Most Medical Marijuana Patients Benefit From Treatment

By Pat Anson, Editor

Over 90 percent of long term medical marijuana patients reported significant improvement in their pain and nausea while using cannabis, according to researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Israel for over 10 years, but this was the first in-depth study of patients who have a cannabis prescription from Israel’s Ministry of Health.

"Although medical cannabis has been legal for a decade and is licensed to patients to relieve pain and other symptoms, there has been no information about the users themselves," said Pesach Shvartzman, a professor at Ben-Gurion’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

The study examined more than 2,000 cancer and non-cancer patients using medical marijuana. Almost all said they sought a cannabis prescription after trying conventional treatments that were ineffective. Patients were interviewed by telephone in the first three months of treatment and subsequently every four months for two years. 

Users reported that their pain, nausea, anxiety, appetite, and general feeling had improved. Fewer than one in 10 stopped using marijuana due to side effects or ineffectiveness after the first interview, and only six percent after the second interview.

About three out of four patients experienced minor side effects that included dry mouth, hunger, sleepiness or “high” sensations.

Three-quarters of the patients smoked marijuana, while one in five used a vaporizer or cannabis oil.

Israel still considers cannabis a “dangerous drug” and it is not registered as a medicine. However, the Ministry of Health says “there is evidence that cannabis could help patients suffering from certain medical conditions and alleviate their suffering.”

There are over 20,000 registered marijuana users in Israel. About 50 new users are approved each week by the Health Ministry.

Ministry of Health regulations allow for medical marijuana to be used to treat cancer symptoms and to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Eight farms have Ministry of Health permission to grow cannabis for medicinal use, and four companies have permission to deliver cannabis to cancer patients.