Medical marijuana fails to improve symptoms, doubles risk of addiction, study says

BOSTON, Mass. — Medical marijuana fails to improve symptoms of pain, anxiety, and depression — while increasing the risk that patients will develop an addiction to cannabis, a new study warns. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital add that up to one in five users may develop cannabis use disorder (CUD).

The findings come from a review of medical marijuana card holders in the United States. A growing number of states now allow the use and sale of medical marijuana to help alleviate the symptoms of conditions including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and the side-effects from chemotherapy.

“There have been many claims about the benefits of medical marijuana for treating pain, insomnia, anxiety and depression, without sound scientific evidence to support them,” says Professor Jodi Gilman in a media release.

“In this first study of patients randomized to obtain medical marijuana cards, we learned there can be negative consequences to using cannabis for medical purposes. People with pain, anxiety or depression symptoms failed to report any improvements, though those with insomnia experienced improved sleep.”

Those with anxiety or depression were most vulnerable to CUD, a discovery Prof. Gilman describes is “particularly disturbing.” The team notes that these are also the most common conditions patients seek a medical cannabis prescription to treat.

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Does the medical marijuana prescription system need an overhaul?

The findings suggest the need for stronger safeguards over dispensing and tracking of patients, the MGH team says. In the U.S., medical cannabis cards require written approval of a licensed doctor who is typically not the patient’s primary care provider. They may provide authorization with only a cursory examination, no recommendations for alternative treatments, and no follow-up. In fact, the industry functions outside regulatory standards that apply to most fields of medicine.

In the trial, Prof. Gilman and colleagues recruited 269 adults from Boston interested in obtaining an MMC. Study authors split the participants into two groups, with one having access to marijuana immediately and the second having to wait — acting as a control. Over the next 12 weeks, the risk of developing CUD nearly doubled among the people getting immediate access to medical marijuana.

By the end of the trial, doctors diagnosed one in 10 with addiction. That number rose to 20 percent among participants seeking a card for anxiety or depression.

“Our study underscores the need for better decision-making about whether to begin to use cannabis for specific medical complaints, particularly mood and anxiety disorders, which are associated with an increased risk of cannabis use disorder,” Prof. Gilman says.

“There needs to be better guidance to patients around a system that currently allows them to choose their own products, decide their own dosing, and often receive no professional follow-up care.”

The study findings are published in JAMA Network Open.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.


  1. This is a bunch of malarkey. I know cause every few years some group of doctors somewhere do some research of like 260 people not a double blind study. with limited testing factor skewed to the medical associations standard not real standards. Also people specifically picked who are at certain mental level and education regarding cannibis. This has fraud and propaganda all over it. HAHAHA!

    1. How many gravity bong hits did you do this morning? A double blind study?

      First of all, it’s kind of difficult/unethical to do with patients prescribed something… That’s asking half the group to not take their medication.

      Second… I think the patient group would figure out pretty quickly if they are taking gravity bong hits of oregano… Meaning you never achieve the neutrality of a double blind study…

      1. Perhaps you should read how normal medications are tested before you assume.
        French that’s what you described would never happen does happen it’s called every single Placebo test. Some people were given functional medication and some people with disease are not given functional medication and that is how medical placebo test which is one of the many tasks that prescription drugs are always tested with but yes having patients that have illness not take medication is absolutely standard and has been for a very very long time as one of the many ways they test medications.

      2. I’ll tell you straight up. I’m in Connecticut, had the card for about 10 years now. Weed doesn’t help anything but one thing, epilepsy. I don’t have seizures because I smoke it. But I’m in nothing but physical pain and depression. And easily gets me dehydrated which causes headaches. I’d say the only thing it does is numbs your brain and make you stupid to not realize a problem that causes a seizure, and skips the reaction. Helps sleep for people that can’t sleep at all. For me, it make me sleep less and not enough. It’s just a drug that’s safer then cigarettes or alcohol for the government to make money as a licensed “drug dealer”

    2. This study is completely false. This must be a joke. The world has known for years Marijuana is a miracle substance put here by God for us, period. The laws, policies and legislation are all changing. This argument is over.

    3. Pretty serious flaw in the study design is not highlighted here.

      The study measures the effect of having a Medicare marijuana card, not the effect of the marijuana itself. Those waiting to receive a card in the control group did not have their marijuana intake controlled. Just their LEGAL access to marijuana.

      Here in PA, I’ve been using marijuana for decades to manage anxiety. But the legal stuff didn’t make it any better than the black market stuff, for sure.

      1. I told myself amphetamines were improving my life too. Then it came to me, that I was, too, just an addict making flimsy excuses to keep on using.

    4. Richard Nixon decided – against the recommendation of his own commission – to place marijuana in Schedule One because it gave him justification to investigate and incarcerate civil rights protestors. And since then politicians in both parties recognize the power of wielding that sword, and that’s why they continue to justify it. The DC bureaucrats live off the funding for anti-drug programs, and there are always people who hate someone who smoke pot and thus support this unconscionable assault on our citizenry.

  2. Would be nice to know which pharmaceutical firm/company/group will be found to fave funded this study

    Always follow the money before believing ANY study

      1. So a Federal Agency that is dedicated to fighting drug abuse funded a study of medical marijuana that concluded that it is ineffective and leads to drug abuse.


        I think it goes something like this: Legal weed is costing law enforcement and the prison industry millions. Big Pharma likewise is not happy that we have access to an effective drug that dings their profits. The NIDA is part of the NIH (the people responsible for all that consistent and accurate Covid guidance /s) which is funded by Congress which is made up of politicians who are bought and owned by law enforcement and pharma (aka “follow the money”).

        They see the push to reform Federal drug laws to bring them in line with the states that have legalized weed, so they need a rationale to keep the draconian “Refer Madness” Federal law that makes marijuana a schedule 1 drug. This outdated law allows them to deter the states that still criminalize marijuana from going after the tax dollars while making it difficult for the marijuana industry to operate in legal states.

        Watch for which congresspeople quote this study the most when they vote against reforming marijuana laws and cross tab the amount of money they get from law enforcement and pharma.

        What a country. Good thing Ukraine is fighting for democracy, because ours is shite.

        1. T-Rex I keep saying comments about how unhappy big Pharma is with legalize medical marijuana but that is completely false because big Pharma and big tobacco are by far the biggest investors in medical marijuana legalization in many states the tobacco industry has Ben the big leader here in Florida but big Pharma in general has poured a lot of money into Florida in Pennsylvania I know and I assume other states as well but it’s not secret it’s very openly on record if you go read

  3. I can say personally, that marijuana helps reduce “after work” pain in feet and joints. Some strains also help with Social Anxiety, like OG Kush. I have also personally witnessed life changing effects with someone who had MS. The Truth is right, this is article is BS.

  4. I use gummies to handle my anxiety/depression. My wife smokes bud for the same reason. This medicine works where others didn’t. I’d say the results are bs. Just decriminalize it at the fed level already and let us live our friggin lives

    1. The only thing that’s bs is the anecdotal “evidence” you and others are spewing saying that weed has medicinal benefits. This is why researchers conduct such studies, to see if the hypothesis that weed has any such benefits. “It helped me” ain’t scientific.

      But by all means yes, decriminalize it. At all levels. If people want to get high, that’s their business.

      1. This is not a legitimate medical study. Just bc your negative about the social and negative images associated with cannabis and cannabis use doesnt make this study legitimate. They overlooked common standard practices to reduce bias behavior. In fact your biasness is pretty evident. If you want a nail in a coffin about the nature of cannabis the study needs to be legit.

      2. No it’s the false study that contradicts other studies.

        When something says “breathing doesn’t keep you alive”.. you think cannabis users don’t know whether it offers PAIN RELIEF.

        It’s hardly a subtle thing.

    2. If you believe it relieves anxiety you’ll have no problem with your pilot and your surgeon smoking a few joints before your flight or your surgery. It’ll help with their anxiety.

      1. No one smokes “a few joints” and yes, I would have no problem with them.
        Now if they had a few drinks, that would be a problem.

  5. What an absolute joke. Yea the study on one in a million different strands of marijuana. This is honestly embarrassing for this professor to not have the wherewithal in understanding that there are thousands upon thousands of different strands of marijuana all which affect users differently. This opinion is past its time. This is pathetic to be posted on a reputable news source.

      1. Matt, you are correct as to THC but you simply ignore the many other cannabinoids and their interaction with THC. Of course this is one reason why the study is intellectually bankrupt.

      2. Haha. Moron doesn’t know what the entourage effect is.

        “ItS jUSt ThC” is the screed of a mental midget. Let the adult talks. You can go back to smoking Oxys, crackhead…

  6. This article and study are absolute garbage. 269 people?! How much were they paid? Who funded this? Crap.

  7. Yes, tens of millions of people like myself, prefer to use cannabis rather than any other medications (morphine in my case, bone disease) and over the counter medications, because it offers no relief..

    Very believable.. I hope whoever wrote this got a cookie..

  8. What an utter embarrassment of a science. Shame on these so-called “researchers” & “doctors”. To lie to directly to the public like this. This type of in-your-face lying should be criminal, but we live in a lawless land where disgusting liars money hungry opportunists are abound everywhere and masquerade as health professionals and also in government. So the real question is which pharmaceutical cabal funded this hoax? Also, how much money did Gilman pocket from this study? Notice I didn’t (and wouldn’t) referrer to her made up title as Doctor; because she isn’t one. Everything to demonize cannabis, yet keep selling you dangerous & unproven vaccine that has caused more people to develop COVID-19 & a host of hidden deadly side effects. Sickening to say the least.

  9. The very first comment above, by “The truth” is indicative of why we need prescriptions in the first place. Morons can’t be trusted on their own.

  10. Oh, I see. Helping with insomnia doesn’t count for anything? Sheesh, 1/3 of our lives we sleep. But when we can’t sleep we can either load up on addictive sleeping pills, or less addictive (very recently weed was officially classified as non-addictive, both physically and psychologically) medical Marijuana? And will medical Marijuana kill your liver? Nope, not at all. Great. Thanks, small erroneous “study.”

  11. This is absurdity at it’s best. This survey probably came from the same place that decided Marijuana causes African Americans to rape white women. This is how pot became illegal decades ago. Bad science then, bad science now. (Or simply ignoring science and replacing that with opinions from persons that have never tried using it for medicinal reasons.

  12. This drug is very very important to so many people who absolutely need it every day but aren’t addicted.

  13. Does this site give away free boner pills? Shut this site down for false information. 100%behind drug testing our political hacks in D.C. I think everyone should know what drugs they are on.

  14. There is no such thing as medical marijuana. If you want to get high to help cope with life, go for it. Stop claiming medical treatment/results. This is only the beginning of these studies that prove that marijuana for medical purposes is BS. Stop kidding yourselves people. Just admit it. You want to get high. That’s fine. Be honest.

    1. I can only say this…..I hate hate hate getting high. It wigs me out. I don’t like being high even a little bit. With that established….a very small hit of marijuana is the ONLY thing that helps my chronic knee pain and stiffness. It literally makes it go away. Every time. I take a very small dose, do NOT get high at all, and it’s the only thing that works.

    2. I agree and I have a medical card for two legit reasons as far as the state is concerned. I’m trying to get off it and hoping I can find more energy.

    3. Matt you ignorant – Feds have given Rx of weed for Glaucoma…..Ed Meese proclaimed (he ain’t no LIb!) that medical cannibis helped his cancer ridden daughter live longer & better…you ignore the FACTS
      Pro Rx industry behing this study, Xanax not Indica the new chant

  15. The result of this study is sad. Now Americans won’t have this drug to help them cope with their drab, meaningless, hopeless lives, trapped in a Corporate Fascists state that is keeping them slaves to money, and too stupid to be able to figure out what is wrong.

    Back to alcohol and other recreational drugs for Americans I guess.

    1. Go back to the motherland with your BS Russian Bot. Will give you a cookie if you put one between Putin’s eyes.

  16. People with anxiety turn to alcohol. Alcohol is addictive and the withdrawal can kill you. Not to mention it ruins your liver. So yes this study may have merit but marijuana is not nearly as deadly as alcohol or opiates. I am curious where the money for the study is really coming from. My guess is either the pharmaceutical or alcohol lobbyists.

    1. Marijuana is America’s largest cash crop. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

      If they wanted to run a good study (read: this is NOT), they could totally afford to do so. Not only that but “generic” drugs are studied all the time outside of research paid for by their manufacturers, just look at the generics studied for COVID: ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, dexamethasone, fluvoxamine (obviously the last 2 were the only ones that panned out, but they were still WELL STUDIED).

      I support full legalization but I have serious doubts about marijuana’s efficacy as a medication for just about anything. For my part I think it’s just as likely the people using it for pain, anxiety, and depression are just recreational users satisfying their cravings and not dealing with their issues… still better than alcohol and opiates by a massive margin.

  17. I like to say, different strains for different pains. 😉
    God has made these plants to help with healing the body. Some abuse, some use. It’s personal. About as personal as my deuces.
    I have a complex auto immune disease, and I not only use MJ, but I use numerous natural supplements to help curb the ailments.
    If any of you have ever heard of norolidol, you should try an oil named Devils Club. Despite that deceiving name, it’s actually very potent in its healing effects. It’s not well know but I buy mine from a guy in Alaska. When I don’t take it I can feel more pain. The active compound is a relative of marijuana. It’s a plant in southeast Alaska. And other places around there also.
    Check it out if you want. Good product.
    Oh, some peeps call MJ the devils lettuce, I like to think of it Jesus’s cabbage. sundae driving on a Monday night. Beootch!! ????

  18. Total crap paid for by your friendly Big Pharma Mafia. I USED to take Klonopin for anxiety- no more. Cannabis. I used to take 200 Mgs. of Morphine Sulfate given to me by the VA DAILY for 10 YEARS straight- daily for chronic pain. No more. Cannabis. Cannabis was created by our Creator to be used by us. WE (me and you) have an ENDOCANNABIOID SYSTEM. Ask your Doctor. Cannabis was CREATED to be used by humanity. Period. Wake up. Stop believing the lies told us.

  19. How about focusing on dependence on addictive prescribed pain meds. Those numbers look awful. Then move in to SSRI’s that leave men impotent and studies show to be largely ineffective for moderate depression (Irving Kirsh 2019)

  20. I know for a fact it reduced pain from a major surgery when combined with other pain meds! In my case the pain med was 100 milligrams of Demerol every three hours, but on a scale of one to ten the pain only reduced to level six. After three days I was moved from ICU to a private room. The surgeon came in fifteen minutes later & yanked the chest drainage tube out. The second he left the room I took a joint into the bathroom, stood on the toilet, lit the joint & held it up to the exhaust fan between tokes. I hobbled back to my bed after the joint was done & my pain level had reduced to between zero & one. Not only did it work it worked miraculously well!!!

    It may not work as well on a lesser injury like a broken limb, dunno. But on a major surgery like mine, a thorocotomy entry to the plural cavity involving tremendous pain afterwards it was like I said, miraculous.

    For another use it is also by far the most effective mood stabilizer I’ve ever used.

  21. As a medical marijuana user for 3 years and counting, (for depression and arthritis) In combination with other non-opioid drugs, I can categorically confirm that I haven’t touched opioids for those entire 3 years, I am able to ride a bike, my joints move more freely and I sleep better now that I don’t have night pain or cramps in my legs. Maybe I’m not the majority, but I know it works for me and my liver thanks me on a daily basis. The study is bull crap, although I do agree that doctor’s should follow up with those patients they prescribe marijuana, it is a drug after all and should be treated like any other, i.e. side effects, unwanted reactions etc.

  22. Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD), huh? So research employees from a medical hospital found that a non-pharma product is useless? In other news: Corporate farmers find growing your own food is dangerous.

  23. “The findings come from a review of medical marijuana card holders in the United States.”

    You can pretty much stop there. Not randomized nor controlled. Especially for subjective symptoms like pain and mood disorders, it’s a non-starter.

    I’m a family doc practicing in the states. I’m pretty convinced that marijuana is in general detrimental for just about any mental illness. While it’s certainly not as bad as alcohol, the rate of addiction (yes, it’s addictive–if video games can be addictive so can marijuana) and other comorbidity is off the charts. Without a randomized trial however, it’s hard to say if there were addicts before the marijuana or not.

    Yes, some patients report they do better on it. However, when dealing with addiction, the addict is generally the LAST person to know they have a problem. They’ll rationalize the heck out of their “medicine,” they’ll say it cures their social anxiety as they stay home alone. They’ll say it cures their pain as they’re using alcohol and prescription pain killers at the same time.

    Without randomized trial though, we can’t know for sure. Nor can we know if it’s even ethical to run such a trial. If 20% of randomly picked depressed people will get hooked on marijuana as this article suggests, WE CANNOT RUN THAT STUDY. However as much as I think it’s a bad drug for this purpose, I fully admit we can’t know without a real study.

    All that said, I fully support it’s untaxed and unregulated legalization for adults, but that’s separate from the point about it being a medicine.

    1. I have Menieres Disease. Cannabis helps relieve the nausea, retching, and dizzying balance issues. I defy any doctor to tell me it has no merit on my health. I didn’t start using cannabis till I was in my late 40s. If science can cure Menieres disease, I’ll stop cannabis.

  24. This study is not definitive……and the conclusions are too easily confounded.
    Herodotus wrote about cannabis usage by the Scythian peoples of the northeast Black Sea region.
    It is clear from Herodotus’ description that cannabis was used as an entheogen…..He described a purification ritual.
    We ought to be evaluating cannabis as a tool for mental health. My own experience is that it has the effect of altering personality. I describe it as a breaking of bonds between the many different elements that make up our individual personality.
    A number of years ago, various organizations researched this end using much stronger pyschoactives…..

  25. So you pick 270 people, make up a Syndrome, and tell people they have it according to their interviews to their interviews….great science….where are the sleep studies associated with the data? …OMG…and this crap gets published and splashed on all the usual BS News sites… advance a Reefer Madness Narrative…. you guys suck

  26. Cannabis does not take away the pain; rather it takes your mind off of the pain providing the benefit.

  27. Gosh, I guess millions of people throughout history are wrong.
    Beware: This website publishes mountains of BS.

  28. Marijuana cures cancer and smoking it is good for your lungs. The real truth is that drinking large amounts of alcohol cures cancer and promotes good health. Of course that is the dumbest thing anyone would say, but marijuana is a belief system and you you can’t argue with a believer. The fact is that it has a really bad track record for mental health and it’s connection with mental health disorders is well documented, but you don’t want to believe it, because reasoning is not in your skill set.

  29. I can only speak for myself, but I started smoking weed in my mid-teens and quit in my early 20’s. I quit because the high was making me feel paranoid with bouts of anxiety. I also couldn’t sleep, even if I smoked in the daytime. So many pro-pot people get very defensive when there is anything negative about weed. I think this study is legit.

  30. This study brought to you shell organizations funded by big pharma. Any study i see that comes up with new acronyms like “CUD” are complete BS. Who made that one up? I’ll tell ya the executives at big pharma. I can see them now all sitting around a $1000 a plate supper saying: We need to slow down these weed users and get them on our safe non addictive opioid. Some one have a good one. How about Weed use disorder or WUD. WUD na… how about CUD that’s perfect. Here’s a 20 million dollars go fund a study with one of our shells. I watched Dope sick and if even half of what in that movie is correct then it shows you how these billionaires work.

  31. Jodi gillman phd’s work was named by the national academy of sciences institute of medicine meta study of cannabis years ago an completely unreliable and deeply flawed methodology. For outlets to continue to publish her well known anti cannabis “research” is exactly the same as publishing an antivax loon.

  32. To those who smoke for “medical” reasons, you are breaking the 11th commandment. “Thou shalt not kid thyself. “

    Of course you feel better, of course you were able to sleep, of course your knee feels better. It is because you were high as a kite. Nothing medical about it. Your mind was altered. Just admit it, you want to get high. Stop with the medical nonsense. CBD is the biggest snake oil scam going. People are so darn gullible.

  33. “Does the medical marijuana prescription system need an overhaul?”

    No. Just legalize it fully. Let those who want to use it for alternative medicine do so. Let those who want to use it recreationally do so. Regulate, tax, educate on usage & potential risks/benefits.

  34. It’s really quite a shame we can’t actually study this, but instead get the same authors and PhDs spewing the same garbage again and again. Gillman? Give me a break.

  35. Helps with pain, insomnia, and much more. Has less calories than a 12 pack. It needs to be made legal across the board — no need to reschedule, no need to do anything, but change the archaic law! Allow adults the same rights as alcohol, regulate the same way and punish misuse the same way.

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