Study: Marijuana Helps Deal With Pain

February 12, 2007

Lyanne Melendez, KGO TV - ABC News

Chronic nerve pain is just one of the complications that can come with HIV. It can be so severe that the only relief for some comes from marijuana. After a three-year study, scientists at UCSF have concluded that yes, marijuana does help with the pain. It's a study that could alter the whole medical marijuana debate.

Fifty people suffering from chronic HIV-associated nerve pain were given marijuana or identical placebo cigarettes with the same taste and same smell. The study was done at San Francisco General Hospital. Patients smoked three times a day for five days.

Karin Petersen is one of the UCSF researchers who worked on the study.

Karin Petersen, clinical neuroscientist, UCSF: "So the finding was that in the group that smoked the marijuana, their average daily pain was reduced by 34-percent."

Phil Alden has known the benefits of medical marijuana for years now.

Phil Alden, HIV patient: "I started using it for my stomach, and by happy coincidence found that it removed the pain from my feet as well."

AIDS patients taking anti-HIV medication have been known to suffer from neuropathy, or pain in the hands and feet due to nerve swelling.

Phil Alden: "One of the most common descriptions that I've both used and heard from other people, is it feels like someone has taken a knife and stabbed you in the foot."

Standard pain drugs like Vicodin don't seem to work. In fact, today there is no FDA-approved drug used to treat neoropathy.

Bruce Mirken, marijuana policy project: "The debate is over scientifically, and it's time for the U.S. government to wake up and smell the data. Marijuana works for a condition that is very hard to treat, that causes suffering to many, many thousands of people."

But the study is not about to influence the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). On Monday, a spokesperson said agents will continue to raid pot clubs in California.

Javier Pena, Drug Enforcement Administration: "Marijuana is illegal. We are going to continue to investigate these clubs, and we are not going away."

UCSF has a few more marijuana-related studies in the pipeline. The marijuana used in all of these studies is provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They have a contract to grow the marijuana on a farm operated by the University of Mississippi.

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