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Marijuana Can Be A Good Treatment For Pain


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Marijuana can be an effective treatment for some specific, pain-related medical conditions that are associated with multiple sclerosis and certain neurological conditions, says a new study by American scientists.

Investigators from the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research reported last week that cannabis can significantly relieve neuropathic pain and reduce muscle spasms in patients with MS. According to Dr. Igor Grant, executive vice-chairman of the department of psychiatry at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the UC, there is more and more evidence supporting that marijuana, or the constituents of cannabis, are useful at least in the adjunctive treatment of neuropathy. Scientists do not know at this moment whether it is a front-line treatment, but they hope that the results of their research will prompt larger-scale studies involving much more varied population, Dr. Grant said.

Law of California allows use of marijuana for conditions such as anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, and any other condition for which marijuana provides relief. However, this does not mean that smoking marijuana is harmless, Dr. Grant said. "Anything you smoke in a combustible form has potential risks, but the safety profile seems to be better for it than some other drugs like tobacco," he said.

The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research has approved 15 clinical studies, five of which were completed and reported last Wednesday. These 5 studies demonstrate the value of marijuana for pain-related conditions, the researchers say in their report. Among the findings:

  • Smoked marijuana reduced pain in patients with HIV. In one study, 50 patients were assigned either to cannabis group or a cotrol group. In spite of the fact that 52 per cent of those who smoked marijuana had a 30 per cent or more decrease in pain intensity, just 24 per cent of those in the control group did.

  • In another experiment, 28 patients with HIV were assigned to either group who smoked pot or to a placebo group - and 46 per cent of those who smoked marijuana reported 30 per cent or more reduced pain when compared to just 18 per cent of those in a placebo group.

  • Marijuana was found to reduce pain in individuals who suffered spinal cord injury and other conditions. In this study, 38 patients were given to smoke either high- or low-dose marijuana. According to the results, in 32 participants who finished all three sessions, both high and low doses reduced neuropathic pain from different causes.

  • Another study found that vaporized marijuana can be safe. During this experiments, fourteen patients were assigned to get either low, medium, or high doses of marijuana, either smoked or by vaporization delivery, on six different occasions. The majority of patients found the vaporized method safe and preferred it to smoking.

  • A fifth study found that marijuana worked much better when compared to placebo cigarettes when it came to reducing the spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis and the pain associated with the spasticity.

Dr. Grant said that two more studies are still in progress, to be finished by sometime next year. After that, he said, the center will remain as an "administrative entity" in order to interact with federal agencies about the results of its research and to consult with other scientists and investigators. As to drug companies, they have not expressed any interest in funding the center's research, Grant said.

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