OBJECTIVE: To systematically assess credibility and certainty of associations between cannabis, cannabinoids, and cannabis based medicines and human health, from observational studies and randomised controlled trials (RCTs).
DESIGN: Umbrella review.
DATA SOURCES: PubMed, PsychInfo, Embase, up to 9 February 2022.
ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR SELECTING STUDIES: Systematic reviews with meta-analyses of observational studies and RCTs that have reported on the efficacy and safety of cannabis, cannabinoids, or cannabis based medicines were included. Credibility was graded according to convincing, highly suggestive, suggestive, weak, or not significant (observational evidence), and by GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations) (RCTs). Quality was assessed with AMSTAR 2 (A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews 2). Sensitivity analyses were conducted.
RESULTS: 101 meta-analyses were included (observational=50, RCTs=51) (AMSTAR 2 high 33, moderate 31, low 32, or critically low 5). From RCTs supported by high to moderate certainty, cannabis based medicines increased adverse events related to the central nervous system (equivalent odds ratio 2.84 (95% confidence interval 2.16 to 3.73)), psychological effects (3.07 (1.79 to 5.26)), and vision (3.00 (1.79 to 5.03)) in people with mixed conditions (GRADE=high), improved nausea/vomit, pain, spasticity, but increased psychiatric, gastrointestinal adverse events, and somnolence among others (GRADE=moderate). Cannabidiol improved 50% reduction of seizures (0.59 (0.38 to 0.92)) and seizure events (0.59 (0.36 to 0.96)) (GRADE=high), but increased pneumonia, gastrointestinal adverse events, and somnolence (GRADE=moderate). For chronic pain, cannabis based medicines or cannabinoids reduced pain by 30% (0.59 (0.37 to 0.93), GRADE=high), across different conditions (n=7), but increased psychological distress. For epilepsy, cannabidiol increased risk of diarrhoea (2.25 (1.33 to 3.81)), had no effect on sleep disruption (GRADE=high), reduced seizures across different populations and measures (n=7), improved global impression (n=2), quality of life, and increased risk of somnolence (GRADE=moderate). In the general population, cannabis worsened positive psychotic symptoms (5.21 (3.36 to 8.01)) and total psychiatric symptoms (7.49 (5.31 to 10.42)) (GRADE=high), negative psychotic symptoms, and cognition (n=11) (GRADE=moderate). In healthy people, cannabinoids improved pain threshold (0.74 (0.59 to 0.91)), unpleasantness (0.60 (0.41 to 0.88)) (GRADE=high). For inflammatory bowel disease, cannabinoids improved quality of life (0.34 (0.22 to 0.53) (GRADE=high). For multiple sclerosis, cannabinoids improved spasticity, pain, but increased risk of dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, somnolence (GRADE=moderate). For cancer, cannabinoids improved sleep disruption, but had gastrointestinal adverse events (n=2) (GRADE=moderate). Cannabis based medicines, cannabis, and cannabinoids resulted in poor tolerability across various conditions (GRADE=moderate). Evidence was convincing from observational studies (main and sensitivity analyses) in pregnant women, small for gestational age (1.61 (1.41 to 1.83)), low birth weight (1.43 (1.27 to 1.62)); in drivers, car crash (1.27 (1.21 to 1.34)); and in the general population, psychosis (1.71 (1.47 to 2.00)). Harmful effects were noted for additional neonatal outcomes, outcomes related to car crash, outcomes in the general population including psychotic symptoms, suicide attempt, depression, and mania, and impaired cognition in healthy cannabis users (all suggestive to highly suggestive).
CONCLUSIONS: Convincing or converging evidence supports avoidance of cannabis during adolescence and early adulthood, in people prone to or with mental health disorders, in pregnancy and before and while driving. Cannabidiol is effective in people with epilepsy. Cannabis based medicines are effective in people with multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, inflammatory bowel disease, and in palliative medicine but not without adverse events.
STUDY REGISTRATION: PROSPERO CRD42018093045.
This umbrella review covers a broad spectrum of cannabis and cannabinoid across different medical uses, many neurologic: chronic pain, MS, and epilepsy. As an umbrella review, the conclusions are broad.
With the legalization of marijuana and its products, awareness of studies such as these will be of increased importance.
A helpful review that is limited to specific conditions with data extracted from varying studies.
A worthwhile authoritative review.
This is the 3rd or 4th meta-analysis I have read of cannabis. They have all agreed that the data are poor and the evidence is weak. They also have all spoken about adverse neuropsychiatric adverse events. This meta-analysis is more positive regarding its use in chronic pain. In cancer, the positive impact is on sleep disruption. Until better studies are done, I worry the data will remain very murky.