Federal health agency wants more marijuana research

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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality wants to learn more about marijuana and chronic pain

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) wants to know exactly how effective marijuana is in treating chronic pain. The federal agency published three notices on the Federal Register yesterday, in which it indicated that it needs the public’s assistance in identifying research that covers the benefits and drawbacks to marijuana over opioids, adding that it has already begun reviewing existing research.

In order to achieve its goal, the AHRQ included guidelines on what it needs to know. One of the three notices states that it is looking for studies on the “comparative effectiveness” of non-opioids, such as marijuana, versus opioids. The studies should include differences in “outcomes related to pain, function, and quality of life.”

In the second notice, the agency said that it is looking for information that would help it complete a review of non-invasive, non-pharmacologic pain treatments. Among the examples given of these treatments are exercise, acupuncture and marijuana. The AHRQ added that it is interested in studies on “any formulation” of cannabis.

In the third and final notice, the agency stated that it is interested in studying non-opioid pharmacologic treatments, including marijuana. It encourages the public to submit data regarding the risks of “overdose, misuse, dependence, withdrawals due to adverse events, and serious adverse events” of medical cannabis.

Opioids are known killers. They have led to countless overdose deaths and addictions and have become a troublesome epidemic around the world. On the other hand, while marijuana has been shown to lead to addiction – in levels less than that of alcohol – not a single death has been recorded from an overdose.

The deadline for submission of the studies and data to the AHRQ is April 18.