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Cannabis & Pain

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An offering from the NORML weekly news review:
Calgary, Canada: The oral administration of the synthetic THC analogue nabilone (brand name: Cesamet) mitigates neuropathic pain and is well tolerated, according to clinical trial data published online by the scientific journal Pain.

Investigators at the University of Calgary, Department of Neurosciences assessed the use of nabilone versus placebo in patients with diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain) in a randomize, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Researchers administered daily oral doses of nabilone to 37 participants in combination with their existing medications for a period of four weeks. Twenty-six of the initial 37 subjects achieved pain relief greater than 30 percent during this period. Those subjects who responded favorably to nabilone treatment continued to receive either treatment or placebo for an additional five-week period.

Researchers reported that nabilone treatment of 2.9mg per day significantly reduced subjects’ pain compared to placebo, as well as participants’ level of anxiety. Improved sleep and patients’ overall quality of life was also positively associated with naboline treatment.

Authors concluded: “[N]abilone … was effective in relieving diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain (DPN) symptoms, improving disturbed sleep, quality of life, and overall patient status. Nabilone was well tolerated and successful as adjuvant in patients with DPN.”

Neuropathy is a difficult to treat pain condition that is estimated to effect between five and ten percent of the population. A literature review of clinical trials data published in The Clinical Journal of Pain in March reported that cannabis and its organic compounds have been demonstrated to be safe and modestly effective treatments for neuropathy and other chronic pain conditions. Other studies have also reported that the use of cannabis augments the analgesic effects of opiates, potentially allowing users to eventually reduce their use of opioid drugs.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “An enriched-enrolment, randomized withdrawal, flexible-dose, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel assignment efficacy study of nabilone as adjuvant in the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain,” appears online in the journal Pain.

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