New Zealand researchers have found more evidence supporting the therapeutic potential of cannabis in managing pain, sleep disorders, and anxiety. The collaborative research involved scientists from the University of Otago, Victoria University, and the University of Auckland.
The study focused on 213 individuals who consumed cannabis for therapeutic purposes, revealing that nearly 96% reported improvements in their conditions, and with 49% claiming a reduction or complete cessation of their prescription medication.
“This is consistent with findings across multiple studies in Aotearoa and internationally,” said study co-author Dr. Geoff Noller, of the Dunedin School of Medicine’s Bioethics Centre.
The research group aimed to gather data on the participants’ experiences with cannabis, including the quality of the products used, their efficacy, and any side effects experienced. Participants, all of whom had medically diagnosed conditions, were enlisted through a reputable “Green Fairy” and a local cannabis clinic in Auckland.
A “Green Fairy” refers to an individual who provides cannabis to patients for medicinal purposes, often at no cost or for a nominal fee. Despite their crucial role in providing access to medicinal cannabis, especially for those who can’t afford the high costs of legal medicinal cannabis products, Green Fairies operate under the constant risk of prosecution due to the illicit nature of their work as per current New Zealand law.
But back to the study – a majority of participants confirmed the efficacy of cannabis in managing pain (96%), sleeping disorders (97%), and mental health issues (98%). Moreover, 98% of individuals suffering from other conditions such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, and eating disorders also reported improvements from cannabis consumption.
Dr. Noller highlighted an important finding of the study:
“Participants either decreased or stopped their use of prescribed medicines, many of which were opioid-based,” he said, underscoring the potential of cannabis as an alternative to more problematic medications known for negative side effects, including dependency.
However, the research team emphasizes that this should not be a matter of choosing between conventional prescription medicines or medical cannabis. Both approaches have their place, particularly for patients with chronic pain and other conditions unresponsive to traditional methods. The key issue lies in making medicinal cannabis affordable and accessible.
Presently, cost and lack of physician awareness present significant barriers to legal cannabis access in New Zealand. A study by Dr. Noller indicated that the majority of medicinal cannabis users resort to illegal sourcing due to these obstacles, and the New Zealand Drug Foundation’s 2022 State of the Nation report pegged the proportion of those using cannabis for medicinal purposes and still accessing it through illicit channels at 94%.
Dr. Noller urges a review of current policies, particularly those associated with the medicinal cannabis scheme that inhibits access. He also calls for more “real-world studies” and innovative clinical research into the use of medicinal cannabis.
“These attitudes need to change,” Dr. Noller concluded, highlighting the necessity of overcoming the historic stigma of cannabis use in order to further its therapeutic potential.
The full study has been published in the journal Drugs, Habits and Social Policy.