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STEVE ELLIOTT

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A new study from Israel got encouraging results from testing medical marijuana on 19 nursing home patients. The test subjects were treated with cannabis in the form of powder, oil, vapor, or smoke three times a day over the course of a year.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University, led by film student Zach Klein, a specialist in medicinal cannabis policy and director of the documentary Prescribed Grass, found that 17 or the 19 patients regained lost weight, and the symptoms of pain, stiffness, tremors, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were dramatically reduced.

The moods and communication skills of study participants also improved, and they had fewer nightmares and flashbacks, Klein said, reports Matthew Grant Anson at American News Report.

“After I found this, everything has been better,” Moshe Rute of Hadarim, an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor who struggled with nightmares and the after-effects of a stroke, told the Times of Israel. “I’m still a Holocaust child, but I’m finally able to better cope.”

Rute is one of 11,000 Israeli citizens with medical marijuana permits from the government.

Moshe Rute, 80, smokes a joint at the Hadarim elderly care facility in Kibutz Naan, Israel
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Moshe Rute, 80, smokes a joint at the Hadarim elderly care facility in Kibutz Naan, Israel

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Klein told the Times. “It’s the future.”

Particularly notable in the study was marijuana’s ability to replace some of the prescription medications taken by patients. By the end of the study, 72 percent were able to reduce the number of pharmaceutical drugs they were taking daily. The list of medications which could be reduced after cannabis therapy included  painkillers, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and pills for Parkinson’s disease.

Many of the pharmaceutical medications which could be replaced or reduced can have debilitating and severe side effects, meaning that cannabis therapy resulted in a vast improvement in quality of life.

“We know how to extend life, but sometimes it’s not pleasant and can cause a great deal of suffering, so we’re looking to alleviate this, to add quality to longevity,” head nurse Inbal Sikorin said. “Cannabis meets this need. Almost all our patients are eating again, and their moods have improved tremendously.”

Marijuana’s chief psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was discovered in Israel in the 1960s, and the country doesn’t attach the same stigma to cannabis as is commonly the case in the United States. Medical marijuana was legalized for seriously ill patients in the early 1990s. Though it remains illegal for the general population, even senior rabbis reportedly have no problems with the use or spread of cannabis.

According to Science DailyKlein’s research team includes Dr. Dror Avisar of TAU’s Hydrochemistry Laboratory at the Department of Geography and Human Environment; Prof. Naama Friedmann and Rakefet Keider of TAU’s Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education; Dr. Yehuda Baruch of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and director of the Abarbanel Mental Health Center; and Dr. Moshe Geitzen and Inbal Sikorin of Hadarim.

Klein is now working on another study at Israel’s Reuth Medical Center with Drs. Jean-Jacques Vatine and Aviah Gvion. He hopes to prove a connection between medicinal cannabis and improved swallowing (a phenomenon which I personally know is very real, due to what I’ve learned from my friend, medical marijuana patient and activist Mimi Friedman, an Ohio native who had to move to Colorado to legally access her medicine).

One of the biggest concerns with chronically ill patients is their food intake, and Klein believes that cannabis — which can stimulate regions of the brain associated with the swallowing reflex — will have a positive impact.

 

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