Stick to the pipe, medical marijuana users: that’s the message from Canadian researchers who found that smoking even relatively low doses of cannabis can help reduce chronic pain, ease sleep and reduce anxiety.
The findings were published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
For the study, 21 participants experiencing chronic neuropathic pain for at least three months smoked different preparations of marijuana three times a day for five days each, and stayed smoke-free for nine days as a buffer in between treatments. The most potent concentration was 9.4% tetrahydrocannabinol (the active ingredient in cannabis), followed by one of 6%, one of 2.5% and one with no THC at all.
Patients who inhaled the highest THC concentration felt pain less intensely and slept better than patients who did not inhale THC-laced smoke. Those taking the highest doze reported a pain level of 5.4 on a scale of 1 to 11 –lower than the 6.1 reported by those taking the THC-free dose.
The study’s authors concede that a 0.7-point reduction in pain is pretty modest compared with the improvements seen from other drugs – but they also point out that the patients they were testing had suffered from pain that had resisted other forms of treatment. Smoking up, then, could provide at least some relief to those who can find none.
As University of Oxford professor Henry McQuay wrote in a commentary accompanying the study, “Existing treatments are far from perfect. In the meantime, the current trial adds to the trickle of evidence that cannabis may help some of the patients who are struggling at present.&