Cannabinoids have demonstrated the potential for a wide spectrum of therapeutic uses. For example, synthetic THC (Marinol) is FDA approved for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and appetite and weight loss related to HIV/AIDS.1 A combination of THC and CBD (Sativex) is approved in 30 countries outside of the U.S. for muscle spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis.2 CBD (Epidiolex) is FDA approved to treat certain pediatric seizure disorders, and was recently shown in a phase III clinical trial to reduce seizures in children with epilepsy disorders.3 In addition, early evidence has shown cannabinoids to have a range of effects that may be therapeutically useful, including antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, anti-tumor, anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and sleep modulating effects.4 However, the current evidence is preliminary and often limited to animal studies–it will take rigorous human clinical trials before we can confirm these effects and determine which conditions they could possibly be used for.
A landmark review4 published in 2017 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded there was “substantial evidence” cannabinoids were effective for:
- Chronic Pain
- Nausea and Vomiting during Chemotherapy
- Spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis.
They also concluded there was “moderate evidence” cannabinoids were effective for:
- Improving sleep in people suffering from certain conditions, including chronic pain, obstructive sleep apnea, and fibromyalgia
Other areas demonstrating promise but where current evidence is more” limited” include:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Social Anxiety
- Traumatic brain injury
1. NIH Drug Database: Dronabinol (Marinol, Synthetic THC). https://druginfo.nlm.nih.gov/drugportal/rn/1972-08- 3.
2. Pharmaceuticlas G. Sativex (delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol). https://www.gwpharm.com/products-pipeline/sativex- delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-and- cannabidiol.
3. Devinsky O, Cross JH, Laux L, et al. Trial of Cannabidiol for Drug-Resistant Seizures in the Dravet Syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2017;376(21):2011-2020.doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1611618.
4. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and M. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Natl Acad Press. 2017. doi:10.17226/24625.