Marijuana for pain treatment found in first clinical trials in two decades
Researchers from California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) today presented findings to the California legislature and the public that smoking marijuana has therapeutic value for treating specific pain related conditions. The studies are the first conducted on the therapeutic value of smoked cannabis in the US in more than twenty years.
The researchers say the findings should pave the way for legislators to start talking about a medical use for marijuana. The studies focused on treatment of pain that is not amenable to other treatments, including neuropathic pain from HIV, trauma, and diabetes that cause disability and chronic pain for individuals who despite multi-drug therapy never experience complete relief of pain.
According to the authors, “We now have reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment in selected pain syndromes caused by injury or diseases of the nervous system, and possibly for painful muscle spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.” They note that the way marijuana works to relieve pain still needs more research, as does optimal dosing, but “the knowledge and new findings…provide a strong science-based context in which policy makers and the public can discuss the place of these compounds in medical care.”
The scientists have completed five clinical trials, with two more forthcoming. The researchers used marijuana with and without THC to compare the pain response from smoked cannabis. Cigarettes with THC removed were not discernible from the real thing, and the trials were randomized and of high quality.
Senator John Vasconcellos, original author of The Medical Marijuana Research Act of 1999 (SB847) says, "These scientists created an unparalleled program of systematic research, focused on science-based answers rather than political or social beliefs.”
The findings show that smoking marijuana could be useful for pain treatment, especially for individuals who fail to find relief from current therapies that include opiates and antidepressants. The five clinical trials that have been completed or submitted for publication include:
• Cannabis for Treatment of HIV-Related Peripheral Neuropathy
• Short-Term Effects of Cannabis Therapy on Spasticity in MS
• Placebo-controlled, Double Blind Trial of Medicinal Cannabis in Painful HIV Neuropathy
• Analgesic Efficacy of Smoked Cannabis
• Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial of Smoked Marijuana on Neuropathic Pain
Two other studies are ongoing as a follow up to "Vaporization as a Smokeless Cannabis Delivery System", from Donald Abrams, MD from UC San Francisco. The researchers might also explore synthetic agents that affect the endocannabinoid system to compare the effect on pain of newly developed cannabinoid antagonists to botanical marijuana. Cannabis is now shown, in the first trials in the US to be conducted in twenty years, to have proven medical applications for treatment of specific pain conditions, and more studies are forthcoming.