Therapeutic Cannabis and Endocannabinoid Signaling System Modulator Use in Otolaryngology Patients

Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2018 Apr 16;3(3):169-177. doi: 10.1002/lio2.154. eCollection 2018 Jun.


Objectives: 1) review benefits and risks of cannabis use, with emphasis on otolaryngic disease processes; 2) define and review the endocannabinoid signaling system (ESS); and 3) review state and federal regulations for the use and research of cannabis and ESS modulators.

Methods: This manuscript is a review of the current literature relevant to the stated objectives.

Results: Cannabis (marijuana) use is increasing. It is the most widely used illicit substance in the world. There is increasing interest in its therapeutic potential due to changing perceptions, new research, and legislation changes controlling its use. The legal classification of cannabis is complicated due to varied and conflicting state and federal laws. There are currently two synthetic cannabinoid drugs that are FDA approved. Current indications for use include chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, cachexia, and appetite loss. Research has demonstrated potential benefit for use in many other pathologies including pain, inflammatory states, and malignancy. Data exists demonstrating potential antineoplastic benefit in oral, thyroid, and skin cancers.

Conclusions: ESS modulators may play both a causal and therapeutic role in several disorders seen in otolaryngology patients. The use of cannabis and cannabinoids is not without risk. There is a need for further research to better understand both the adverse and therapeutic effects of cannabis use. With increasing rates of consumption, elevated public awareness, and rapidly changing legislation, it is helpful for the otolaryngologist to be aware of both the adverse manifestations of use and the potential therapeutic benefits when talking with patients.

Publication types

  • Review