Kate graduated from Smith College with a double major in Psychology and Neuroscience, and recently completed her PhD in Experimental Clinical Psychology from Tufts University. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow for the Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core (CCNC) at the McLean Hospital Brain Imaging Center where she has developed skills creating and implementing neurocognitive paradigms for use during MR imaging and in the advanced application of MR imaging techniques. Additionally, she is involved in the CCNC’s Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program, which examines the efficacy of cannabinoid-based therapies for a range of indications. Kate is particularly interested in utilizing advanced statistical analyses including regression modeling to assess the cognitive, clinical, and neurobiological impact of marijuana use in both recreational and clinical populations.
Currently, 30 states and Washington D.C. have passed full medical marijuana (MMJ) programs, while 17 states allow limited access to cannabidiol (CBD) products. Chronic pain is among the most common indications for MMJ use, and although the endocannabinoid system has been implicated in both anti-inflammatory processes and analgesia, few studies directly assessing the effects of cannabinoids on pain over time have been conducted thus far. In the current study, chronic pain patients were assessed on their pain symptoms, clinical state, and quality of life at baseline (prior to beginning MMJ treatment) and following three and six months of treatment. Following three months of treatment, patients reported primary symptom reduction evidenced by diminished self-reported pain ratings, which were generally sustained at six months of continued treatment. Patients also reported improved mood across several rating scales, including fewer depressive symptoms. Although ratings of anxiety were similar at three months relative to baseline, reduced anxiety symptoms were reported after six months of treatment. In addition, patients reported improved quality of life at three- and six-month follow-up visits. These findings suggest that future studies should continue to examine the specific effects of MMJ on clinical state and quality of life in those with chronic pain, particularly in light of the current opioid crisis. MMJ may prove to be a valuable substitute for traditional opioid-based therapies in patients with chronic pain, as these medications often do not provide full symptom relief and come with a host of associated side effects.