Despite marijuana’s ability to provide substantial pain relief while being physically non-addictive and non-toxic, it has been opiates – a toxic substance with a high potential for abuse – that have been accepted by the medical mainstream for years. However, a newly released groundbreaking study published in December’s Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics that was conducted by Dr. Donald Abrams at the University of California-San Francisco indicates that chronic pain patients experience increased relief when their opiate-only treatment is augmented by vaporized cannabis.
This research is the first to analyze the interaction of opiates with cannabinoids on human subjects; twenty-one chronic pain patients currently treated with long-acting morphine or oxycodone were also administered controlled amounts of cannabis, with the initial objective being to determine if the cannabinoids increased the efficacy of the opiates. Specifically to ascertain whether inhalation of vaporized cannabis changed the level of the opiates in the bloodstream, and if so, whether they increased or decreased opiate plasma levels.
Patients were also asked about their pain after the cannabinoid amplification to their medication. This was an important aspect of the study as patients’ responses – that cannabis helped to decrease their pain – were actually contradicted by the blood analysis that revealed a decrease in the level of morphine and an unchanged level of oxycodone after patients vaporized, which would suggest a decrease in pain relief.
However, patients reported more relief was gained by consuming cannabis along with their opiate treatment. The “pain scores” of morphine patients decreased 33 percent and those of oxycodone users dropped 20 percent within a week of supplementing their existing treatments with medicinal marijuana. These results indicate the possibility of decreased dosages of opiates for pain relief.
Dr. Abrams next envisions an even more ambitious project, a placebo-controlled study that would compare high percentage THC strains versus high-percentage CBD strains (CBD being a non-psychoactive, yet highly medicinal chemical component of pot) in conjunction with chronic pain patients who regularly use opiates.