Revealing the Secrets of the Longest Running Medical Marijuana Study Ever Conducted
Although you probably never heard of this before, CIND is the longest running medical marijuana program in the world. It’s a vital piece of information because it provides us with an extremely detailed snapshot of the effects of heavy marijuana use in chronically ill patients.
The beauty in this is how carefully controlled the marijuana was as far as concentration and dosing went. In addition, we have a battery of laboratory tests that were designed to ferret out any possible adverse effects or complications that might arise from decades of pot use. We generally never get this amount of information in past cannabis studies. This is starting to change however.
Although the numbers are too small for us to make any firm conclusions, we see that all four of these patients seemed no worse for wear even after decades of smoking marijuana, sometimes up to ten joints per day or more.
It’s the product of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (CIND) Program. Decades ago, the United States governmental authorities enrolled a small number of chronically ill patients into a program that allowed them to use very highly regulated government supplied marijuana.
The medical marijuana hails from the ‘Ole Miss’ weed plantation in Mississippi, which is part of the University of Mississippi. The only federal government accredited grow facility in the United States. Ole Miss and her plantation have garnered plenty of criticism too. Mostly regarding the poor quality of the marijuana dispensed to medical patients. In a moment I’ll discuss some of those striking features.
Surprisingly, the longest arm of the project has been going on for nearly three decades. There are only seven surviving patients, four of which agreed to be included in this study.
Dr Russo, lead author:
Cannabis is obtained from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and is utilized under the supervision of a study physician. The aim of this study is to examine the overall health status of 4 of the 7 surviving patients in the program. This project provides the first opportunity to scrutinize the long-term effects of cannabis on patients who have used a known dosage of a standardized, heat-sterilized quality-controlled supply of low-grade marijuana for 11 to 27 years.
Results demonstrate clinical effectiveness in these patients in treating glaucoma, chronic musculoskeletal pain, spasm and nausea, and spasticity of multiple sclerosis. All 4 patients are stable with respect to their chronic conditions, and are taking many fewer standard pharmaceuticals than previously.
Mild changes in pulmonary function were observed in 2 patients, while no functionally significant attributable sequelae were noted in any other physiological system examined in the study, which included: MRI scans of the brain, pulmonary function tests, chest X-ray, neuropsychological tests, hormone and immunological assays, electroencephalography, P300 testing, history, and neurological clinical examination.
These results would support the provision of clinical cannabis to a greater number of patients in need. We believe that cannabis can be a safe and effective medicine with various suggested improvements in the existing Compassionate IND program
It’s interesting that on page five of the article, the authors remark that in the three decades that this program has been in existence, there has not been one publication either from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or other branches of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding these brave patients who enrolled in this highly controversial program. Not one study was done to see if these patients were benefitting or not.
The authors further remark that,
The Missoula Chronic Cannabis Use Study thus provides a unique and important opportunity to scrutinize the long-term effects of cannabis on patients who have used a known dosage of standardized, heat-sterilized quality-controlled supply of low-grade medical marijuana for 11 to 27 years.
Robert Randall was the first test case. He was diagnosed with severe glaucoma at the young age of 24 and was expected to become totally blind by the age of 30. He was able to successfully argue his case because there was no pharmaceutical that could stop the progression of the disease leading eventually to complete blindness. In other words, the state should not allow him to go blind just because they cannot offer a solution. It worked.
Randall became an author and activist publishing several books on medical marijuana. One such book titled: ‘Marijuana Rx; The Patient’s Fight for Medical Pot’ (Randall and O’Leary 1998), was written with his wife as co-author. He remained committed to informing others in need of medical marijuana until the day he died in 2001 at the age of 52 from complications of AIDS.
VISION WAS MAINTAINED HIS ENTIRE LIFE
But guess what? He retained his vision the entire time and remained a vocal advocate for the benefits of clinical cannabis, especially in the medical application of treating glaucoma.
This is extraordinary because, when its compared to dronabinol, which he had to use on occasion, the decrease in intraocular pressure was far superior and lasted many days. With dronabinol, the lowering was only for a few short hours.
In fact, dronabinol only worked for about a week and no amount of dosing worked after that. It appears that the entourage effect from whole cannabis may be responsible.
Three out of the four study subjects reported in this publication complained that when forced to use dronabinol when their shipment was late, for example, the effect was poor at best in any situation or disease. So it seems that whole plant cannabis, even poor quality Ole Miss cannabis is still better than a synthetic THC product.
Three of the four study subjects have employed Marinol®, and found it inadequate or a poor substitute for cannabis in symptomatic relief of their clinical syndromes.
BUSH ADMINISTRATION CLOSES PROGRAM
Incidentally, as the program took off during the AIDS epidemic and many patients were seeking to use the program to help them deal with the myriad different symptoms associated with AIDS and AIDS defining illnesses, the Bush administration closed the program to new applicants in 1992 with a burgeoning group of 34 patients total.
I guess it’s just wishful thinking that a successful federal program could actually be useful to those cast aside due to their disease.
At the time that this article was published there were only 7 patients surviving, of which only 4 were written up in the article.
Very briefly, we have patient A: 62 yo with glaucoma 1988, 25 years, 8 grams of pot per day (3.8% THC); patient B, 52 yo with Nail-Patella Syndrome 1989, 27 years, 7 grams (3.75%); patient C, 48 yo, Multiple Congenital Cartilaginous Exostoses, 1982, 26 years, 9 grams per day (2.75%); patient D 45 yo with MS, 1991 11 years, 9 grams per day (3.5%).
Dr. Russo and his research team performed an amazing amount of laboratory tests on these patients, including but not limited to, MRI of the brain, complete pulmonary function tests, chest X-ray, neuropsychiatric evaluation, complete endocrine panel, immunologic assays, complete blood count, EEG, detailed neurological exam, and others.
Notice the extensive neuropsychiatric workup involved in the following table (table 2) below:
Since many authorities insist that pot affects mentation (brain function, etc), Dr. Russo employed an extensive testing scheme (see neuropsychiatric tests above) for just that purpose — to expose possible adverse effects on cognition.
Except for predictable alterations with ageing all of the above studies were within normal limits save for one patient with mild pulmonary disease.
HOW DOES ONE OBTAIN FEDERAL MEDICAL MARIJUANA?
Did you ever wonder how a program like this works? It’s pretty interesting.
The marijuana is grown, harvested and collected in Mississippi and then shipped to the east coast ‘Research Triangle’ in the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina. It’s called the Research Triangle because three major heavyweight universities are all located there.
Once received, the plant material is prepared using modified cigarette rolling machines. Each tin contains 300 cigarettes that are partially dehydrated (freeze dried) and vacuum packed for ‘freshness.’ An interesting side note is that the 5% THC cannabis that Ole Miss provides, the strongest version available, is discouraged from use because the stickiness of the product makes it too difficult to roll into cigarettes! More government logic, I guess.
Yet, nearly everyone who has ever had one of these cigarettes complains about the lack of freshness. In fact, much of the material supplied was at least two years old. These cigarettes also contain seeds and stem material. In other words, this MMJ product is certainly not AAA rated which is preferred when dealing with health issues.
Rick Doblin CEO of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) refers to it as ‘schwag’ meaning very poor quality, the worst pot that you could find.
The authors used a regular Pall-Mall cigarette in figure three for comparison. Here’s what the final product looks like:
The next figure shows the poor quality of the mixture. They do not differentiate between stems, seeds, leaves and flowers. It all goes into the kitty so to speak.
And here’s a copy of the label affixed to each canister:
What can we conclude with this decidedly small number of patients with extremely detailed lab studies including an exhaustive neuropsychiatric evaluation?
Dr. Russo mentions a few caveats:
- Cannabis smoking, even of crude, low-grade product, provides effective symptomatic relief of pain, muscle spasms, and intraocular pressure elevations in selected patients failing other conventional therapies.
- These study patients we able to reduce or eliminate many prescription medications while using pot.
- Clinical cannabis provides an improved quality of life.
- The side effect profile of NIDA (Ole Miss) cannabis suggests there may be some mild pulmonary risk.
- No malignancies were observed.
- No consistent neuropsychological or neurological deterioration has been observed.
- No endocrine, hematologic (blood) or immunologic sequelae have been observed.
- Improvements in the program would include a ready and consistent supply of sterilized, potent, organically grown, unfertilized female flowering tops thoroughly cleaned of extraneous matter.
- It’s the authors opinion that the Compassionate IND should be reopened and extended to other patients in need of clinical cannabis.
- Failing that, local, state and federal laws might be amended to provide clinical cannabis to suitable candidates.
I would like to remind you, gentle reader, that MMJ appears to decrease pharmaceutical use in many patients. I underlined this aspect in one of the quotes above. It’s clearly important because we’ll no doubt start to see a Big Pharma backlash once they realize that pot smokers don’t need dozens of pills to help their conditions.
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