A study by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco led by Dr. Donald Abrams has found that marijuana provides significant relief to people suffering from neuropathic pain. The study was the first of its kind in the United States for nearly 20 years, and provides new ammunition for proponents of medical marijuana as they seek action from Congress on the issue.
Up to four million US residents suffer from neuropathic pain, including many HIV/AIDS patients. According to the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA), as many as 37% of HIV/AIDS patients already use marijuana to treat neuropathic pain and other symptoms of the disease.
"This study validates the experience people living with HIV/AIDS and their doctors have reported for years -- medical cannabis provides much-needed relief from pain and suffering." said NAPWA Executive Director Frank Oldham Jr. "That is why we are joining Americans for Safe Access to call on Congress to address cannabis for its medicinal value."
The study, conducted between 2003 and 2005 at a San Francisco hospital looked at 50 HIV/AIDS suffering from foot pain, or peripheral neuropathy. Half of the subjects received marijuana, while the other received placebos. More than half the subjects using marijuana reported reductions in pain.
"I have been living with HIV/AIDS for 21 years and owe my life to the benefits of medical cannabis," said UCSF study participant Diana Dodson. "It reduces the pain and side-effects such as nausea and stomach pains that are caused by the drugs I need to take in order to stay alive. But I need the government to grant me safe access to my medicine."
"This study demonstrates the potential effectiveness of medical cannabis to treat the chronic pain of people living with HIV/AIDS," said Dr. Barbara T. Roberts, Director of Medical and Scientific Affairs for Americans for Safe Access and former Senior Policy Analyst at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "In addition to people living with HIV/AIDS, there are thousands of vets returning from Iraq who will spend decades coping with neurological pain. By implementing the recommendations of the IOM report, the federal government would be exploring more options for their long-term treatment of neuropathic pain."
The groups are calling on Congress to hold hearings on the IOM report to adopt its recommendations to allow patients and researchers to have access to medical cannabis. "It's time for Washington to stop playing politics with patients' lives and advance this important scientific discovery," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access. "The study is a wake-up call for Congress to hold hearings to investigate therapeutic use and encourage research."