Claims that cannabis relieves pain have been contradicted by new research
Thursday 13 March 2003, 1:05 PM
UK anaesthetist Dilip Kapur told delegates at an Australian and New Zealand pain conference that despite repeated claims that cannabis had medicinal qualities, its use in chronic pain management was questionable.
The unpublished data released by Dr Kapur shows synthetic cannabinoid nabilone (derived from the cannabis plant) did not reduce chronic pain in people suffering from a variety of conditions, including nerve damage.
His comments at the conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, were based on preliminary results from a 14-week trial of 60 people, many of whom had experienced chronic pain for up to five years.
It appeared only patients (26) with spinal cord tumours experienced slight pain relief from the cannabinoids, he said.
"First appearances (of the results) are disappointing," he said. "The effect on chronic pain is limited. There does seem to be an area of difference in people with spinal cord tumours."
Dr Kapur said 96 people were originally involved in the trial, but 36 had pulled out because of the side effects of the cannabinoids, including hallucination.
The research contradicts claims that cannabis is a wonder drug.
Pro-cannabis groups from around the world say the drug has medicinal benefits.
Various websites say cannabis reduces chronic pain caused by an array of injuries.
It is also said to reduce muscle pain in multiple sclerosis sufferers, reduce vomiting in AIDS and cancer patients, and relieve pain in glaucoma patients. ALC's website said cannabinoids provided "non-addictive pain control".
Cannabis advocate Michael Britnell said most of the evidence used on the website was anecdotal.
"We have interviewed thousands of people," he said. "There is overwhelming evidence that it is of benefit to people with long-term chronic pain ... it is more than pain relief, it is a sense of wellbeing.
"You might still have the pain but you might be able to deal with it. It is not like morphine where the pain goes away."
Mr Britnell questioned how cannabis could be scientifically ruled out
for pain relief when there were more than 100 different strains.
© 2003 Australian Associated Press Pty Limited