One of the most common reasons Americans turn to cannabis is for the management of chronic pain, whether it’s from migraines, arthritis, cancer therapy, multiple sclerosis, old injuries, or any of a wide variety of illnesses and conditions. Yet while the people have embraced cannabis pain relief, the supporting science has been greatly held back by the federal government, which stubbornly regards the plant as a Schedule 1 drug.
As a result, and in spite of cannabis’ widespread use, we do not understand why it is an effective painkiller and what its therapeutic and pharmacological actions are. This is hopefully set to change with the launch of the United States’ very first academic program dedicated to the scientific investigation of cannabis: the Cannabis Research Initiative. Operating out of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), this program will begin by tackling cannabis pain relief and how and why it works.
“The public consumption of cannabis has already far outpaced our scientific understanding,” said Dr. Jeffrey Chen, director of the Cannabis Research Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We really desperately need to catch up.”
Currently, an approximate 25.3 million Americans suffer from chronic pain caused by a plethora of underlying conditions. Almost all of these people have been or will be prescribed opioid painkillers to manage their conditions, which had lead the country by the nose into an opioid crisis. According to the Center for Disease Control: “More than 40% of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved a prescription opioid, with more than 46 people dying every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids.”
This highlights the desperate need for a safe, non-addictive alternative and cannabis is proving to fit the bill. We just need to the science to catch up with the anecdotal evidence.
The impending study will initially focus on which combination of the cannabinoids THC and CBD provides the best pain relief. Unfortunately, yet again, the federal government is doing its bit to trip up cannabis pain relief research: the program is currently waiting on approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) before it can complete its fundraising and begin.
“We’re not trying to do pro-cannabis research or anti-cannabis research. We’re just trying to do good science,” says Dr. Chen.
To many, this may all seem like wasted effort – after all, there are tens of thousands of anecdotal cases (if not more) supporting the validity and efficacy of cannabis pain relief. The importance of these studies is that if they can scientifically prove the specific pain management actions of cannabis:
This is not to mention the fact that a suite of cannabis pain relief medicines with specific pharmaceutical actions could be developed to help people far more effectively.
“With an unfortunate record number of 42,000 Americans dying of opioid overdoses in 2016, something needs to be done to curb the use of these dangerous, addictive and potentially fatal drugs. Legalizing medical [cannabis] and making it available to those who need it most could potentially make a world of difference,” says an article by Marijuana Times.
This cannabis pain relief study by UCLA could be a leap in the direction of a healthier, happier, and safer society.