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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smoking marijuana helps neuropathic pain

A study from Canada by lead investigator Mark Ware and colleagues from McGill University Health Center in Montreal, published last month, reported that patients who have "neuropathy", or pain from injury to nerves, were helped by smoking marijuana. One can empathize with, and congratulate, this study team because due to our prejudices about marijuana, this was not an easy study to get approved.

Because neuropathic pain (for example that caused by chemotherapy for cancer) is so challenging to treat, it is great to have anything more to offer patients in the repertoire of effective treatments. The patients in the study were given marijuana to inhale in a single puff of 25 mg at one of 4 concentrations (0, 2.5%, 6% 9.4%) of tetrahydrocannabinol herbal cannabis 3 times a day for 5 days. The trial was done as a randomized controlled crossover trial of four 14 day periods of time(meaning that each of the 4 groups got a different dose of marijuana during each of the time periods) Only the 9.4% dose achieved pain relief compared to placebo. Those taking this dose also slept better and reported better quality of life.

Because of the dangers of smoking anything (and cough was one of the side effects seen), it may be better for one's health to have marijuana applied using an alternate delivery system such as a patch, and I hope this will be investigated. Pills or other oral vehicles have generally been considered too psychoactive and hallucinogenic to be usable medicinally.

The study examined a very wide range of adverse effects. Interestingly, apparently due to the fairy low dose of even the highest dose group, only one participant in the entire trial reported feeling euphoric or high.

Also reported last month were the positive effects of marijuana in early schizophrenia, which I will write about in a separate blog, so it was a big month for those who support and promote medical marijuana.

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