionally answer questions on Quora regarding alternative medicine treatments for cancer. Of course, there are few, if any, alternative “medicines” that have been shown to treat cancer effectively in large, randomized, double-blind clinical trials. If they actually worked, we’d just call it medicine.

Most of the answers are supported by scientific evidence — alternative medicine treatments for cancer have been shown to not work or have not been shown to work. Either way, it would be unethical or even immoral for anyone to recommend these unscientific treatments.

Of course, a lot of people want to push the claim that cannabis cures cancer. It doesn’t (see Note 1).

A paper was published a few years ago that examined the survivability of individuals with curable cancers that refused conventional cancer treatments (usually surgery plus adjuvant therapies like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or immunotherapy) and chose alternative medicine. We will get to that article, but spoiler alert — alternative medicine doesn’t work for cancer and may be dangerous.

Read More »Treating cancer with alternative medicine — it’s dangerous
marijuana pain

Study shows that a placebo is better than marijuana for pain relief

A new systematic review and meta-analysis published in a respected journal show that marijuana is no different than a placebo in treating pain. I consistently read anecdotal claims that somehow cannabis and its derivatives are useful. in treating pain, but when I looked at the evidence, it appeared that there really wasn’t anything there.

Pain management is one of the most common reasons people report using medical cannabis. According to a US national survey, 17% of respondents who had reported using cannabis in the past year had been prescribed medical cannabis. When it comes to self-medication, the numbers are even higher – with estimates that between 17-30% of adults in North America, Europe, and Australia report they use it to manage pain. But does this mean that there is evidence that it actually works for reducing pain?

Real scientists decided to look at the same claims about marijuana and pain and have come to the same conclusion — there’s not much supporting evidence. Now I know the comments section will be filled with people that want to tell me how cannabis is a miracle drug for pain and should replace opioids. But I am one who only follows the evidence, and it’s seriously lacking.

Like I always do, we’re going to take a look at this study and see what it tells us about marijuana and pain.

Read More »Study shows that a placebo is better than marijuana for pain relief
marijuana cure cancer

Does marijuana cure cancer? Robust scientific evidence is lacking

Subjectively, one of the wilder claims one can find on social media is that marijuana can cure cancer. Or cannabis prevents cancer. It doesn’t matter what form – smoked, eaten, hemp oil (which is manufactured from the seeds of cannabis plants that don’t contain much THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active hallucinogenic agent of cannabis) – some advocates for cannabis will try to make the argument that it is some miracle drug for cancer.

But is it? Yes, there are systematic reviews that indicate that cannabis may be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy. But research has generated negative results in some well-done clinical trials and some positive results in others. But that has nothing to do with actually curing or preventing cancer itself, just dealing with the effects of the treatment.

Furthermore, a 2022 systematic review (again, the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research) showed that “evidence from RCTs (randomized clinical trials) that medicinal cannabis increases appetite in people with cancer is limited.

However, this article isn’t about appetite or nausea related to cancer, it’s about whether cannabis can cure or treat cancer.

So what has real clinical and scientific research said about whether marijuana can cure cancer? Well, not to give away the conclusion, but not very much. Let’s take a look.

Read More »Does marijuana cure cancer? Robust scientific evidence is lacking
cannabis sleep

Cannabis might be detrimental to sleep — new study

It’s clear that medical claims about cannabis, like improved sleep, are often used as a strawman for the attempts to get marijuana legalized. However, contrary to the popular belief about cannabis contributing to good sleep, it might actually be detrimental according to a new peer-reviewed study.

There are many of us that think that legal restrictions against marijuana was outright ridiculous, especially when other drugs, like cigarettes and alcohol, are completely legal. But where we draw the line is trying to push a narrative that cannabis has many medical benefits — most were overexaggerated or non-existent.

Marijuana cannot treat any of the 200 or more cancers. It cannot treat nonexistent vaccine injuries. Marijuana cannot treat most neurological conditions. I could go on and on, but scientific studies of most claims about cannabis as a treatment for anything have ended up with nothing.

So let’s take a look at the claims about cannabis and sleep.

Read More »Cannabis might be detrimental to sleep — new study
vaccine adverse effects

Marijuana does NOT treat vaccine adverse effects – more pseudoscientific nonsense

In the world of pseudoscience, I have run across the merging of my favorite topics – marijuana treats vaccine adverse effects. Yes, you read that right, quacks are claiming that marijuana can be used to treat those extremely rare vaccine adverse effects.

We all know about the pseudoscience surrounding the vaccine adverse effects myth – it’s almost always based on a misreading of the vaccine package inserts, anecdotes, false claims, and assuming correlation implies causation. Rarely, vaccines can cause a serious adverse effect, because no medical procedure is perfectly safe – however, the potential benefits far outweigh the risks of the vaccination.

So let’s take a look at this new nonsensical claim that marijuana can treat vaccine adverse effects. Grab a bag of Doritos Cool Ranch (you know, for the munchies) and enjoy.

Read More »Marijuana does NOT treat vaccine adverse effects – more pseudoscientific nonsense

Secret cancer cure – is Big Pharma hiding it from us?

Here is one of the most annoying questions asked on the internet – “Is Big Pharma hiding a secret cancer cure just to make bundles of money?” Seriously, I think a see a variation of that question every day on sites like Quora, where people ask occasional intuitive but mostly ridiculous questions to get answers from so-called experts. 

Since I end up answering this question every day, I thought maybe I should put down my thoughts in an article here. It will allow me to cut and paste the answer right from here – a true sign of either extreme preparedness or laziness. Maybe both.

It’s clear that a lot of the “secret cancer cure” myths arise in the typical pseudoscience websites. They’re pushing “natural” cures that are 100% effective in “curing” every known cancer with no side effects. What’s the evidence? You just need to trust them.Read More »Secret cancer cure – is Big Pharma hiding it from us?

Marijuana medical benefits

Marijuana medical benefits – large review finds very few

Most states in the USA, and many countries across the world have passed legislation that allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Some of this legislation is dependent on various claims, many of which appear to be based on weak or nonexistent scientific evidence. Of all of the purported marijuana medical benefits, only a handful are supported by real evidence.

This review, Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda (pdf, which can be downloaded for free by registering or can be found online here), published by the influential and prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, examined more than ten thousand scientific studies that involved cannabis and various medical conditions. The value of such a review is that it examines not only the quantity of evidence supporting a claim but also the quality of such evidence. In the end, it gives much more weight to high-quality evidence.

I know many comments will drop on this article that “you haven’t read that incredible study published in Journal of Weed and Cancer Cures” – that misses the point. The National Academies is a highly respected institution, made up of the most respected scientists in the USA. And the committee that created this review is made up of leading public health, cancer, epidemiology, pharmacology, and psychiatry, all fields germane to understanding clinical and basic scientific research into cannabis.

Moreover, a review like this does two things – it gives more weight to well done clinical trials and pre-clinical studies, and it eliminates poorly done and biased studies. This is how science works – examine ALL of the evidence before coming to a conclusion. Pseudoscience, on the other hand, is to have a conclusion, like “weed cures cancer,” and only seeking evidence that supports that preordained conclusion.

Furthermore, and this cannot be stressed enough, this review is not opinion. It is not belief. It is not cherry picking. It is a critical analysis based on thousands of studies published in peer-reviewed journals. This is not published in a pro-cannabis website that cherry picks, misinterprets, and overrates a one-off study in an obscure journal. The report is over 400 pages long – most of you will not read even a few pages, because it is a dense scientific review written by some of the top scientists in the USA. Before you denigrate the study, I would suggest you read it carefully.

To save you time from reading the 400+ page opus, which I did, I divided up the medical evidence from strong to none of the evidence in support of benefits and of risks from smoking cannabis. Not to bury the lede, but there are only three conditions for which there is strong, overwhelming evidence benefits of marijuana. Just three.Read More »Marijuana medical benefits – large review finds very few

secondhand marijuana smoke

Secondhand marijuana smoke – it may be unhealthier than cigarettes

I’ve always been amused by marijuana advocates – they vastly overstate the benefits and understate the risks, sort of the opposite of the anti-vaccine religion. Current research on cannabis shows that there is little robust evidence supporting most of its claimed medical benefits – for example, it does not cure cancer, despite what you see on the internet. On the other hand, there has been only a small amount of research examining the risks of marijuana smoking. But a 2016 article in a major journal examined the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke, and the results should cause us to examine laws to regulate public smoking of marijuana in the same way we do cigarettes.

Here in California, we would be calling the local swat teams to round up all the cigarette smokers in a public space, if the air has even a hint of cigarette smoke. Ironically, no one seems to care about cannabis smoke wafting over us and our children. Maybe some of us just assume that secondhand marijuana smoke was inherently safer than secondhand cigarette smoke. What does the scientific evidence say?Read More »Secondhand marijuana smoke – it may be unhealthier than cigarettes

vaccines save lives

Vaccines save lives – a response to some ridiculous claims about drugs

The internet is filled with crackpot ideas. I know, that’s a shocker. In today’s crazy, we have this article, “Six pharmaceutical drugs that immediately destroy your health.” Setting aside the odd “pharmaceutical drugs,” let me counter that with “pharmaceuticals save lives.” Even more, vaccines save lives (since they attack two of my favorite vaccines).

I don’t genuflect at the altar of Big Pharma. I realize they are a big business that need to generate more and more profits, and they frequently make decisions that favor profits over ethics. But for good or bad, more often than not, pharmaceuticals and vaccines save lives. And there’s plenty of evidence of that.

But when some random rant on the internet tries to claim that important drugs (and the list of six are worthwhile drugs) are dangerous and destroy your health, it needs to be addressed.

So let me examine their claims. This should be interesting.Read More »Vaccines save lives – a response to some ridiculous claims about drugs