Inhaled marijuana appears to be a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain when used in addition to narcotics like morphine and oxycodone, according to a small UCSF study that is the first to look at the combined effects of the two classes of drugs in humans.
The study, published in this month’s edition of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, was designed primarily to look at whether taking marijuana with narcotics is safe, and researchers reported that there were no negative side effects from combining the drugs.
Overall, the 21 men and women in the study reported a roughly 25 percent reduction in pain after inhaling vaporized marijuana several times a day for five days.
If the results can be backed up in further studies, marijuana could prove an important means of augmenting the effects of narcotic drugs for the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain associated with cancer, AIDS and a variety of other conditions, said study author Dr. Donald Abrams, a UCSF professor and chief of the hematology-oncology division at San Francisco General Hospital.
“If we can get funded, we should do a study now with pain as the endpoint” and not just safety, Abrams said.
He added that scientists don’t yet understand how, exactly, marijuana and opiates interact in humans, but “our results support that the relationship between cannabis and opiates is synergistic.”