A new study published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science, finds that THC concentrations in marijuana products sold in marijuana storefronts in the United States are not effective for neuropathic pain relief as they are too potent — featuring THC levels two to three times higher than the amount shown in studies may provide neuropathic pain relief.
The study also showed there are no clinical differences between “medical” and recreational marijuana. The study concluded that these high levels of THC are counterproductive to treating neuropathic pain. Other studies have shown that THC has no efficacy in reducing other kinds of chronic pain.
“As it stands, there are very few ailments and disorders that research has deemed derivatives of marijuana to be useful for, such as specific forms of epilepsy. Unfortunately, we have allowed the marijuana industry to run fast and loose with the science and it has made a host of unsubstantiated claims regarding what it can be used to ‘treat,’” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “We have a process in this country to determine what meets the standard for medicine and regulations that ensure said medicine is meted out in safe, effective doses. It is what keeps Americans safe and separates us from the days of snake oil salesmen. It’s time to rein in the marijuana industry and halt its expansion.”
The study looked at 8,505 different marijuana products across 653 dispensaries, finding that the majority of products offered were well beyond the THC dosing considered by some to have therapeutic properties (THC <5-10%). According to the study, marijuana with THC levels in excess of 15% comprised more than 90% of sales.
According to the study’s authors, the high levels of THC found in today’s marijuana can cause a person to build up a tolerance to the drug and increase the risk of the onset of harmful impacts on mental health. This is supported by an overwhelming amount of research.
“The products offered online in dispensaries, which should be a reflection of what they have in their physical facilities, are mostly very potent and represent a risk for patients that seek medicinal effects, and also a risk for regular users in the long run,” said study co-author in a statement provided to Inverse. “Our data and others’ scientific findings point out that there is no need for high potency products in the medical realm. Medicinal programs should have more stringent parameters for their products.”
The study authors recommend that policy makers in states with “medical” marijuana should do the following:
- Place a THC potency limit of 10% or less on marijuana products to reduce the risk of acute side effects and long-term undesirable outcomes;
- Require “medical” marijuana dispensaries to have staff with proper training in pharmacology, patient counseling, and continual education in public health care;
- Encourage more collaboration between health professionals, scientists in pharmacology, and pain specialists in order to aid the development of a more suitable framework for the provision and promotion of “medical” marijuana.