The Poplar St. parking lot at the Juravinski Cancer Centre is closed from June 3 to September 27. Click here for more info.

Hamilton Health Sciences Home
holding cannabis buds
April 20, 2018

Are there long-term effects to cannabis users?

Before the end of 2018, many Canadians will be able to legally purchase cannabis for recreational use in their communities. But, despite its impending widespread availability, there’s very little known about the long-term physical, psychological and social effects of cannabis, leaving the medical community at odds with the drive to legalize the drug.

Researchers at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and McMaster University have established the Database for Cannabis Consumption and Study, or “DataCann”, to help inform knowledge and use of cannabis in clinical settings.

Once the database is complete, researchers can begin to look for answers around who’s using medical cannabis and why, the benefits and risks, the specific compounds used, the impact on healthcare resources, and further education requirements. Ultimately the hope is that the data collected will impact healthcare guidelines and prescribing practices to ensure optimal outcomes for patients.

Ultimately the hope is that the data collected will impact healthcare guidelines and prescribing practices.

“This database will give us the opportunity to explore a lot of unanswered questions around the medical use of cannabis,” says Dr. Ramesh Zacharias, DataCann co-principal investigator and medical director of the Michael G. DeGroote Pain Clinic at HHS. “We need to know who benefits from cannabis and why to ensure we can provide the most appropriate treatment plans to patients. More importantly, we need to know if there are any long-term risks.”

The team is looking to recruit at least 1,000 participants from across Canada who are using cannabis and have chronic, non-cancer pain. Participants are required to complete an online survey for the first two, eight and twelve months, then every six months thereafter until the database is complete. The project is expected to take five years to complete.

Michael G. DeGroote Pain Clinic patient and regular cannabis user, Kelly was more than willing to participate in the study. She says filling out a survey every few months is the least she can do to help doctors better understand cannabis. All she knows is that the cannabis oil she takes has made a huge difference in managing her pain from Lupus and has allowed her to reduce the amount of medication she takes. The team hopes that information like this will provide some insight into the drug.

“More importantly, we need to know if there are any long-term risks.”

“We have the potential to create the largest medical database on cannabis,” says Dr. Zacharias. “Not only does it give us a strong starting point, but it will provide the foundation upon which to conduct more research in the years to come.”

The DataCann project is a partnership between Hamilton Health Sciences’ Michael G. DeGroote Pain Clinic, McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care, and the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medical Cannabis Research. Currently, hospital and clinical partners in Toronto, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and Vancouver are supporting patient recruitment efforts, with a goal to bring in additional partners from across Canada as the project unfolds.