The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is calling for more research on the use of medical marijuana for brain, spine and nervous system disorders.
“The current medical marijuana legislation being passed by policymakers across the country, which promotes marijuana-based products as treatment options for various brain and nervous system disorders, is not supported by high-level medical research,” says position statement author Anup Patel, with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the AAN. “There may be some safety concerns for marijuana-based products, especially for long-term use in patients with these diseases, as to date it has not been well-studied.”
The AAN supports the reclassification of marijuana-based products by the federal government from their current status as a Schedule I drug to improve access for study of marijuana or cannabinoids under approved research protocols.
The AAN does not advocate for the legalisation of marijuana-based products for use in brain and nervous system disorders at this time, Patel states, as further research is needed to determine the benefits and safety of such products. This is especially important in the cases of people with underlying brain disorders and in children whose developing brains may be more vulnerable to the toxic effects of marijuana, according to the position statement.
“We recognise that there may be potential use for these agents in the treatment of some brain and nervous system disorders, but there is not sufficient evidence to make any definitive conclusions regarding the effectiveness of marijuana-based products for many neurologic conditions at this time,” Patel says.
In March 2014, the AAN published a guideline on complementary alternative therapies, such as medical marijuana, to treat multiple sclerosis. In April 2014, the AAN published a systematic review on the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected brain and nervous system disorders, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Tourette syndrome.
The position statement also notes that many cannabis preparations used in studies are not available in the USA. “It is not appropriate to extrapolate the results of trials of standardised preparations to other, non-standardised, non-regulated cannabis products that may be commercially available in states with laws supporting the use of medical marijuana,” Patel comments.