A clinical trial conducted at the University of California at Davis and published in the Journal of Pain has confirmed what many patients already knew from their own experience and others from voluminous anecdotal information. Marijuana or cannabis provides significant relief of neuropathic pain -- pain caused by damage to the nerves -- from a variety of causes. This kind of pain is notoriously resistant to conventional treatment, including opiod drugs. This is the second study in just over a year to confirm this. A UC San Francisco study published last year showed relief from HIV/AIDS-related neuropathy.
In the study, 38 patients experiencing pain from various conditions, including diabetes, muscular sclerosis and other conditions were given marijuana cigarettes of three different THC strengths. The first had zero percent THC and was thus the placebo. The second had 3.5 percent THC and the third 7 percent. In each session the patients took a uniform number of puffs. Both strength of cannabis with THC relieved pain, with the relief lasting about five hours. The researchers said side affects "were relatively inconsequential" and "psychoactive effects were minimal and well-tolerated." From the many patients I have talked to for my book, "Waiting to Inhale" (Amazon.com has it mixed up with another book; leave a comment if you want to buy a copy from me for $15 --list $18.95) and for other articles, that jibes with the experience of most patients experiencing pain. They get pain relief but don't get high.
So far as I know, the drug czar and the drug warriors have not commented on this study. How could they? It shows just how irrational and cruel current federal drug policies are. The claims of those who continue to insist that marijuana has no real therapeutic benefits are gradually being shown for the superstitious and anti-scientific myths they are. Unfortunately, the invincibly ignorant are still in charge of marijuana policy.
This finding makes it all the more important that people start asking presidential candidates, in any forums open to the public, about federal policy toward medical marijuana. It should soon become politically feasible to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I, reserved for drugs with particular dangers and no therapeutic benefits. It should actually be popular for candidates to announce that they will direct the DEA not to go after patients and dispensaries in states with medical marijuana laws.
The ideal outcome, of course, fully justified by the principles of liberty and the relative danger of marijuana -- not a single person has died in thousands of years of use -- would be to give marijuana the legal status that parsley has now. But that may take a while.