The therapeutic effects of Cannabis and cannabinoids: An update from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report

Eur J Intern Med. 2018 Mar:49:7-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.003. Epub 2018 Jan 9.


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine conducted a rapid turn-around comprehensive review of recent medical literature on The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. The 16-member committee adopted the key features of a systematic review process, conducting an extensive search of relevant databases and considered 10,000 recent abstracts to determine their relevance. Primacy was given to recently published systematic reviews and primary research that studied one of the committee's 11 prioritized health endpoints- therapeutic effects; cancer incidence; cardiometabolic risk; respiratory disease; immune function; injury and death; prenatal, perinatal and postnatal outcomes; psychosocial outcomes; mental health; problem Cannabis use; and Cannabis use and abuse of other substances. The committee developed standard language to categorize the weight of evidence regarding whether Cannabis or cannabinoids use for therapeutic purposes are an effective or ineffective treatment for the prioritized health endpoints of interest. In the Therapeutics chapter reviewed here, the report concluded that there was conclusive or substantial evidence that Cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of pain in adults; chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. Moderate evidence was found for secondary sleep disturbances. The evidence supporting improvement in appetite, Tourette syndrome, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy and a variety of neurodegenerative disorders was described as limited, insufficient or absent. A chapter of the NASEM report enumerated multiple barriers to conducting research on Cannabis in the US that may explain the paucity of positive therapeutic benefits in the published literature to date.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse / prevention & control
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Cannabinoids
  • Medical Marijuana