More Anti-Science From the Administration
May 31, 2017 – Acting DEA administrator Chuck Rosenberg has been on the road again, doubling and tripling down on his belief that “Marijuana is not medicine.” Based on the scientific and medical data, it is clear Rosenberg’s basis is neither science-based or factual. It definitely is not based on empirical data, and most likely Rosenberg’s claim is grounded in his political agenda (and the current Attorney General). Nothing new for the current administration (pace its position on climate change).
Just this past week, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that “among patients with Dravet syndrome, cannabidiol resulted in a greater reduction in convulsive-seizure frequency than placebo and was associated with higher rates of adverse events.”
More science, and more input form medical research – in a February published report in Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, researchers wrote that:
“Controlled clinical studies provide substantial evidence for the use of cannabinoid receptor agonists in cancer chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, appetite loss and cachexia in cancer and HIV patients, neuropathic and chronic pain, and spasticity in multiple sclerosis. In addition, there is also some evidence suggesting a therapeutic potential of cannabis-based medicines in other indications including Tourette syndrome, spinal cord injury, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and glaucoma. In several other indications, small uncontrolled and single-case studies reporting beneficial effects are available, for example, in posttraumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and migraine.”
While cannabis shares certain side effects with opioids like psychological effects, sedation and dizziness, its side effects do not include vomiting, respiratory depression and the potential for physical dependence and addiction. Contrary to rhetorical flourishes, cannabis is not a gateway drug to harder drugs like heroin. There is empirical evidence suggesting the opioids are.
Former Attorney General Lorretta Lynch made a case that prescription opioids, not cannabis are a gateway to heroin abuse. But then again, our former Energy Secretary Ernest Munoz, made the case that climate change is real and that we materially contribute to it.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that “prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use.” It shows that pooling data from 2002 to 2012, the incidence of heron initiation was 19 times higher among those who reported prior nonmedical pain reliever use than among those who did not. A study of young, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86% had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends or personal prescriptions. It reports further that examining national level general population heroin data (including those in and not in treatment), nearly 80% of heroin users reported using prescription opioids prior to heroin.
Back to cannabis and the totally fact-less claims that it is not medicine, in January this year, the National Academies of Sciences published a report offering a review of research published since 1999 about what is known about the health impacts of cannabis and cannabis-derived products. The report provides a rigorous and fair analysis of the research, and concludes that cannabis there is “evidence to support that patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms” and that “in adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, there was conclusive evidence that certain oral cannabinoids were effective in preventing and treating those ailments.”
What about the claim that marijuana causes lung cancer? The report “found evidence that suggests smoking cannabis does not increase the risk for cancers often associated with tobacco use.”
A gateway? The report “found limited evidence that cannabis increases the rate of initiating other drug use, primarily the use of tobacco.” To be fair, it also suggested there is evidence ” that initiating cannabis use at a younger age increases the likelihood of developing problem cannabis use.”
To be sure, there is much to be learned, and the scientific community is still in early stages of discovery and learning about the impact, effect and potential of cannabis as a therapeutic and medicine. But to suggest, as Rosenberg suggests, that there is “no evidence” and to make base-less claims that cannabis “is not” a medicine is either lame, or maniacal.
Opioids are a $34 billion global industry, and American’s consume about 80% of that. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sales of prescription opioids in the U.S. nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014 but there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans report.
Clearly, the potential for cannabis has to look promising when you parse through the facts. So why the pushback from Attorney General Sessions and DEA administrator Rosenberg? Who knows. Maybe follow the money.
Staying consistent in its affinity to ignorance, the administration is rumored to be backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement too.