Medical cannabis patients cite a variety of conditions for which they use the controversial drug. Chronic pain is by far the most common. Others include PTSD, cancer, and nausea. But does cannabis work? If quality-of-life is the measure, it would seem cannabis does the trick.
A recently published study from John Hopkins University and an organization known as Realm of Caring indicates that medical cannabis users report better quality of life and improved symptom relief compared to other therapies. The study was published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
- The Study by the Numbers
Researchers chose an anonymous survey method to conduct their study. They analyzed the feedback offered by 808 survey respondents who all consumed medical cannabis for a variety of reasons. Here is what the numbers revealed:
- 77% reported experiencing positive effects
- 28% reported less pain
- 22% reported less anxiety
- 18% reported better sleep.
Pain, anxiety, and interrupted sleep all contribute to a deteriorating quality of life. As such, improvements in any of these areas would add to quality-of-life perceptions. People who feel better tend to say their quality of life is also better.
- Quality-of-Life and Patient Outcomes
The study may seem insignificant on its face, but it raises a particularly important question. How does quality-of-life play into the patient outcome measurement? It would make sense that a cancer patient experiencing less pain would also be experiencing a better outcome. But what if pain relief isn’t part of the measurement? What if the only measurement is remission?
The question of outcome measurement actually underscores a much bigger problem with Western medicine: our tendency to treat symptoms rather than uncover the root causes of disease in order to help the body heal. That tendency is exacerbated by our approach to chronic pain. Truth be told, pain is not a medical condition in and of itself. It is a symptom of something else.
Nonetheless, the typical patient who visits the Pure Utah cannabis pharmacy in Payson, UT is seeking pain relief. Ditto for nearly every cannabis pharmacy in the country. Is there a better way?
- Quality-Of-Life Is Important
Do not misunderstand the point here. Quality-of-life is a crucial factor in determining outcomes. Consider a patient suffering from an epileptic disorder. There is no cure for her condition. The best doctors can do is treat the symptoms. Reduce the amount and severity of her seizures and you improve her quality of life. Medical cannabis may be able to do that.
We could make a similar argument in favor of treating PTSD patients with cannabis. As things currently stand, there is no PTSD cure. Furthermore, not treating symptoms effectively leads to a pretty poor quality of life for many patients. Reduce the symptoms and quality of life increases.
- Quality-of-Life Is Subjective
Despite quality-of-life being an important measurement in patient outcomes, it is an awkward thing to accurately measure. By its nature, quality-of-life is subjective. This reality is easily observed just by comparing optimists and pessimists.
Optimists tend to have a more positive outlook on life and vice-versa. Furthermore, we already know that a person’s outlook on life influences their perceptions of quality of life. Cannabis may offer an improved quality of life only because it changes a patient’s outlook. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s also not a medical phenomenon.
In the end, we need to put one in the win column for medical cannabis due to its ability to improve quality of life. Whether or not we agree on how quality-of-life should be measured, patients who report improvement are better off for it.