Recent Pain Study Put in Context

August 23 - A recent University of Texas study that claims the active ingredients in marijuana spread and prolong pain is an isolated, theoretical lab study involving rodent cells and endocannabinoids. It is more compelling to consult the long list of human clinical studies examining actual use of marijuana for chronic pain.

It's noteworthy that there have been four published, FDA-approved human studies of marijuana and chronic pain sponsored by California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. They are Dr. Abram's study on cannabis and HIV neuropathy; Dr. Ellis' study, also on HIV neuropathy; Dr. Wallace's study on analgeisc efficacy of smoked cannabis; and Dr Wilsey's study on MJ and neuropathic pain. Each one has found that marijuana is effective in reducing pain. Unfortunately, the CMCR has scarcely publicized its findings, so that most Californians are totally unaware that they even exist.

Interestingly, Dr. Wallace's study found that while moderate doses of THC reduced pain that had been artificially induced with capsaicin (pepper oil), excessive doses could actually make it worse. This might suggest that there is something to the Texas study's findings. However, Wallace's study looked at a pain that had been artificially induced, not pain resulting from disease. In contrast, Dr Wilsey's study found that pain relief from marijuana was proportional to dose.

Literally scores of other human studies have found that natural cannabis and/or THC can reduce chronic pain. See a list. There is evidence that cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory action, suggesting that they are useful in preventing degenerative nerve damage caused by autoimmune attacks. A good reference is Paul Armentano's booklet, "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids" (available from CaNORML), which summarizes new research showing that cannabis may actually help prevent or reverse many chronic conditions, including MS, ALS, Alzheimer's and cancer.

-Dale Gieringer

California NORML recently investigated reports from patients who are being drug-tested by their pain doctors, including attending The 2009 American Pain Society Convention in San Diego. In a report for the journal O'Shaughnessy's, CaNORML concludes: "The prejudice against marijuana has nothing to do with medical science, but rather with political and legal pressures to crack down on prescription drug use."

Also see: VA Allows Medical Marijuana for Pain