MEDICAL MARIJUANA: UCSF Study Shows Pain-Killing Ability
While the debate over the medical use of marijuana continues, a new University of California-San Francisco study has found that the active ingredient in cannabis has a pain-killing effect similar to morphine. However, the method by which marijuana kills pain is different from morphine, "suggesting that marijuana-like drugs might be developed as effective painkillers without the unwanted side effect of opiates," the San Francisco Examiner reports. The study appears in today's issue of the journal Nature (Torassa, 9/23).
A Prop For Prop. 215?
The Contra Costa Times reports that the study "potentially giv[es] pot-for-pain advocates more fuel to make the prohibited drug available for suffering patients." Steve Heilig, director of the San Francisco Medical Society, which supported Proposition 215, said the study may help persuade "federal agencies to let doctors use the drug." He said, "There is so much emotion tied up in (the debate). But in the long run, you have got to get the science behind it." The Contra Costa Times notes that doctors in the state are fearful of prescribing marijuana to their patients because of warnings from the Drug Enforcement Agency that their licenses could be revoked. Heilig recommended changing marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug like morphine and other opiates. That would allow "doctors to prescribe the drug but closely monitor its use" (Widener, 9/24). Chuck Thomas of the Marijuana Policy Project said the study is "further proof that the thousands of people with cancer, AIDS and other diseases who are using the drug to feel better are on the right track." He said, "These patients are not stupid and should not be going to jail" (Examiner, 9/23).
Not So Fast
Today's San Francisco Chronicle reports that "skeptics said the mere discovery" that marijuana acts in a different manner than morphine and other pain killers "adds little to the controversy surrounding the herb." Dr. Peter Wolfe, an associate clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, said, "It's certainly interesting and praiseworthy to elucidate a mechanism of action. But it would be even more interesting to see how this drug really stacks up against what's already available." Wolfe noted "that morphine's side effects can be minimized by using other drugs already on the market that lack the disorienting effects linked to the cannabinoids" (Hall, 9/24). Click medical marijuana to read past California Healthline coverage of the issue. Note: Hypertext links are available to online readers only. Check out CHL online at www.chcf.org.