Study: Marijuana Can Ease HIV-Related Nerve Pain

Study: Marijuana Can Ease HIV-Related Nerve Pain
Posted by CN Staff on February 13, 2007 at 07:22:35 PT
By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg, McClatchy Newspapers
Source: Kansas City Star 
Sacramento, Calif. -- Smoking marijuana can ease HIV-related nerve pain, University of California San Francisco researchers are reporting Tuesday, in a study being hailed by legalization advocates as proof that federal pot policy is deeply misguided.The rigorous study, appearing in Tuesday's issue of the journal Neurology, was funded by a state effort to provide answers in the long debate over whether marijuana makes good medicine.
Primary investigator Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at UCSF, was not surprised that about half the people studied with burning, tingling nerve pain got relief smoking marijuana."It has a 5,000-year history of safety and effectiveness as a medicine that we've ignored quite grandly in the last 70 years," he said. "It's been used ... in China, in India and also in Middle Eastern cultures as a medicinal substance."Yet the study comes on the heels of an unrelated analysis, published in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine, that links long-term exposure to marijuana smoke with coughing, wheezing and other respiratory complaints common among tobacco smokers."The bottom line is, it certainly needs to be looked into further," said Dr. Jeanette Tetrault, a general internal medicine fellow at Yale University who is among those investigating possible lung cancer or respiratory disease links to marijuana smoking.If marijuana is ultimately found to deliver better pain relief than existing medications, she said, research into the safest possible delivery mechanisms would be critical.The UCSF study is among the first published results funded by the UC Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, which was created by state law to improve the science on marijuana after California voters supported medical pot use.So far, the center has spent roughly two-thirds of the $9 million it received, devoting the money to research into nerve pain, sleep difficulties, muscle spasms and other conditions.Some studies, including ones for cancer pain and nausea, had to be discontinued for lack of volunteers, said center director Dr. Igor Grant, a UC San Diego psychiatry professor.The center will remain active until all the money is spent, supporting about a dozen studies, which Grant acknowledges are "not a lot" but still much more than we knew just a few years ago."The results of these studies will provide some real information into whether cannabis is or isn't helpful," Grant said.Federal policy has long discouraged investigations of marijuana, setting up numerous regulatory and practical hurdles, said Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which backs legalization.In such an environment, the state-backed study is "truly gold-standard" research, Mirken said; it's placebo-controlled and double-blinded.About half the 55 people who initially enrolled were given placebo cigarettes, with a key active ingredient stripped out. Both they and the researchers analyzing results were "blinded" - that is, not told who got the real thing.Such measures are used to keep subtle bias from creeping into research, and to account for the powerful way people are known to respond to dummy medications. In the UCSF study, for example, about one-fourth of the people smoking placebo cigarettes experienced significant pain relief, compared with half of those smoking marijuana.But researchers acknowledged that their blinding effort was imperfect because smokers might have been able to recognize whether they were inhaling active cannabis or not."I knew immediately because I could feel the effects," said one study subject, Diana Dodson. "I did get the cannabis." Her impression was later confirmed in a letter from researchers.Dodson, who lives near Santa Cruz, gets burning, bruising, sometimes jolting nerve pain on the bottoms of her feet, a complication of the HIV she contracted more than 20 years ago from a tainted blood product."It's like an ice pick stab with an electric shock," she said, and stronger painkillers leave her less aware and less alert than marijuana does. She participated in the study in hopes that "we'll be able to have safe access to this medicine."While other options exist for many of the ills that marijuana may treat, it's important to have as many safe drugs as possible in doctors' arsenals, said UCSF medical professor Abrams.Individuals respond differently to each drugs' benefits and side effects, and drug interactions can make it tough to find the right match for each person.Abrams is seeking volunteers now for another marijuana study, looking into whether cancer patients taking morphine or OxyContin for pain might be able to use a lower dose or suffer fewer unpleasant side effects if they combine the treatment with marijuana.Source: Kansas City Star (MO)Author: Carrie Peyton Dahlberg, McClatchy NewspapersPublished: February 12, 2007Copyright: 2007 The Kansas City StarContact: letters kcstar.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Supports Medicinal Marijuana SF Study Finds Pot Helps Ease Pain Eases Pain in HIV Patients: Study 
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Comment #4 posted by doc james on February 14, 2007 at 07:13:03 PT
Having cannabis
in my arsenal of pain drugs allows me to take none to a few... breakthrough pain meds during the day. It also has completely stopped the spasms in my legs. I have a spinal cord injury.
Anyone participating in these studies who has used cannabis would immediately know if they were getting the placebo or not.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on February 13, 2007 at 11:10:33 PT
Marijuana May Ease AIDS Patients' Foot Pain
The smoked drug lessens a burning numbness that accompanies the illness, study finds.By Randy Dotinga, HealthDay ReporterTUESDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Adding fuel to the debate over medical marijuana, a new study suggests that AIDS patients can relieve stubborn nerve pain in their feet by smoking the drug. 
On average, patients reported a 34 percent improvement in foot pain after smoking pot, twice that of those smoking a weakened form of the drug.The study is small, and the findings don't reveal why marijuana may reduce pain. Experts also noted that there's a potentially distracting side effect to the treatment -- getting high.Complete Article:
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 13, 2007 at 08:02:44 PT
SFC Editorial: Up in Science
Tuesday, February 13, 2007San Francisco -- Proving the worth of medical marijuana isn't easy. Skeptics doubt the science put forward by advocates, and Washington is in no mood to loosen tough laws barring its use. Now comes a rigorous-sounding study by AIDS researchers at San Francisco General Hospital that shows smoking cannabis can ease nerve pain in HIV-infected patients. It's a serious advancement from the anecdotal stories of relief mocked by critics who oppose wider use of marijuana. The study should have the effect of reopening the debate on pot's medicinal value. California voters in 1996 approved marijuana for medical use with a doctor's approval, but this humane goal hasn't been achieved. The plan, never accepted by federal authorities as legal, has produced a twilight world of access. Law enforcement periodically raid pot dispensaries while cities, most notably San Francisco, struggle with lax oversight of these businesses. This whole system seemed ripe for collapse. Snipped:Complete Article:
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Comment #1 posted by dirtmover on February 13, 2007 at 07:44:01 PT
About time!
It works. Anyone who has tried it knows it works. As the husband of a patient, as well as being a patient myself, I'll verify that it is superior to most other pain relievers.Potentially far less expensive, too.
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