ResearchStatistic series: Five of the most impressive medical cannabis research statistics

Statistic series: Five of the most impressive medical cannabis research statistics

9 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Statistic series: Five of the most impressive medical cannabis research statistics


To continue our commitment to spreading awareness, information, and education of cannabis-based medicines, we’ve put together our second statistics feature to cover five of the most impressive findings in medical cannabis research over the last decade or so. 

In this article, we explore reputable clinical trials and research reports from around the world, investigating the efficacy of cannabis compounds in the treatment of physical and mental health conditions. These statistics demonstrate the incredible medicinal potential and value of medical cannabis, and they are some of the most impressive findings to date. 

Of course, it is important to note that research into the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis is still very much considered to be in its infancy. Further findings in these areas are needed to verify or clarify the true potential of cannabis as a medicine. But without further ado, let's take a look at the impressive evidence that’s currently available.

After three months of medical cannabis treatment, 86% of patients with extreme or severe anxiety and depression reported an improvement in their symptoms. 

It was announced by Drug Science in August 2021 that more than 4 in 5 patients with severe or extreme anxiety and depression reported an improvement in their symptoms after three months of using cannabis-based treatments. This data was collected using the results of patient surveys that were sent out to those registered on the UK’s largest medical cannabis registry.

In total, there were around 360 people on Project T21’s medical cannabis registry at this time, and those with psychiatric disorders made up its second-largest patient grouping after those with pain related diagnosis. Two months after their August findings, Drug Science revealed more data that showed according to the PH9-Q scale, mood scores also improved, this time by an average of 60% from a baseline score of 13.8 up to 8.3. 

T21’s medical cannabis register is the largest body of real-world evidence relating to medical cannabis patients in the UK, which gives great insight into the way this medicine can be life changing for some people. However, it is important to remember that the patients on this registry receive a range of different treatments – both cannabis-based and pharmaceutical adjacents- and so, there are a large number of variables involved in this study.

Although these are important points to consider when assessing  this statistic, the findings mirror and strengthen the results from previous investigations. 

Medical cannabis was seen to be more effective, or equally effective, as conventional treatments in managing vomiting and nausea, by almost 50% of Oncologists.

In a survey of over 250 Oncologists in the US, medical cannabis was seen to be an equally or more effective option than conventional treatments in the management of vomiting and nausea by 48.4% of respondents. 

The survey itself was conducted in 2016, twenty years after the California Proposition 215 came into effect, which legalised the ‘compassionate use’ of medical cannabis in patients whose clinical needs were not being met by conventional medications. 

With the aim of exploring the opinions and beliefs cancer specialists have regarding medical cannabis and cannabis based treatments, this survey was distributed to practising Oncologists in America and had a 63% response rate. It found that 80% of these respondents conducted discussions with their patients about medical cannabis, and 46% recommended it to their patients clinically. 

The nationally representative survey also asked about other conditions that affect people living with cancer. This included Anorexia and Cachexia, anxiety, and general coping, and found that 65%, 45.8% and 40.3% of Oncologists respectively also believed medical cannabis was an equally or more effective treatment option than their conventional counterparts. 

On the subject of pain, 67% agreed medical cannabis was a helpful adjunct to standard pain management treatments, and over half said its associated risk of addiction was lower than those attached to opioid-based painkillers which are commonly prescribed. 

Almost three quarters of the Oncologists surveyed agreed there was a lower risk of overdose related death when medical cannabis is prescribed in the place of opioids, but 51.7% said cannabis comes with a higher risk for paranoia. It is important that the use of medical cannabis is always guided and overseen by a professional to reduce or avoid this, and any other risks, from becoming a reality.

Medical cannabis extract relieved muscle stiffness almost twice as much as a placebo in patients with multiple sclerosis.

After a 12 week long randomised double-blind controlled trial in the UK, it was revealed that patients with multiple sclerosis reported feeling twice as much relief from muscle stiffness when being treated with medical cannabis extract than with a placebo. 

This phase III study analysed the effects of THC on muscle stiffness, muscle spasms, and the effect of spasticity on body movements using a group of 224 patients with stable multiple sclerosis. In total, 29.4% of the patients that received cannabis extract reported relief in all three areas, compared to 15.7% of those in the placebo group. 

The cannabis extract doses in this trial varied from patient to patient depending on suitability and tolerability, but the starting dose was administered as 2.5 mg of THC and the maximum daily dose permitted was 25 mg of THC. Seven out of the 109 patients that were in this group reported experiencing serious adverse effects, as did three of the patients in the placebo group, which had 115 participants. 

The results from this trial came six years prior to the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK, which multiple sclerosis patients can now legally be treated with if their circumstances are deemed suitable. In their conclusion, the researchers explained:

“Our findings suggest that standardised CE [cannabis extract] can be clinically useful in treating the highly complex phenomenon of spasticity in MS, and that an 11 point numerical rating scale change is a useful instrument to measure the treatment effect of relief from muscle stiffness. Effective pain relief is also achieved by CE, especially in patients with a higher baseline pain score.”

Children with severe epilepsy experienced an 86% drop in seizure rates when being treated with whole plant medical cannabis. 

In 2021 the results from a small scale study involving children with severe treatment resistant epilepsy were published in the British Medical Journal, demonstrating how cannabis-based medicines can dramatically reduce the frequency of seizures they have to endure.

In this study, 10 children with treatment-resistant epilepsy saw their seizure rate drop by an average of 86% after starting treatment with whole plant medical cannabis. The average daily dose administered at a ratio of 5.15 mg to 171.8 mg of THC and CBD, and the results were collected by their parents or caregivers between January and May 2021. 

Although the study’s patient sample is incredibly small, the types of epilepsy these children suffer from are also extremely rare and difficult to combat therapeutically. The participants in this observational study demonstrated similar results to others in the same sector, and those living with rare or severe epilepsy may even be eligible for a prescription for Epidyolex, a purified CBD oil, on the NHS. 

The children involved in this study had already tried Epidyolex with a lack of success, and on average they had tried seven conventional medicines or treatments that had failed to manage their complex needs. After starting to take whole plant medical cannabis, seven of the ten children involved were able to stop using other conventional epilepsy medications completely – suggesting the inclusion of THC can be effective in some treatment plans such as this one. 

Patients report their pain decreases by an average of 64% after consuming medical cannabis. 

In 2014 an evaluation of the responses from a patient survey distributed in Hawaiian doctors’ surgeries found that patients’ pain decreased by an average of 64% after consuming medical cannabis. The respondents to this survey had all previously been certified medical marijuana patients, and were reapplying for this patient status. 

An incredible majority, constituting 97% of the respondents, said that they consumed medical cannabis or cannabis based medicines to primarily treat or manage their chronic pain and the average pre-treatment pain severity score of the 94 participants involved was 7.8 out of 10. 

When asked how their pain scored after taking medical cannabis, the average score reported was 2.8, giving a 64% relative decrease in pain. Other health improvements were also noted by respondents, including 50% who said their stress levels and anxiety had improved and 45% said the same about the insomnia they experienced.

Benefits relating to appetite, nausea, concentration, and depression were also noted by a small sample of respondents, by 12%, 10%, 9% and 7% respectively, and in total over 70% reported an absence of adverse side effects. 

Of course, it is important to bear in mind the contextual factors that surround this survey, because these respondents were actively seeking medical cannabis treatments – however they were submitted anonymously. The researchers involved in this study were well aware of this, and included this in their discussion, which reads:

“While the relative safety of cannabis as medication is easily established, the degree of efficacy is still being established. The reported pain relief by patients in this survey is enormous. One reason for this is that patients were already self-selected for success: they had already tried cannabis and found that it worked for them. For this sample, the benefits of cannabis outweighed any negative effects.

The study design may therefore lend itself to over-estimating the benefits and under-estimating the negative side effects if extrapolated to the general population.”

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

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