Medical marijuana has made a startling difference in the lives of patients who use it to treat pain and nausea, according to a recent study out of Israel.
The report, presented at the International Jerusalem Conference on Health Policy in May, collected evidence from patients both with and without cancer, including some who use cannabis as medicine. These patients were cleared to use marijuana by Israel’s health ministry.
Israel is the leading grounds for research into the benefits of medical marijuana, as almost every other government in the world bans extensive study of the drug. That includes the United States, where pot is illegal for any use under federal law.
The Jerusalem study was spearheaded by research professor Pesach Shvartzman of Ben-Gurion University. A large majority of patients in the survey reported that marijuana helped relieve the pain and nausea caused by cancer and its treatments, Shvartzman said.
Marijuana shown to ease nausea and pain
The study marked the first time Israeli scientists have examined data on actual marijuana users. There are 22,000 patients in the country who are allowed to use medicinal cannabis, but there has been little research into their individual circumstances.
Almost all the patients in the Jerusalem study reported that they turned to marijuana after every other conventional medical approach failed. Many of the patients reported minor side effects, including dry mouth, drowsiness, fatigue, and hunger. Researchers tracked each patient for two years.
Roughly 40 percent of participants in the study got marijuana through a doctor’s recommendation. Seventy-five percent of them smoked the drug, while 21 percent used hash oil and the rest vaped. Less than 10 percent of the patients who used cannabis quit after first being surveyed.
No rise in teen marijuana use despite legalization
The Israeli report came out on the same day U.S. officials released new data showing a decline in the number of teenagers with problems tied to marijuana use. That drop tracks with the legalization of cannabis in four Western states and the District of Columbia.
That data came from a study of more than 216,000 teens in the United States, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. It showed adolescent pot use dropped 10 percent between 2002 and 2013, even as legalization spread.
Medical marijuana first appeared in California in 1996, six years before the start of the U.S. study. More than two dozen states now allow the drug as medicine, including the four that have legalized it for recreation: Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.
The U.S. study examined statistics from teens aged 12-17 over a 12-year time frame. Among other conclusions, researchers found that the number of teens suffering from cannabis dependency and other problems related to the drug dropped by 24 percent in that time.