May 22, 2024
Medical Cannabis

New Study Shows Medical Cannabis Prescribed for Chronic Conditions Has No Impact on Driving Performance

A recent study conducted by researchers at Swinburne University of Technology’s Centre for Human Psychopharmacology has shed light on the impact of medical cannabis use on driving performance. The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in February 2024, found that when used as prescribed for chronic health conditions, medical cannabis has no significant effect on simulated driving performance.

The open-label study involved assessing the driving abilities of 40 patients with various chronic health conditions in a simulated driving environment. The participants were tested before and after consuming their prescribed dose of medical cannabis.

The results of the study revealed that there was no impairment in driving performance during a simulated highway driving task 2.5 hours after consuming the prescribed medication. Furthermore, there was no residual impairment in driving abilities even after 5 hours.

Lead author of the paper, Brooke Manning, emphasized the importance of the study in providing evidence of the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis treatment.

“The main finding of our study was the absence of impairment on a simulated highway driving task. We also observed that patients who consumed their medication as prescribed drove with slightly greater consistency in terms of speed and reported a decrease in the perceived effort required to drive,” Manning explained.

It is worth noting that the study’s sample size was relatively small, and the results specifically apply to patients who have been undergoing stable, long-term medical cannabis treatment for refractory conditions. Despite this, medical cannabis use has been on the rise in Australia since its legalization in 2016, with a significant increase in uptake in the last 18 months, according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Dr. Thomas Arkell, a contributor to the study from Swinburne University, emphasized the need for rigorous research to support the increasing use of medical cannabis prescriptions.

“With the growing number of medical cannabis prescriptions, it is crucial to have solid scientific evidence to support its use. We are currently conducting a major longitudinal study at Swinburne investigating the cognitive and health effects of medical cannabis for chronic pain, which is notoriously difficult to treat and is one of the main reasons for medical cannabis prescriptions,” Dr. Arkell explained.

The study led by Dr. Arkell aims to investigate the impact of medical cannabis on quality of life and everyday activities, such as driving, over a period of 12 weeks. The focus is on individuals with chronic pain who have never used cannabis before.

It is important to note that, except for Tasmania, patients prescribed medical cannabis containing THC are prohibited from driving in all jurisdictions. This highlights the significance of the research in shaping future policies and guidelines for medical cannabis use, particularly in relation to driving.

This study contributes to the growing body of evidence supporting the safe and effective use of medical cannabis for chronic conditions. As medical cannabis continues to gain popularity as a treatment option, rigorous scientific research is crucial to ensure its optimal use and to inform policies that balance patient needs and public safety.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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