Cannabis and cannabis-based medicines: potential benefits and risks to health

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Report of a working party

The illegality of cannabis in many countries has perhaps obscured proper examination of cannabis-based medicines in clinical practice. On the one hand, many sufferers from multiple sclerosis testify to its efficacy in relieving pain and spasticity, while others have serious concerns about its ability to cause dependence and possibly lead to harder drugs.

This report (published in 2005) takes an objective and careful look at the evidence on cannabis-based medicines. Their ability to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis and chronic pain, to reduce the sickness caused by chemotherapy, and to counteract the loss of appetite in AIDS patients, is examined. Each is considered in the light of the pharmacological effect of cannabinoids, their efficacy in comparison to other medicines, and the results of clinical trials. Their efficacy in treating a range of other conditions is also assessed, along with their overall safety, including the possible link between cannabis and psychosis.

The fact that the body produces its own cannabis-like substance has raised interesting possibilities for research into drugs for the treatment of obesity, heart disease and osteoporosis.

With a clear patient information section, the report provides an informative guide in a contentious area of medicine for general practitioners, hospital doctors, psychiatrists and patients suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Contents

  • Chemistry and pharmacology of cannabinoids
  • Cannabinoids and the treatment of multiple sclerosis
  • Cannabinoids as a treatment for chronic pain
  • Cannabinoids, appetite regulation and body weight
  • Other potential medicinal uses of cannabinoids and cannabis-based medicines
  • Safety of cannabis and cannabinoids
  • Appendix: Patient information

The full report is available to download as a pdf.

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