While advocates and critics welcome more studies on medical cannabis, federal law has made it difficult to conduct research. But now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering fast-tracking approval for cannabidiol under the brand name Epidiolex for treating children with Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of infantile-onset, drug-resistant epilepsy syndrome (as described below).
That’s good news.
We also look at a couple of other studies including long-term health consequences on teens and the impact cannabis has on Alzheimer’s disease.
Clinical Trials at Lurie Children’s Hospital a First
We heard stories about parents who find, through a process of elimination, what cannabis strain helps in controlling epileptic seizures in their children. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is different. It is taking part in what is believed to be the first clinical trial in the U.S. of cannabidiol (CBD), an oil extracted from cannabis that contains none of the THC, or the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Preliminary results from the study showed it cut seizures in half for patients.
The study at Lurie is using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study—referred to as the ‘gold standard of medical research’—to address any controversy related to the results. Dr. Linda Laux, who leads the Lurie study, reported that patients had better concentration, sleep and behavior, and some became more verbal and showed better coordination.
Long-Term Health Consequences on Teens
Concern about the long-term health consequences of cannabis on teens has been a topic for anti-cannabis proponents for a while. However, research results published by the American Psychological Association in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors show no links to physical or mental health issues including depression, psychotic symptoms or asthma in any of the groups studied. Researchers controlled for cigarette smoking, other drug use, access to health insurance and other factors. The targeted group consisted of 408 males from adolescence to their mid-30s.
Past studies have suggested that marijuana use and later development of psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations, leading researchers to look at the cannabis association to disease and other health conditions. But they didn’t find such associations.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which a progressive loss of memory and learned behavior occurs. Over 4.5 million Americans are afflicted with this disease. Though no approved treatments or medications stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, cannabinoid therapy may provide symptomatic relief to patients while moderating the progression of the disease.
According to NORML.com’s review of recent medical marijuana research, in the February 2005 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, investigators at Madrid’s Complutense University and the Cajal Institute in Spain reported that the intracerebroventricular administration of the synthetic cannabinoid WIN 55,212-2 prevented cognitive impairment and decreased neurotoxicity in rats injected with amyloid-beta peptide (a protein believed to induce Alzheimer’s).
In 2006, The Scripps Research Institute in California reported that THC inhibits the enzyme responsible for the aggregation of amyloid plaque—the primary marker for Alzheimer’s disease—in a manner considerably superior to approved Alzheimer’s drugs such as donepezil and tacrine.
More recently, investigators at Ohio State University, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, reported in the journal Neuroscience in 2007, that rats treated with the compound (synthetic cannabinoid WIN55,212-2)experienced a 50 percent improvement in memory and a 40 to 50 percent reduction in inflammation compared to controls.
What’s most interesting is that some experts believe that cannabinhoids’ neuroprotective properties could also play a role in moderating Alzheimer’s disease. In the September 2007 issues of the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers at Ireland’s Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience wrote, “Cannabinoids offer a multi-faceted approach for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease by providing neuroprotection and reducing neuroinflammation, whilst simultaneously supporting the brain’s intrinsic repair mechanisms by augmenting neurotrophin expression and enhancing neurogenesis … Manipulation of the cannabinoid pathway offers a pharmacological approach for the treatment of Alzheimer’s that may be efficacious than current treatment regimens.”
To read more about research related to Alzheimer’s disease, visit NORML.com.
If you’re interested in learning more about the science of cannabis and about the cannabis industry, consider joining Oaksterdam University and the International Canna Pro Expo October 2, 3, and 4 in Orlando, FL.