HealthDay News — Medical marijuana may be useful in treating chronic pain and spasticity, but less effective for other conditions, according to the results of a review published in the June 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers singled out 79 clinical trials for inclusion in their analysis. The studies tested the effects either of medical marijuana itself or drugs that contain plant-derived or synthetic compounds found in marijuana.

For example, they included studies of dronabinol, a FDA-approved medication that contains synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol. The authors said that they found and included only two studies that evaluated medical marijuana itself, rather than a derivative medication.

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The review revealed moderate-quality evidence to support medical marijuana use in treating chronic pain. The evidence also showed that the medications could help multiple sclerosis patients who suffer from spasticity. The researchers found low-quality evidence for the drugs’ use in treating sleep disorders; nausea or vomiting related to chemotherapy; for producing weight gain in people with HIV; or for reducing symptoms of Tourette syndrome.

“There is evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity,” lead author Penny Whiting, PhD, a senior research fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, told HealthDay. “However, this needs to be balanced against an increased risk of side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, sleepiness, and euphoria.”


Whiting PF, et al. Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2015; 313(24):2456-2473