2018 has been another record-breaking year when it comes to the sheer amount of cannabis news. More states have legalized recreational or medical cannabis, and many progressive peer-reviewed health studies on cannabis interacting with various medical conditions were published. As we complete 2018 and move into the last year of the decade, let’s review some of the top health and cannabis issues that were discussed this year.
- Doctors and nurses support medical and legal cannabis
Recent articles referenced a survey by WebMD of 1,544 doctors covering 12 specialties in 48 states, which found that 69 percent of those surveyed believe cannabis can help with certain treatments and conditions, 67 percent believe it should be a medical option for patients and 56 percent support making it legal nationwide.
- Cannabis dependence is down
A study published in 2018 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found the risk of developing cannabis dependence among heavy cannabis consumers to have declined since 2002 and that reported tolerance showed no significant change.
- Youth cannabis consumption has not increased
In October 2018 the journal Preventive Medicine found that adolescent cannabis use in Canada fell nearly 50 percent between the years 2008-2009 and 2014-2015 with similar declines in the U.S. Maybe cannabis is no longer the forbidden fruit to youth, since parents are more frequently using it.
- Study confirms cannabis consumption can treat insomnia
Although cannabis has been used for thousands of years to treat insomnia, a July 2018 study in the journal Medicines confirmed that test subjects “experienced a statistically and clinically significant improvement in perceived insomnia levels.” Insomnia causes multiple health problems costing the U.S. over $100 billion per year in lost productivity and healthcare costs.
- Legalization does not increase traffic fatalities
A study published in March 2018 by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that cannabis legalization in Colorado and Washington is not independently linked to an increase in traffic fatalities. These studies confirmed a previous study published in 2017 in the American Journal of Public Health, which reported that “crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization.”
- Cannabis consumption not associated with reduced cognition or motivation
A comprehensive review published in April 2018 of 69 separate studies involving 8,727 subjects published in JAMA Psychiatry reported no significant long-term deficits in memory, attention or other aspects of cognitive functioning due to cannabis consumption, regardless of the subject’s age of initiation. These findings are in contrast to similar studies assessing the impact of alcohol use and other controlled substances on cognitive performance, which “have shown medium to large effect sizes.”
- Cannabis can reduce in-hospital mortality
PLOS One published in July 2018 the largest analysis ever done of hospital heart attack admissions reporting that cannabis consumers had a significantly decreased risk of in-hospital mortality. Separate studies have similarly identified an association between cannabis use and decreased in-hospital mortality in trauma patients, those undergoing orthopedic surgeries, patients with traumatic brain injuries, heart failure patients and burn victims.
- FDA approves first cannabis plant medicine
Although the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has previously approved synthetic cannabinoids, on June 25, 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, the first plant-derived CBD medicine for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy. The Drug Enforcement Administration then reduced Epidiolex from a Schedule I controlled substance to Schedule V.
- Cannabis is effective as opioid replacement
Multiple research studies have been undertaken to confirm findings in 2014 that states with legal cannabis have 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdoses. Confirming the ability of cannabis to replace opioids and why cannabis can reduce opioid overdose deaths, studies released in 2018 have shown that in states with legal cannabis doctors prescribe fewer opioids and over two-thirds of chronic pain patients substitute cannabis for prescription opioids.
- Legalization increasing adult cannabis use
The August 2018 Annals of Internal Medicine released the survey results of 16,280 adults finding 14.6 percent using cannabis in the past year, including 8.7 percent admitting use in the last 30 days—the consumption rate doubling in just 10 years.