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About the Research:
The overall goal of this research program is to understand how patients who use marijuana for medical purposes function over the long run. Most of the existing research on medical marijuana has been conducted within laboratory settings using short-term experimental research designs. Although this previous research is important and scientifically sound, it does not provide key information about how people respond in the real world when using marijuana for medical purposes. The aims of this new line of research are to understand the complicated interplay of functioning, symptoms, negative and positive outcomes, and well-being among those who use medical marijuana. Research results will provide crucial new knowledge for patients, families, clinicians and policymakers aimed at informing current and future conversations on the benefits and consequences of medical marijuana.
To accomplish our research objectives, we will assemble a group of national and international scientific experts to ensure that study designs have maximal scientific rigor so that results will have broad impact. A family of studies is planned with the ultimate goal of conducting larger randomized trials to establish the efficacy and side effect profile of marijuana for specific medical purposes (e.g., chronic pain, glaucoma). In order to lay the groundwork for these trials and to answer important scientific questions regarding medical marijuana, a series of initial studies will be conducted to characterize patterns of medical marijuana use and outcomes of use over time.
Ultimately, the data obtained from this research will shape the understanding of the costs and benefits of medical marijuana use for individual patients, treatment providers and for society.
Given the growing number of states that have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes, it is quite amazing that we do not know the answers to some of the most basic questions related to medical marijuana including:
- 1. Is marijuana effective for the treatment of certain medical conditions?
For a long period of time in the U.S., little research was conducted on the potential benefits of the medical use of marijuana. Recently, a growing number of high-quality experimental studies show that marijuana can have short-term benefits (e.g., pain reduction) when used in a laboratory setting. However, many key questions remain unanswered related to how marijuana use is associated with symptoms and side effects outside the laboratory and in the real world. As more and more patients use medical marijuana, new knowledge can have key implications for a better understanding of which conditions respond best to marijuana, under which circumstances is it most useful, and for whom is medical marijuana most or least beneficial.
- 2. Why does research matter?
Right now, most individuals involved who use medical marijuana are guided by clinical intuition and anecdotal evidence from other patients. Although this information can be helpful, we believe that it needs to be supplemented with specific scientific evidence and guidelines. This combination of first-hand experience and research evidence is most likely to improve patient outcomes. Similarly, policymakers can use research evidence to further inform and shape future policy.
- 3. Why is donor support needed to fund this research?
Historically, federal sources of research money have been reluctant to fund research on both the benefits and consequences of medical marijuana. As a result, research on this crucial topic has lagged behind changes in state policies and public opinion regarding medical marijuana. In order for research on medical marijuana to have a high impact, it needs to have the same scientific rigor as research conducted with federal funds. Obtaining substantial donor support for this family of studies will allow for the simultaneous evaluation of many of the key scientific questions related to medical marijuana.
What Is Medical Marijuana?
In a recent study AARP.org found over 60 related chemicals or cannabinoids in certain strains of this plant. Numerous studies have identified actual cannabinoid receptors involved in muscle control, hormone release, sexual functioning and memory. (See chart)
With 17 states allowing limited quantities of marijuana for patients and six more states pending, the need for research is immediate. Seed of Relief believes that its academic partner is in a unique position to tackle this controversial topic and conduct rigorous research on the use medical marijuana.