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Meta-analysis fails to find evidence that medical marijuana influences quality of life

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New research indicates that marijuana has no impact on quality of life when used for many medical conditions. The findings appear in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis — a method of statistically examining previous research — of eleven scientific studies on cannabis or cannabinoids and quality of life. The meta-analysis failed to find a significant association between use of cannabis or cannabinoids and quality of life among those with medical conditions.

PsyPost interviewed one of the study’s authors, Itai Danovitch of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Read his responses below:

PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?

Danovitch: Many cannabis users report that cannabis makes them feel better, that it improves their sense of wellbeing. One good scientific measure of wellbeing is “Quality of Life,” a person-centered indicator that measures perceptions about physical and mental health. We were interested to learn whether people using cannabis for medical conditions experienced significant changes in Quality of Life.

What should the average person take away from your study?

We did not find a clear association between cannabis use and Quality of Life. There were some indications of a positive association among studies that evaluated the effects of cannabis on pain, and other studies that failed to find any association. So, while cannabis may help alleviate symptoms of several medical conditions, at this point in time there is not convincing evidence that those effects lead to significant improvements in Quality of Life.

Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?

Well, our study was a “meta-analysis,” which means it was a study of other studies. Only eleven studies met the standards we set, which limited our ability to make broad inferences about the effects of cannabis and Quality of Life. The studies had a great deal of variability, and since they were mostly designed to evaluate the effect of cannabis on medical conditions, it was difficult to disentangle whether changes in Quality of Life were attributable to those medical conditions, or to the cannabis itself. However, as more and more people are using cannabis on a regular basis to help with medical conditions, it is incumbent on us to understand the objective and subjective effects of cannabis over time.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Cannabis is a complex herb that has many active constituents and exciting therapeutic potential. However, use of cannabis for medical indications is growing faster than the supporting evidence. And because cannabis can cause mild euphoria, it is difficult to separate its pleasurable effects from its therapeutic effects. It is important to scrutinize any medication, supplement or herb that is taken on a long-term basis for a health condition. And measuring Quality of Life is a particularly important way to evaluate the factors people care about most.

The study, “The impact of cannabis and cannabinoids for medical conditions on health-related quality of life: A systematic review and meta-analysis“, was also co-authored by Matthew Goldenberg, Mark William Reid, and Waguih William IsHak.

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