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Therapeutic Uses of Cannabinoids: Inquiry Research Project Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 8th, 2021

Abstract

The paper has the purpose of depicting research and thinking processes that took place when answering the following question: what are the therapeutic uses of cannabinoids? It briefly discusses the relevance and importance of the study and provides an overview of implemented research methods, major arguments given in the selected sources, and primary study implications. The inquiry helped reveal the main certainties and uncertainties associated with cannabis use in medicine.

While initially, I was more convinced about the benefits of medical marijuana, this project allowed me to realize that existing scholarly and professional evidence is too controversial to jump to conclusions. It fostered a greater understanding of the topic and my research approaches, as well as assisted in forming a knowledge base from where a further, unbiased and more objective investigation can proceed in the future.

Introduction

The main objectives of my research project will be to explore different therapeutic uses of cannabinoids and find out which diseases can be treated with this remedy. Even before deciding to investigate this topic I knew that marijuana is applied to alleviate the symptoms of severe disorders. For example, it is frequently utilized to reduce chronic pain in both cancer and non-cancer patients and tremors in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

For this reason, I assume that the medicinal use of marijuana can be very beneficial especially in situations when no efficient alternatives able to solve the problem exist or when they raise considerable safety concerns. Noteworthily, my initial response to the question regarding the benefits of therapeutic marijuana is defined by my conviction about a higher level of safety of the drug compared to other options. For instance, opioids are frequently prescribed to people with chronic pain but are associated with a serious risk of addiction and organ damage, while marijuana is rather not linked to such severe problems.

The importance of the topic is due to a constant need to find safe treatment options and to improve the quality of patients’ lives. It is also very appropriate because the issue of increasing opioid addiction is of great public concern. However, instead of focusing on just one of the possible therapeutic uses of cannabinoids, I would like to overview multiple uses in distinct health conditions because it will allow determining the overall boundaries of the drug’s potential implementation in healthcare. I hope to cover as many areas where medicinal marijuana can be applied and reckon that the planned in-depth investigation will verify my initial assumptions about the high medical value of the plant.

Research Process

The literature review is the primary research method in the proposed project. The sources were searched through such a credible database as PubMed, as well as regular search engines, including Google Books. Noteworthily, even greater attention was paid to the quality and trustworthiness of sources located through the latter method, and the credibility was established through the assessment of authors’ credentials. As a result, the total number of four recent peer-reviewed articles, one magazine article, and a book was selected. The appropriateness of the sources was determined by their ability to contribute to a comprehensive picture of marijuana use in medicine.

The research process started with the review of general information about therapeutic uses of cannabinoids, history of the drug, and mechanisms of action. The latter issue was particularly informative as I learned that endocannabinoid receptors are located throughout multiple body systems and organs, including the immune system and glands, and revealing their role in relaxation, protection, and other body functions (Bridgeman & Abazia, 2017).

Consequently, I became able to narrow down the research focus to specific disorders. Additionally, since the goal of the project is to define the limits of cannabinoids use in medicine, it was essential to review various side effects that the drug can provoke. To some extent, all of the selected sources touch upon this subject and, therefore, they can be deemed relevant to my investigation.

Results

Preliminary research results indicate that therapeutic cannabis shows promise in alleviating symptoms in a vast number of diseases affecting humans. For example, the evidence summarized in the article on the therapeutic potential of marijuana by Mouhamed et al. (2018) reveals that the drug is beneficial for patients with such movement disorders as Parkinson’s disease; chronic neuropathic, cancer-related, and non-cancer pain; and various gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Similar results are obtained by Webb and Webb (2014) who explore the therapeutic benefits of cannabis by evaluating patients’ perceptions of its efficacy in treating chronic pain.

Moreover, in his article for the New York Times where he investigates major marijuana-related controversies, Carroll (2015) also reports that marijuana use leads to “complete resolution of nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy” (para. 5). Results of empirical studies summarized by the selected authors in their exploratory articles are significant and the fact that multiple sources support each other’s conclusions increases their trustworthiness.

Nevertheless, the problem of marijuana-related side effects is of great concern for the majority of authors of the chosen works. While Webb and Webb (2014) call marijuana “an extremely safe and effective medication for many patients with chronic pain” (p. 110), other researchers are more skeptical. For instance, in their comprehensive review of medical cannabis, Bridgeman, and Abazia (2017) report such most common adverse effects related to the drug intake as relapse and vomiting.

Bridgeman and Abazia (2017) also note that side effects of acute cannabis use may include anxiety, mood problems, psychotic symptoms, and so forth. Similarly, in her book entirely dedicated to the investigation of marijuana effects on the brain, Parker (2017) warns about the risk of psychosis development due to cannabis intake. These findings reveal that the remedy may not be suitable for people with some mental disorders.

It is worth noticing that the mechanisms of therapeutic cannabis in multiple disorders are still under-investigated. Ahmed and Katz (2016) who explore the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of IBD state that even though patients report improvements in pain intensity, nausea, appetite, and overall mood, human trials that focused on the topic have failed to provide objective evidence so far. Carroll (2015) also notes that previous studies failed to provide evidence in support of cannabis use for such disorders as epilepsy, dementia, glaucoma, and others. Since there is no clear understanding of the effect of the plant on patients, the risk of increased morbidity due to marijuana intake remains high.

A brief review of the main arguments set forth by the selected authors shows that the sources are not only directly related to my research topic but also thematically interrelated and have the points of both congruency and disagreement.

All six works provide overviews of therapeutic uses of cannabis and list potential benefits and risks relevant to particular disorders and illnesses. Noteworthily, those studies that critically approach the problem of medicinal marijuana and give an honest and thorough summary of adverse side effects seem to be more objective and credible. At the same time, the research article that appears to have the largest number of limitations is the one by Webb and Webb (2014). The authors based their conclusions on self-reported data and subjective perceptions of patients who underwent short-term therapy, which may not be enough to declare the drug extremely safe and efficient.

Implications and Additional Research

The research provides a thorough yet concise summary of the most recent updates on the topic of marijuana use in medicine. Therefore, it could be applied to inform practitioners and patients and support their therapeutic decision-making. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to say that to increase the practical value of the paper, it would be useful to overview guidelines and recommendations provided by various professional healthcare organizations. Moreover, it is required to focus a little bit more on such issues as dosages and routes of administration.

In addition, the research project has the potential to elucidate the conflicting points and prompt a lot of ideas for further investigation. A plethora of uncertainties linked to cannabinoid mechanisms and effects have been discovered just in six selected sources. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that more clarity will be shed on the topic without conducting more empirical studies and high-quality clinical trials. However, one of the possible ways to reduce uncertainty in the present project is by drawing more evidence from systematic reviews, especially those evaluating the effects of long-term marijuana therapies.

Moreover, it is possible to take a deeper look at one or a few health conditions in which cannabis therapy is associated with a significant promise, such as Tourette’s syndrome and Parkinson’s disease. In this case, it would be useful to compare several treatment options available to patients with those diseases and conduct a cost-benefit analysis, focusing on health improvement and adverse effects, for all of them.

Lastly, during the inquiry, I was able to get some insight into the work of the endocannabinoid system and its significance. However, a more in-depth overview of its functions may be required to understand the way medicinal marijuana interacts with the human body through cannabinoid receptors. The Endocannabinoid system participates in many physiological processes and, by studying it, it will be possible to evaluate its role in the development of different disorders and how medical marijuana use can mediate health outcomes.

Reflection

Before proceeding with the literature review, I was more convinced about the beneficial effects of therapeutic cannabis. As I continued to read through more and more evidence, conviction started to become weaker. I see that one of the most certain favorable effects of the drug is the relief of acute and chronic pain in patients with distinct illnesses. Nevertheless, it is also apparent that pain can be measured merely through subjective measures, such as self-reports. While the number of findings on the negative side effects of cannabis remains scarce, it is hard to make any decisive conclusions regarding the true value of medicinal marijuana.

I do still consider the research of the plan a worthwhile endeavor and believe that its investigation, as well as therapeutic application, can benefit a lot of people with diverse health conditions. However, the current inquiry project demonstrated that research should not be driven by personal convictions and values. When it happens so, there is a high chance of attaining biased and untrustworthy results. Thus, I will strive to eliminate all sources of personal bias before conducting future research on this or any other topic.

References

Ahmed, W., & Katz, S. (2016). Therapeutic use of cannabis in inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 12(11), 668-679.

Bridgeman, M. B., & Abazia, D. T. (2017). Medicinal cannabis: History, pharmacology, and implications for the acute care setting. P&T: A Peer-Reviewed Journal for Formulary Management, 42(3), 180-188.

Carroll, A. E. (2015). The New York Times. Web.

Mouhamed, Y., Vishnyakov, A., Qorri, B., Sambi, M., Frank, S. S., Nowierski, C., Lamba, A., Bhatti, U., … Szewczuk, M. R. (2018). Therapeutic potential of medicinal marijuana: An educational primer for health care professionals. Drug, Healthcare and Patient Safety, 10, 45-66.

Parker, L. A. (2017). Cannabinoids and the brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Webb, C. W., & Webb, S. M. (2014). Therapeutic benefits of cannabis: a patient survey. Hawai’i Journal of Medicine & Public Health: A Journal of Asia Pacific Medicine & Public Health, 73(4), 109-111.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Therapeutic Uses of Cannabinoids: Inquiry Research Project." July 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/therapeutic-uses-of-cannabinoids-inquiry-research-project/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Therapeutic Uses of Cannabinoids: Inquiry Research Project'. 8 July.

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