[Results of a standardized survey on the medical use of cannabis products in the German-speaking area].Forsch Komplementarmed 1999; 6 Suppl 3:28-36FK
The plant Cannabis sativa has a long history of medical use in the treatment of pain and spasms, the promotion of sleep, and the suppression of nausea and vomiting. However, in the early 70s cannabis was classified in the Narcotic Acts in countries all over the world as having no therapeutic benefit; therefore, it cannot be prescribed by physicians or dispensed by pharmacists. In the light of this contradictory situation an increasing number of patients practices a self-prescription with cannabis products for relieving a variety of symptoms. An anonymous standardized survey of the medical use of cannabis and cannabis products of patients in Germany, Austria and Switzerland was conducted by the Association for Cannabis as Medicine (Cologne, Germany). During about one year 170 subjects participated in this survey; questionnaires of 128 patients could be included into the evaluation. 68% of these participants were males, 32% females, with a total mean age of 37.5 (+/- 9.6) years. The most frequently mentioned indications for medicinal cannabis use were depression (12.0%), multiple sclerosis (10.8%), HIV-infection (9.0%), migraine (6.6%), asthma (6.0%), back pain (5.4%), hepatitis C (4. 8%), sleeping disorders (4.8%), epilepsy (3.6%), spasticity (3.6%), headache (3.6%), alcoholism (3.0%), glaucoma (3.0%), nausea (3.0%), disk prolapse (2.4%), and spinal cord injury (2.4%). The majority of patients used natural cannabis products such as marihuana, hashish and an alcoholic tincture; in just 5 cases dronabinol (Marinol) was taken by prescription. About half of the 128 participants of the survey (52.4%) had used cannabis as a recreational drug before the onset of their illness. To date 14.3% took cannabis orally, 49.2% by inhalation and in 36.5% of cases both application modes were used. 72.2% of the patients stated the symptoms of their illness to have 'much improved' after cannabis ingestion, 23.4% stated to have 'slightly improved', 4.8% experienced 'no change' and 1.6% described that their symptoms got 'worse'. Being asked for the satisfaction with their therapeutic use of cannabis 60.8% stated to be 'very satisfied', 24.0% 'satisfied', 11.2% 'partly satisfied' and 4.0% were 'not satisfied'. 70.8% experienced no side effects, 26.4% described 'moderate' and 3.3% 'strong' side effects. 84.1% of patients have not felt any need for dose escalation during the last 3 months, 11.0% had to increase their cannabis dose 'moderately' and 4.8% 'strongly' in order to maintain the therapeutic effects. Thus, this survey demonstrates a successful use of cannabis products for the treatment of a multitude of various illnesses and symptoms. This use was usually accompanied only by slight and in general acceptable side effects. Because the patient group responding to this survey is presumably highly selected, no conclusions can be drawn about the quantity of wanted and unwanted effects of the medicinal use of the hemp plant for particular indications.