Marijuana Effective For Pain Relief, Study Finds

Smoking pot can make some of the pain go away, without the patient getting high.

The finding comes from what researchers in Montreal believe to be the first outpatient clinical trial of smoked cannabis, involving 21 people with chronic neuropathic pain.

The results, which included improvements in mood and sleep, were published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Dr. Mark Ware and colleagues at McGill University and McGill University Health Centre got the ball rolling for the study almost a decade ago, but found it was a long road to get all the necessary approvals and import a convincing marijuana placebo from the United States.

But they plowed ahead, supported by a grant from the Canadian Institute for Health Research, because they felt it was important to generate some scientific data.

Marijuana is illegal in Canada but can be used medicinally in some circumstances. In 2001, Health Canada brought in marijuana medical access regulations outlining conditions for possessing, producing and using the herb for medical purposes.

Despite the years that have passed, “the debate rages on about medical marijuana,” Ware said.

“We hear this a lot from policy makers and from regulatory colleges, especially here in Canada … there is very little evidence, and many of them aren’t aware of any evidence that smoked cannabis has any medical value.”

Marijuana with potencies of 2.5 per cent, six per cent and 9.4 per cent of the active ingredient THC were obtained from Prairie Plant Systems, the company that was given a government contract 10 years ago to produce a safe, standardized supply of marijuana.

A placebo came from the U.S., where an alcohol extraction process was used to remove the active ingredient, and the herb was reconstituted so it looked like a green leafy material, Ware said.

There was a lot of paperwork and back-and-forth.

“Importing cannabis from the United States is not a trivial issue in this environment,” Ware noted.

Patients were given a special pipe bought on the Internet and 25-milligram capsules of a substance to put in the pipe and light. The smoke was to be inhaled once — three times a day for five days — and patients didn’t know whether they were getting a placebo or one of three different potencies of active drug.

Participants used each strength of marijuana product for five days, separated by nine days of washout without cannabis.

“They would inhale that in a slow, smooth, single inhalation, hold their breath for 10 seconds,” then exhale slowly, Ware said.

The first dose was in the hospital, under observation.

“Even with this kind of fixed dosing and limited exposure, we were able to show in a blinded fashion that the patients did obtain some analgesia, improvements in sleep quality and on one of the subscales of the quality-of-life measure, we found that the anxiety was mildly improved as well,” Ware said.

“This may help in developing policy, or improving policy, or improving doctors’ willingness to consider this as an approach when all else has failed.”

Side-effects — the euphoria associated with smoking pot — were “very, very rare,” Ware said.

“I think because the doses we used were very low,” he explained.

“The plasma levels which we found, and which are reported in the trial, show levels of THC in the blood of around … 40 to 50 nanograms per millilitre in the plasma. And we know that recreational users hit blood levels of around 100 and 150 nanograms per millilitre.”

Prairie Plant Systems now offers medical marijuana that is 12 per cent THC, Ware observed.

“So would we get better results if we had slightly higher THC levels, would we get better results if the patients could use it for longer periods, or if they could use it more frequently during the day?” he asked. “I think these are questions that we can’t answer.”

Prof. Henry McQuay, who works at a pain relief unit in Oxford, U.K., wrote a commentary in the journal, saying that the researchers should be congratulated for tackling the project given that the regulatory hurdles “must have been a nightmare.”

“The big picture here is a political one in a way, where Canada has decided to legalize medicinal use of cannabis in this arena, but many other countries have not,” he said in an interview.

“It’s another brick in that wall, that says here’s evidence that some people do indeed show some pain-relieving benefit from smoking cannabis.”

Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California in San Diego, said the finding is consistent with data reported from his centre, “and basically shows that there is a beneficial effect of smoked cannabis on neuropathic pain.”

“The potencies we have typically used have been around four per cent and as high as seven per cent, so that (9.4 per cent) is a higher potency than we’re experienced with,” he said.

“But in reading the article, it seems like the patients tolerated it reasonably well.”

Neuropathic pain is a bit different than the pain of a broken leg, for instance, and is a more chronic, burning, unpleasant sensation, he explained.

“Many patients don’t respond completely to existing treatments, and so it’s useful to have another agent … available, and I think there’s good evidence now cannabis may represent one of those additional agents.”

The researchers say more studies are needed using higher potencies of marijuana, longer duration and flexible dosing to see if pain levels can be reduced even further.

Grant remarked that smoke inhalation raises several issues, and his centre is completing two studies on pain using a vaporization form of cannabis.

“People who are non-smokers may have difficulty tolerating it (smoke),” he said. “Secondly, there’s the issue of second-hand smoke, which people may not like.”

There are also the side-effects of smoking, and practical issues, such as concerns about lighting up in a hospital where there are oxygen tanks, he added.

– Article from The Toronto Star.



  1. Anonymous on

    are very concerned as to the lose of these huge profits from this publicly funded market?

  2. Anonymous on

    How much of the world’s richest family fortunes are related to pharmaceuticals? If every body that currently uses a prescription drug to fight pain in their lives, that has not tried marijuana, did? What percentage would never use synthetics again. Yet, the right wing politicians and those Liberals and NDP that seem to have there head stuffed where the sun don’t shine and do not legalize marijuana and stiffen the penalties for hard drugs are going to find being exposed for their protecting the pharmaceutical manufacturers for addicting millions of people to such harmful pain killers like oxcy-cotton, morphine, codeine etc.. Publicly funded and politician controlled our medical system in Canada has done more to harm its chronic pain patients then help to control their pain. How much money taxpayers pay each year both federally and provincially to medicate pain? Without question the pharmacies are the overall winners? Marijuana does in many cases help fight pain, but at what cost to the pharmaceutical manufacturers? In turn who much political contribution dollars come directly or indirectly from these same pharmaceutical manufacturers? If marijuana was legalized and doctors could recommend a couple of puffs or a little tasty treat to eat every day to help with pain or depression? How many billions would the addiction manufacturers lose?

  3. Bradson on

    This very small study shows very little neuropathic pain relief from the cannabis used regardless of THC levels, so not much can be made of it. These studies might try to focus on the ability of the “high” to provide relief rather than assuming it’s something to be avoided. It’s relaxing without being debilitating.

    It might be that THC is not a pain killer at all. It may be that THC is effective for healing damaged nerves while the dreaded “high” is effective for easing the pain to some degree, or at least making the patient calmer and more comfortable which can help the healing process. Then, as the nerve damage heals, the pain also naturally subsides.

  4. Hemp Journal on

    ..not a chronic neuro-pain patient, this is Mister Lars Scheimann, alias Doktor Hanf, from Germany. He suffers from Tourette and is one of the 40 patients who receive medical cannabis from a dutch pharmacy with an extraordinary permission, because german pharmacies are not alllowed to have it. the rest of the many thousand patients are forced to use marinol, even if the effects of herbal cannabis are proven to be better.

  5. PeyotePal on

    People use cannabis as a medicine. To relieve pain (and for a lot of other reasons). Unfortunately, because of a justice system that resembles the Dark Ages, honest-to-goodness researchers are unable to perform completely valid testing of cannabis (oh, and lets not also forget because of morons such as yourself).

    And FYI, this *IS* Mr. Emery’s website.
    If he wants to ask for donations in the fight for what is right, then he is completely entitled. I donated a looooong time ago.

    I really hate it when people spout stuff that hurts the progression of humankind.

    PS – Cannabis has been proven to be less harmful than alcohol AND tobacco (combined, even). Which of the these three is legal and then explain why.

  6. Dave on

    It’s like they hate us but they don’t know why! The best I can gather is someone they look-up-to has told them so; no need to verify anything! They must feel they have the backing of the bullies and their views are supported!

  7. David on

    Government paid troll

  8. Anonymous on

    If that was true why are Mexican’s dieing for drugs?

    If that was true why are cops such hard headed, pain in asses.

    Pain in the asses, just like POT TV.

    Because POT TV have had these sites for so long, even asking for donations.

    Now that it has failed, and Marc has been jailed. STILL ASKING FOR MONEY DONATIONS.

    In a cause that has been put on hold, for a topic what no one any longer cares about or has patients about.

  9. Anonymous on

    The whole study is invalid because cannabis obtained from Prairie Plant system is of the lowest quality imaginable.Imagine it grows in a mine shaft contaminated with heavy metals. Next time,Dr.Ware should use cannabis thats been grown biologically.Nevertheless, this study proves that even with the lowest quality cannabis available you can still have a beneficial effect. Imagine with the organically grown cannabis what you will get !

  10. A sheep from Quebec on

    I persist and I sign: despite overwhelming evidence that cannabis is effective for pain management, The College of physicians of the province of Quebec, made up largely of dinosaurs and of people with close ties to the politicians and the religious authorities REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE cannabis usefulness and refuse to consider cannabis as a valuable medicine.
    I suspect the College has also close ties with the pharmaceutical industries because if they were prescribing cannabis they would not have to prescribe other drugs and medicines manufactured by the pharm industry thus creating a substantial loss of revenue for big pharma.I am convinced that it is a conspiracy of silence prevailing because if the college would give its approval it would be a step closer to legalization of cannabis in Quebec and I know very well that no authorities want that especially in Quebec.
    But quebecers being bery sheepish be be be be be the day its going to be legalize in California or the US then be be be we will follow blindly just because we are sheepish and never wanted to proove to the world that we can really do the things in our own way and decide what our future will be.