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Yale Psychiatrist Says States are "Putting the Cart Before the Horse" on Medical Marijuana

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Dr. Deepak Cyril D'Souza says more studies on medical marijuana are needed.
"We don't even have basic information about dosing. It's entirely on trial and error."
Dr. Deepak Cyril D'Souza

Connecticut has a list of eleven medical conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that marijuana has not been clinically proven to be an effective treatment for most of those ailments. 

In the same edition, JAMA also published a study that found inconsistencies in the levels of THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana -- for many different medical marijuana products.

Proper dosing is just one of the problems that Dr. Deepak Cyril D'Souza, associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, has with the current state of medical marijuana. He co-wrote an editorial in JAMA called, "Is the Cart Before the Horse?"

"When you are placing this under the umbrella of -- or giving society the impression that this is under medical oversight -- then it should meet all the other standards that medical professionals are used to," D'Souza said. 

Those standards should start with rigorous clinical trials like any other FDA approved drug, D'Souza said, adding that most medical marijuana studies so far have been of poor quality. "They were not adequately controlled, they were not blinded, they were not for a sufficient period of time, and there weren't a sufficient number of subjects in those studies," he said. 

State legislatures are making decisions about who can receive medical marijuana based on case studies and anecdotal evidence, which is a deviation from the way other drugs are vetted, said D'Souza.

Credit Charlie Smart / WNPR
In a recent study, many medical marijuana products were found to have discrepancies in THC dosage.


D'Souza said marijuana has the potential to help people with a number of medical conditions, but without solid evidence, and a uniform system of dosing, doctors are practicing in the dark. "Because we don't have information we don't even have basic information about dosing," he said. "It's entirely on trial and error."

D'Souza said so far medical marijuana has been proven effective for only three medical conditions -- nausea related to chemotherapy, spasticity in people with Multiple Sclerosis, and certain pain syndromes.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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