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A government sponsored study, titled Medical Marijuana- Clearing Away the Smoke, comes to the conclusion (from the article: "indicate the likelihood") that cannabanoids can be useful as treatment for neuropathic pain, muscles spasms caused by Multiple Sclerosis, and nausea and inappetence in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

While it has been true in the past that few studies have been done on the medical benefits of marijuana, in the last decade, this has changed dramatically.

In the past decade, the scope and rigor of research has increased dramatically. This research has employed cannabis, cannabis-based extracts, and synthetic cannabinoids delivered by smoking, vaporization, oral, and sublingual or mucosal routes.
A series of randomized trials was conducted at the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) with patients suffering from neuropathic pain. For those of you wondering what "neuropathic pain" is:
Neuropathic pain is a complex, chronic pain state that usually is accompanied by tissue injury. With neuropathic pain, the nerve fibers themselves may be damaged, dysfunctional or injured. These damaged nerve fibers send incorrect signals to other pain centers. The impact of nerve fiber injury includes a change in nerve function both at the site of injury and areas around the injury.

Here are some of the causes of neuropathic pain:

Central neuropathic pain is found in spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and some strokes. Aside from diabetes (see diabetic neuropathy) and other metabolic conditions, the common causes of painful peripheral neuropathies are herpes zoster infection, HIV-related neuropathies, nutritional deficiencies, toxins, remote manifestations of malignancies, immune mediated disorders and physical trauma to a nerve trunk.[4][5] Neuropathic pain is common in cancer as a direct result of cancer on peripheral nerves (e.g., compression by a tumor), or as a side effect of chemotherapy,[6][7] radiation injury or surgery.

According to the Wiki article linked to above, only 40-60% of patients treated for neuropathic pain actually get some relief from prescription drugs, which not only include pain killers, but also anti-depressant and anti-convulsive drugs.
Needless to say, prescription pain killers can be highly addictive, and the side effects from any prescription drug is enough to give one pause.

And here we return to two of the studies done by CMCR on patients with HIV peripheral neuropathy.

Two trials enrolled patients with painful HIV peripheral neuropathy [4, 5]; one consisted of mixed neuropathic pain due to peripheral or central dysfunction of the nervous system (i.e., complex regional pain syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, and traumatic focal nerve or spinal cord injury) [6]. Patients were allowed to continue their usual regimen of analgesics. Results consistently indicated that cannabis significantly reduced pain intensity, with patients reporting 34%-40% decrease on cannabis compared to 17-20% on placebo. Moreover a significantly greater proportion of individuals reported at least 30% reduction in pain on cannabis (46%-52%) compared to placebo (18%-24%) [4-6], which is relevant since 30% decrease in pain intensity is generally associated with reports of improved life quality
Cannabinoids have also been found to be useful for treating nausea and lack of appetite in patients going through chemo therapy for late stage cancer, and also for chronic pain sufferers.

As a result of these studies, the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug by the DEA, has been proven inaccurate and standing in the way of progress.
Paul Armentano, director of NORML, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that the study proves that the US government policy is "neither based on nor guided by science".

Schedule I drugs are reserved for the most inebriating substances that have no medicinal value, including heroin, peyote, LSD and ecstasy. Schedule II-IV drugs have some medicinal value and can be prescribed, administered or dispensed for medical use.

The study's authors conclude that as a result of this research, the continuation of classifying cannabanoids as a Schedule I drug "are obstacles to medical progress in this area":

“The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug as well as the continuing controversy as to whether or not cannabis is of medical value are obstacles to medical progress in this area,” they wrote. “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking. It is true cannabis has some abuse potential, but its profile more closely resembles drugs in Schedule III (where codeine and dronabinol are listed). The continuing conflict between scientific evidence and political ideology will hopefully be reconciled in a judicious manner.”

In October of 2011, California's largest physicians' group, the California Medical Association, called for the complete legalization of marijuana, stating  that legalization for all adults is the only way to discover the true potential of cannabis and cannabinoids.

The last few years have shown a decided uptick in the number of people who support marijuana legalization, and in 2011, for the first time, an admittedly slim majority supported nationwide legalization.

In 2009, the Obama Administration released a memo stating "Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration".  
It's time for the DEA to address reclassifying marijuana out of the Schedule I category, studying its usefulness as a treatment for pain, depression, nausea and other ailments, and considering legalization, or at the very least, decriminalization.  

UPDATE: 10:35 AM- I just read on Facebook that a very old friend of mine died a couple of days ago from an overdose of painkillers she had been prescribed (and was addicted to) several years back after a serious car accident. No one knows if it was accidental or suicide, though when we were texting each other a couple of weekends ago and chatting on Facebook, she sounded great.
When we lived closer to one another 10 years ago, she'd come over to the house to smoke a bowl and get a break from the husband and kids.
No one ever died from an overdose of marijuana.
Peace, Robin, you deserve it.


Originally posted to skohayes on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 05:54 AM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform.


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