The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

  • Common sense considerations

    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    Side effects of medical cannabinoids

    Researchers from McGill University in Montreal reviewed the evidence.

    First, the details.

    • Safety studies of medical cannabinoids published over the past 40 years were reviewed.
    • After excluding articles on recreational cannabis, 31 studies (23 randomized controlled trials and 8 observational studies) of medical cannabis use were analyzed.

    And, the results.

    • In the 23 randomized controlled trials, the duration of cannabinoid exposure was about 2 weeks (range 8 hours to 12 months).
    • 4779 side effects were reported.
    • 97% were not serious.
    • Among 164 serious side effects, the most common included relapse of multiple sclerosis (13%), vomiting (10%), and urinary tract infection (9%).
    • The rate of nonserious side effects was higher among those assigned to medical cannabinoids vs controls.
    • The rates of serious adverse events did not differ between the groups.
    • Dizziness was the most commonly reported nonserious side effect (16%) among people exposed to cannabinoids.

    The bottom line?
    The authors concluded, “Short-term use of existing medical cannabinoids appeared to increase the risk of nonserious adverse events.”

    By comparison, “The risks associated with long-term use were poorly characterized… High-quality trials of long-term exposure are required to further characterize safety issues related to the use of medical cannabinoids.”

    6/17/08 21:14 JR

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