Chat Day Live Question on Medical Marijuana

Video Length: 4:34

Dr. Jack Stein speaking: This is the 10th anniversary of Chat Day. We’re doing something new this year.

We’re taking video questions that you guys have submitted to us, and we have a scientist here live to answer them. So, let’s take a question.

And this next question is from Molly, she’s with Rivet High School in Indiana. Let’s hear Molly’s question.

Molly speaking: People use marijuana for medical reasons today.

How do doctors ensure that the patient won’t be addicted to marijuana once the patient no longer needs it for medical reasons?

Dr Jack Stein speaking: OK, thanks for that question, Molly. We’re here with Dr. Dave.

Dr. Dave Thomas speaking: Hi Molly, hi everyone.

Dr Jack Stein speaking: Dr. Dave is with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And Dr. Dave, Molly has asked a really interesting question.

It’s a topic that’s hot on everyone’s minds these days, and it has to do with medical marijuana.

And the question is, what happens to prevent somebody from actually becoming addicted to marijuana if they’re actually taking it for medical purposes?

Interesting area, can you comment on that?

Dr. Dave Thomas speaking: Yeah, it is an interesting area Jack, I mean Dr. Jack. And it’s something we’re very concerned, at NIDA, at the National Institutes of Health.

Medical marijuana was approved by voting. It was--people voted, they approved it in various areas.

It wasn’t--it didn’t go through the FDA. And normally when you go through the FDA, you kind of have a pretty good idea of what the benefits of the drug are, what the harms are.

But now we have it being used medically, and we don’t quite know all of those facts.

And that’s why, we at the NIH, we’re banding together to get some of those facts for clinicians and people who want to use medical marijuana for their painful conditions or whatever.

We’d like to get them some data, some information to tell them who it would work for, how long it would work for, what kind of doses, and things like that, so we can better inform both the patients and the doctors.

Dr Jack Stein speaking: So, it sounds like we’re still trying to understand and learn about this, the types of conditions that marijuana, or some of the chemical components of marijuana, may be useful for?

Dr. Dave Thomas speaking: Right, I’ve seen, actually, a list of maybe 50 or 100 different conditions that medical marijuana might be good for.

It’s probably not good for all those things, but it’s probably good for some things. And that’s why we at the NIH need to do research.

I mean, cannabinoids or--marijuana has cannabidiol in it and THC--we don’t know which one of those things help people, or both, or is it a combination; what the doses are, and things like that.

So, we really need to, at the NIH, speed up, try to catch up with the policy of making it medically legal. And inform the public about when it can help them and when it won’t help them.

Because we really want to get medicines to people that’s going to help them without bad side effects. And with marijuana we’re not sure how to inform the public.

Dr Jack Stein speaking: Sure. Well, the potential addictiveness, or problems that could arise, from using a drug like marijuana, can you comment a little about the possibility of actually somebody becoming addicted or dependent on a drug like marijuana?

Dr. Dave Thomas speaking: Right. Well, all medicines have the potential of some harm.

Certainly, marijuana is abused and people do become addicted. They don’t overdose. They don’t--but they do use it despite harm.

I mean, our definition of addiction is compulsive use despite harm, and certainly people do use marijuana in that way.

So, when we introduce it into a medical setting, we have that concern that we might take people that are seeking medical relief and turn them into addicts.

I mean certainly, with the opioids and pain, we have had problems in that realm with it, and we don’t want to repeat that, even in a smaller way in the marijuana--medical marijuana--area.

Dr Jack Stein speaking: OK, so it sounds like a lot more research and information is needed about this particular drug, which may have some medical benefits, but more research is needed, and that’s really what we-- That’s what we’re here for.

Dr. Dave Thomas speaking: Exactly.

Dr Jack Stein speaking: Well, thank you for being here today, and guys, thanks for your question. Molly, in particular, appreciate you asking this important question.