A study released this week by a research team from the University of California San Francisco shows that cannabinoids such as those which naturally occur in marijuana are effective in the control of pain. The researchers, led by Howard Fields, MD, PhD, a professor of neurology at UCSF, announced their findings at a press conference at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans.
The study showed that the cannabinoids produced changes within cells in a part of the brain called the rostral ventromedial medulla similar to the changes produced by opioids, including morphine. The side effects of the cannabinoids, however, are considered substantially less problematic than those produced by the opioids, which include tolerance (necessitating increased dosages to stimulate the same effects), dependence, confusion, nausea and constipation. Cannabinoids, on the other hand, tend to reduce nausea and enhance patients' mood as side effects of their pain-killing properties.
Arnold Trebach, recently retired from his post as President of the Drug Policy Foundation in Washington, DC, told The Week Online, "This research is certainly consistent with the mountains of anecdotal evidence which we've been hearing over the years from patients around the world. This explains, in scientifically unambiguous terms, the relief that has been described over and over by people with chronic, painful conditions, such as arthritis and spinal cord injury survivors, and the fact that many of them have been able to reduce or eliminate their use of powerful narcotic pain medication in favor of this natural herb."
Trebach continued, "When I look at this research, I can't help but shake my head and think about people like Will Foster down in Oklahoma. Here's a guy, thirty-eight years old, a father of three young children, with no criminal record, who found relief for his very severe Rheumatoid Arthritis in smoking marijuana. He was able, in fact, to get off of his prescription narcotics with the help of this plant. But, despite the fact that there is now scientific proof of what he had known all along, he's serving 93 years in prison for growing the stuff. Not for selling it, mind you, just for growing an herb which relieved his pain."
YOU CAN HELP:
Many of you recall DRCNet's coverage of the Will Foster case, and, we're proud to say, many of you wrote letters to the Oklahoma media and public officials on his behalf. DRCNet is now asking that you take a few moments to write again (or for the first time), pointing out the UCSF research and protesting the injustice of sending a suffering man to prison for the rest of his natural life for relieving his pain in a scientifically sound manner. (Contact information below.) You might mention that the just- released issue of Playboy Magazine has a story about Will's plight, and that other national outlets are planning stories as well. This case is certainly a black eye for the national image of the state of Oklahoma, and even more so in light of this study. It will only take a few moments out of your day, but please remember that every moment, for Will Foster and his wife Meg, is a moment stolen from them by the ignorance and cruelty of the State of Oklahoma.
And if you respond to this situation, please either send us a copy of your correspondence or just drop us a note telling us that you've done so, an e-mail would be fine. (It really does help the effort.)
The Honorable Frank Keating
Bill Lafortune, District Attorney
Regularly updated info on the Will Foster situation is online at http://www.gnv.fdt.net/~jrdawson/willfoster.htm.
Further info on the UCSF cannabinoid study can be found at http://www.ucsf.edu/daybreak/archives/research/1027_mar.htm.