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Cannabis: A New Treatment For Neuropathic Pain

By on January 9, 2013

Summary (click to view)

  • Medical marijuana is commonly used for treating pain
  • Neuropathic pain is caused by nerve damage and is resistant to pharmaceutical treatments
  • A new study shows that vaporized cannabis is on par (and even slightly better) than current prescription drugs
  • Confirms findings of previous studies conducted by Dr. Donald Abrams
  • Side-effects of medical marijuana were highly tolerated by subjects of the study
  • – Medical marijuana is fast gaining recognition as an effective method of pain relief as studies continue to be published on the topic.

    Although pain itself is a general term that encompasses a wide range of conditions, cannabis has been demonstrated to be useful in many of these cases.

    In particular, recent studies have found that medical marijuana can provide substantial relief to those who suffer from neuropathic pain – a devastating and chronic condition that is treatment-resistant in more than half of all cases.

    What is Neuropathic Pain?

    Neuropathic pain is a specific type of pain that is usually a result of irritation or damage to a nerve.

    These nerves can be located in the peripheral nervous system or the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), or sometimes even both. Nerve damage can be caused by underlying diseases (such as HIV or diabetes) or injury (eg. stroke or spinal cord injury).

    Medical marijuana’s potential as a treatment for neuropathic pain is particularly important as many patients are not responsive to traditional pharmaceutical treatments. Clinical trials show that less than half of all patients suffering from neuropathic pain gain any meaningful relief from taking prescription drugs.

    What The Studies Say

    A study published in 2012 by researchers at the University of California documented the effects of low (1.3% THC) and medium (3.5% THC) doses of vaporized cannabis on patients suffering from central and peripheral neuropathic pain. The study involved a group of 39 patients who were assessed for pain relief as well as cognitive performance (eg. attention, memory, learning and fine motor skills) after being administered cannabis.

    The results showed that cannabis was effective in providing substantial pain relief in a large portion of the patients – 57% of the low dose group and 61% of the medium dose group. This translated to a NNT (number needed to treat) score of 3.2 and 2.9 for the low and medium dose groups respectively.

    The NNT is an important measure of a drug’s effectiveness and represents the average number of patients that need to be treated in order for one patient to benefit – the ideal NNT is 1. Surprisingly, these NNT scores are comparable, even appearing to be slightly better, than those of traditional pain medications (NNT for pregabalin = 3.9, NNT for gabapentin = 3.8).

    Previous studies have also proven the effectiveness of cannabis in treating neuropathic pain. Two consecutive trials conducted by Dr. Donald Abrams and his research team found that cannabis relieved approximately half of patients suffering with pain from HIV-associated peripheral neuropathy.


    A number of common side-effects of using medical marijuana have been well-documented and were confirmed in the current study. As expected, a major side effect of cannabis administration was a temporary decline in cognitive performance, most prominently in learning and memory.

    However, these side-effects are generally considered acceptable to patients with chronic pain and none of the study subjects withdrew due to problems with tolerability. The study’s authors noted that side-effects were less prominent at the lower dosage (1.3% THC) and were overall “unlikely to have significant impact on daily functioning”.

    • rsd victim

      I have chronic regional pain syndrome2 (CRPS2)and have moderate to very severe pain.Indica marijuana ingested can provide 6 to 9 hours of substantial relief from symptoms in conjunction with my other meds,but cant use because Dr. random drug tests..Hard choice between THC and opioids.Wish I could use both for optimum relief.

      • Stacie Blanner

        Me too . I’m in so much pain right now . I know cannibis will help . I get tested every 2montgs so I get a month to smoke . but the shit in Kansas is nothing the way Colorado takes care of their patients . I’m afraid of methodone withdrawals . that’s what my doctor of 11 yrs gives me for pain . it’s stopped working . so what we get to choose chemicals or cannibis. Kansas will never legalize it . on Netflix THERES a documentary on a family if groweres named the Stanley brothers . I know they could help me . they live in Fort Collins . and the crap they have in Kansas is nothing like Fort Collins. In tears

        • IMSiegfried

          What’s the name of that documentary? Thanks.

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      • Wantto

        Get a script for Marinol and increase how much you are eating. It took a year before my crps2 in all 4 limbs broke, but it did. I currently eat about a gram of oil a day now, I’m used to the new medicine, and have been off opiates for 2 years now. I was taking 600 mg Oxy per day for 6 years and quit – the oil worked for me and my understanding now that pain relief gets better the higher my daily dose. I need it 24/7 or the pain starts to slide on.

      • IMSiegfried

        It shouldn’t be only one or the other. My understanding is MM can decrease the need for opiods by 50% if not more. So why be forced to choose? :-/

      • IMSiegfried

        It shouldn’t only be one or the other. My understanding is MM decreases the need for opiods by 50% if not more so why should you have to choose? :-(

      • Patriot068

        Do u use narcotic pain meds in conjunction with the MJ regiment?? I’m in the same boat as you I’m going to switch over but my Dr is reducing my narcotic pain meds and I’m in severe pain and the dispensary local says I need a card to get in the door so they can ( start growing plants for me) I can’t do without my pain meds because it’s chronic pain but what other meds are you on besides the medical MJ?? Is it narcotic pain meds as well as the medical MJ? I’m new to this and know absolutly zero about medical MJ process and I don’t think my Dr does neither although he’s willing to give me a card I can’t wait 6 months while they grow damn plants for me and I can’t get in the door without a card to talk to anyone??

    • Barbara Yats

      I’m hoping to be able to take a short trip to Colorado between doctors visits to see if medical marijuana, or something with high CBD can help my chronic nerve pain. I was injured at work and currently take high dose of opioids for pain or around the clock Opana 30mg for pain. My doctor is scRed to death to increase my medication, but also said if I test positive for mj that my pain contract will end. He also said if I go down the road to getting approved for medical mj than I would likely not be taken back on traditional opioid therapy…..come on! It’s just ridiculous I can’t get pain relief and I just need to know I’d it helps. If it does, I may have to move to Colorado?

      • IMSiegfried

        Not all pain management doctors test for THC. Check to see which drug tests are done and try to find a doctor who is sympathetic.

        • Lauren

          I got kicked out of one here in Massachusetts and its haunting me while Im trying to find a pain clinic that takes my insurance and prescribes

          • Patriot068

            Your in luck now!! Masshole legalized MJ so your in luck!! My state did too but even getting in the dispensary door you need a card and my dr won’t give me a frigging card untill my synthetic pain meds I’m off from which is fucking retarded because I’m in pain 24/7 and the dispensary said they would start growing plants for me once im an established patient so WTF do I do without my pain meds waiting for plants to grow?? It’s retarded

      • Bamora

        I have chronic nerve damage and I use medical cannabis daily for my pain and it helps alot. I recommend starting out with Blue Dream it is a high Cbd and has been helpful for me.

    • Saleh Awdaly

      The neuropathic pain is quite miserable and unbeatable, therefore, the need to know about the new medication used for this purpose is mandatory.