Drugs are bad mkay?

You don’t put out a fire by pouring more fire on top of it.

Firstly, that would never work. And secondly, you can’t “pour” fire anyway.

Just like you don’t solve a societal drug problem by prescribing even more drugs.

Or do you?

The US’ opioid crisis is now so systemic it’s caused American life expectancy to fall for the second year in a row. That hasn’t happened for over half a century.

Just think for a second how big a problem has to be to reduce an entire country’s life expectancy. It’s crazy.

So, what can be done?

A good ol’ fashioned cure-all

The thing about drugs is, they are just compounds that have effects on your body.

Politicians decide if these effects are good or bad for society and if you should be allowed to experience them or not.

And over the last few years, politicians have begun to change their mind on one drug in particular: cannabis.

More and more evidence is stacking up that cannabis could be the solution to not only the opioid crisis, but to many other common conditions as well.

That’s why we have seen a massive shift in US policy on cannabis recently. So, what’s all the fuss about? Let’s take a look.

Proven medical uses of cannabis

Epilepsy

Cannabis has proven anti-seizure properties. But even more promisingly, Cannabidiol (CBD), an active compound found in cannabis, has been found to safely and effectively reduce the frequency of seizures.

As this 2014 study concludes:

Cannabidiol has a wide range of biologic effects with multiple potential sites of action in the nervous system. Preclinical evidence for anti-seizure properties and a favorable side-effect profile support further development of CBD-based treatments for epilepsy. Activity in models of neuronal injury, neurodegeneration, and psychiatric disease suggest that CBD may also be effective for a wide range of central nervous system disorders that may complicate the lives of individuals with epilepsy; a treatment for both seizures and comorbid conditions is highly desirable.

What’s more, CBD is not a psychoactive substance and so doesn’t cause the “high” associated with most cannabis use.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

A large scale 2015 study into the use of cannabis for MS concluded:

Use of marijuana for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis is supported by high-quality evidence. Six trials that included 325 patients examined chronic pain, 6 trials that included 396 patients investigated neuropathic pain, and 12 trials that included 1600 patients focused on multiple sclerosis. Several of these trials had positive results, suggesting that marijuana or cannabinoids may be efficacious for these indications.

In fact, right now in the UK a cannabis extract called Sativex can be prescribed to MS sufferers right here in the UK. It is currently approved in 30 countries.

Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease

As Peter Reynolds writes in his BMJ paper:

Recent clinical trials have produced dramatic results with 50% of Crohn’s patients achieving complete remission and over 90% achieving substantial improvement. The evidence for the use of cannabis in Crohn’s and other forms of IBD is conclusive.

Glaucoma

This is the use that pops up on TV and films all the time… “What that, no, that’s just my grandma’s glaucoma medication”…

But there’s a reason for it. Cannabis has been proven to help with glaucoma since the 1970s. It’s perhaps its best known and most enduring medical use. You can read some of the evidence for it here.

Chronic pain

Well, if you want to cut down on opioid use, chronic pain is the big one. Thankfully, this is also one of the best and most proven medical uses of cannabis.

As Leaf Science reports:

Similar to over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen, marijuana can reduce inflammation and pain associated with inflammation.

THC is the compound believed to reduce pain. It has been found to be effective in a variety of conditions that cause pain, including arthritis, migraine, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

2015 clinical review examined 6 different trials with a total of 325 patients, and concluded that marijuana can be an effective treatment for patients with chronic pain.

And what’s more, a recent study has found that patients would prefer to use cannabis to treat their pain than opioids.

As Science Alert reports:

A new study has investigated what patients themselves prefer when it comes to managing pain – opioids, which are widely distributed for intense pain relief, or medical marijuana.

The researchers found that the patients themselves much prefer medical marijuana, and many believe it is just as effective for their pain.

“This study can conclude that medical cannabis patients report successfully using cannabis along with or as a substitute for opioid-based pain medication,” the team reported in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

But here’s the really strange thing

Now, I’m not saying that cannabis is the best solution to all the above conditions. That would be ridiculous. But it can clearly help with those and many others. And, perhaps most importantly, it presents doctors and patients with another option.

And that’s not even nearly the full list. Cannabis and its extracts have also been proven to help with cancer treatment, Parkinson’s disease, nausea, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease and fibromyalgia, to name just a few.

If you have a headache, you might choose between taking ibuprofen, paracetamol or aspirin. They are all legitimate painkillers and will all help in slightly different ways.

I used to get terrible migraines, the kind where one side of my body would go numb, I’d lose the power of speech and spend six hours throwing up while feeling like my head was being crushed under a car. Paracetamol had zero effect on the pain, but if I could keep aspirin down, it would help dramatically.

Cannabis provides another route for doctors and patients to try in all the above conditions, just like aspirin is a different route to try for a migraine.

What’s crazy about the US’ policy on cannabis right now, given all the above, is that it’s considered to have no medical use. As my colleague Eoin Treacy writes in Frontier Tech Investor:

The federal government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, which is defined as “substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”. That does not stand up to reason when we look at the fact that there are pharmaceuticals on the market today that incorporate cannabis as an active ingredient and are being prescribed to patients.

So, although at a state level cannabis is being legalised for both recreational and medical use, at a federal level it remains a Schedule 1 drug with “no accepted medical use”.

Eoin is completely right. It makes absolutely no logical sense.

However, the US’ contradictory policies towards cannabis could actually lead to some incredible investment opportunities – in some very surprising places.

This is a topic that Eoin has been researching in detail, and he will soon be releasing a full report on these opportunities.

I’ll keep you informed on when he’ll be releasing his report, and how you can be among the first to read it. So keep an eye out.

Until then,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

PS If you’re wondering about today’s subject line, it’s from the sitcom, South Park. One of the recurring characters, Mr Mackey, the school guidance character, has this as his catchphrase. It’s kind of an ongoing satire about the pathetic way drugs are talked about by authority figures. “Drugs? No, no, no… drugs are bad, mkay?”


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