Medical pot cuts pain, study finds

A recent study finds that marijuana is effective at relieving neuropathy pain in AIDS patients.

I’m not opposed to medical marijuana is it really is an effective medical treatment and it goes through the same approval process as any other drug. (However, it would seem to be important to find a route of administration better than smoking.) Unfortunately, all the competing political and social agendas make all the information suspect. The result is that I’m suspicious of everyone. As drug warriors often allege, many medical marijuana advocates appear to be guilty of hiding other agendas behind compassionate medical arguments. As harm reduction and medical marijuana advocates often allege, opponents are often guilty of irrational hysteria and hiding moral judgments behind bad science.

Doctors at San Francisco General Hospital reported Monday that HIV-infected patients suffering from a painful nerve condition in their hands or feet obtained substantial relief by smoking small amounts of marijuana in a carefully constructed study funded by the state of California.

Although the study was small, it is the first of its kind to measure the therapeutic effects of marijuana smoking while meeting the most rigorous requirements for scientific proof — a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial.

As such, the results of the trial are being hailed by medical marijuana advocates as the most solid proof to date that smoking the herb can be beneficial to patients who might otherwise require opiates or other powerful painkillers to cope with a condition known as peripheral neuropathy.

The federal government has taken a hard line against marijuana use for medical purposes, maintaining that smoking it is harmful and that there is no scientific evidence to support its legitimacy for treatment in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 ruled that medical marijuana patients can be prosecuted by the government, even in states like California where medical use has been legalized.

“It’s time to wake up and smell the data,” said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group advocating the legalization of the drug for medicinal purposes. “The claim that the government keeps making that marijuana is not a safe or effective medicine doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”

The study found that most volunteers who were given three marijuana cigarettes a day experienced a significant drop in the searing pain of peripheral neuropathy, which patients liken to a stabbing or burning sensation, usually on the bottoms of their feet. HIV patients are not the only group to experience peripheral neuropathy — many types of the condition have been identified, and it can also afflict diabetics, cancer patients and people with injuries or infections that affect nerve tissue.

On average, the experiment’s participants reported at the start that their pain was roughly at midpoint on a 100-point scale, where zero was no pain at all and 100 was “the worst pain imaginable.”

At least half the volunteers who smoked the active marijuana experienced a 72 percent reduction in pain after their first cigarette on the first day of the trial. Over five days, the median reduction in pain reported by the marijuana smokers was 34 percent, compared with 17 percent reported by those who smoked placebo cigarettes that had the active ingredient THC removed in a process akin to decaffeinating coffee.

“This is evidence, using the gold standard for clinical research, that cannabis has some medicinal benefits for a condition that can be severely debilitating,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, lead author of the study released Monday by the journal Neurology.