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Medical marijuana: Good evidence for some diseases, weak for others

Reuters , Wednesday 24 Jun 2015
Photo: Reuters
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Moderate- or high-quality evidence supports the use of marijuana for some medical conditions, but not for others, according to a fresh review of past research.

After reviewing 80 randomized trials that included nearly 6,500 people, researchers found moderate support for using marijuana to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms and involuntary movements.

 The evidence wasn't as strong to support marijuana's use for nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, sleep disorders, HIV-related weight loss and Tourette syndrome.

Also, any benefits of marijuana or cannabis use must be weighed against the risk of side effects, which include dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, sleepiness and euphoria, according to the study's lead author.

"Individuals considering cannabinoids as a possible treatment for their symptoms should discuss the potential benefits and harms with their doctor," said Penny Whiting of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust in the UK.

She also told Reuters Health by email that other reviews of medical marijuana suggest prolonged use may be tied to an increased risk of psychosis.

The new review, which is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.

The researchers searched medical databases for past randomized controlled trials, which are considered the "gold standard" of medical research.

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