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Barriers To Studying Marijuana: Q&A With Dr. Thorsten Rudroff

Dr. Rudroff recently spoke in depth with The Fresh Toast about common misconceptions and barriers to research currently in place when studying medical marijuana or CBD. 

We need long-term studies! There is a ‘painful’ parallel between medical marijuana and the past and present situation with opioids, where the short-term demonstration of efficacy on chronic pain led to the promotion and broad scale prescription of opioids in the absence of high quality evidence.”  – Dr. Thorsten Rudroff

Recently, The Fresh Toast shared an article about Dr. Thorsten Rudroff’s newest study in partnership with the National Institute of Health and the University of Iowa that focuses on understanding how aging and mobility is linked to medical marijuana. 

Already garnering attention all over the globe, the study sought participants to discuss if the use of marijuana could increase the risk of falls or cognitive impairments in aging adults.

Dr. Rudroff, whose background includes a PhD in neurophysiology and a degree in physical therapy, recently spoke in depth with The Fresh Toast about common misconceptions and barriers to research currently in place when studying medical marijuana or CBD. 

Q: Other researchers often discuss the red tape that surrounds marijuana and CBD studies. Have you experienced this with your current study?  

A: We have to distinguish between intervention and observation studies. Intervention studies, the investigators tell the subject how to use medical marijuana, are difficult. You need a special license to conduct these studies. To get this license can take more than 2 years. Observational studies, like this one) are easier to perform. We invite users to the lab and test them. However, it took some time to get approval from the UIOWA IRB (Institutional Review Board). For example, we had to make sure that we follow strict Iowa Marijuana laws. Furthermore, my lab is the first at UIOWA who is doing this kind of research. I hope that the next marijuana study will get approval much quicker. 

RELATED: NIH Director Says Marijuana’s Legal Status Is ‘Big Deterrent’ To Research

Photo by Thanit Weerawan/Getty Images

Q: When people are researching CBD/marijuana, what are three things they should know, or better understand prior? 

A: Importantly they should know the effects of THC and CBD. Careful with THC products, the higher the THC the more likely are side effects. Especially older people with heart problems should pay attention to the THC content. I also recommend working with the physician (neurologist) when someone decides to use medical marijuana. Lastly, people should use products from good sources and with correct labelling.

Q: Do you have any advice for researchers new to the market– what should they know? 

A: New research should critically review the literature. Many things are unknown. What are the long-term effects of medical marijuana? What are the interactions with other drugs? What are the specific effects of THC and CBD on cognitive and motor function?

The longer the FDA waits to remove marijuana from its drug classification, the farther behind the U.S. will stall in producing vital research for the older of vulnerable members of the population. Researchers like Dr. Thorsten are making important strides in creating mainstream conversations around marijuana use while de-stigmatizing weed and CBD in conversations with older adults.

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