When we talk about the medicinal benefits of marijuana, those who disapprove of its use tend to roll their eyes. But the fact is, this powerful plant has numerous potential applications in healthcare and pain management in particular. A new study has once again demonstrated that the vilified plant can safely and effectively treat general pain along with the painful symptoms of neuropathy.
Neuropathy is damage to the nervous system – particularly the peripheral nervous system (not including the brain and spinal cord). It is characterized by pain and numbness especially in the hands and feet, and is often the result of diabetes. Neuropathy can also be caused by injuries, toxic exposure, infections, and more.
This latest study was conducted by researchers at the University of California Davis Medical Center and was published in The Journal of Pain. It was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study that looked at the effectiveness of using vaporized, inhaled cannabis in 39 participants. These participants were experiencing neuropathic pain despite having tried traditional treatments (like opiate drugs). All participants continued to take their prescribed medications throughout the 4 week study period.
Researchers gave participants doses of cannabis with moderate THC levels (3.53 percent) or low THC levels (1.29 percent). (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the plant’s primary psychoactive chemical). Some also received a placebo with no THC. They found both doses of cannabis to be effective in reducing pain significantly.
“Both the low and medium doses proved to be salutary analgesics for the heterogeneous collection of neuropathic pain conditions studied. Both active study medications provided statistically significant 30% reductions in pain intensity when compared to placebo,” stated the researchers.
This is far from the first study to illustrate the pain-relieving benefits of cannabis. In fact, cannabis (even in THC-free form, or free of psychoactive effects) has been identified as a powerful pain reliever in more than 80 peer-reviewed studies. Still, the herb is classified as dangerous by the U.S. government.
Why is marijuana still illegal? Opponents of medicinal marijuana (including the federal government) say the research isn’t enough. It isn’t clear what they would like to see in marijuana studies, but it’s beginning to look like they want the impossible. It seems they would rather Americans continue consuming addictive prescription pain medications than use a plant.
According to AlterNet, sales of opiate pain pills have tripled since 1999. Oxycodone (one of the more popular choices on the legal and illegal market) has increased from 8.3 tons in 1997 to a whopping 105 tons in 2011. Overdose deaths are similarly climbing as is the number of people addicted to these substances. To date, no one has died from a marijuana overdose.