Studies Find High Medical Marijuana Use

Two new Canadian studies conclude that more patients are using marijuana for multiple sclerosis and epilepsy than researchers had thought, Health Day News reported June 8.

One study of 136 epilepsy patients from the University of Alberta Epilepsy Clinic found that nearly half had used marijuana in their lifetime; one in five had used it in the past year; 15 percent had used it in the past month; 13 percent used marijuana more than 48 days a year; and 8 percent used it more than half the days of the year.

“Studies suggest one-third of the general population uses alternative healthcare on a yearly basis,” said study author Dr. Donald Gross. “Not surprisingly, patients tend to look to alternative therapies in situations where conventional medicine has been unsuccessful, in particular for chronic medical situations. The finding of increased marijuana use in epilepsy patients with longer duration of disease and frequent seizures is consistent with the findings regarding other forms of non-conventional therapies.”

The second study of 205 multiple-sclerosis patients in Halifax, Nova Scotia, found that 20 percent of patients who were medical-marijuana users used the drug more than once a week. Eight patients said they used marijuana more than once a day.

“We have learned several things from these patients,” said study author Mark Ware of McGill University in Montreal. “Firstly, that pain and spasms are not the only reasons for use, and the effects of marijuana on mood, sleep, and stress are important areas of therapeutic need and should be addressed in clinical trials. Secondly, there is a wide variance in doses used, ranging from single puffs to more than a gram at a time. Clinical trials will also need to include early dose-finding phases and allow for subject variability in dose adjustments.”

He added, “Thirdly, marijuana appears to be well-tolerated, though some subjects experienced intolerable side effects and deterioration of symptoms.”

The studies appear in the June 8 issue of the journal Neurology.