New Non-Addictive, Anti-Pain Compound Discovered in Marijuana
While the use of marijuana has been studied in the past for the treatment of many health conditions and especially pain-related disorders, exciting new research has identified a before-unknown compound in cannabis that can significantly alleviate inflammation, without causing people to feel “high.”
Published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, researchers at the Institute for Drug Research, Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology have discovered a new compound in cannabis, which they called HU-444. HU-444 demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory effects without the likelihood of the mind-altering effects commonly attributed to cannabis use. The study authors “believe that HU-444 represents a potential novel (treatment) for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.”
As most people are aware, the controversy over the use of marijuana has been longstanding, but polls show a continued increase in support of it over the years. In a Gallup poll asking Americans: “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” 58 percent of Americans said “yes” this year compared to 51 percent a year earlier. It has been a mostly linear increase since 1969 when Gallup first started polling Americans about legalizing marijuana. At that time, only 12 percent thought marijuana use should be legal.
Perhaps the increasing number of studies around marijuana’s potential for medical applications has played a role in the support for legalizing the herb. New Canadian research might help further that trend. In a new study published in the Journal of Pain by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, researchers showcased the results of the world’s first long-term study of marijuana for pain to determine the potential for harmful side-effects from long-term use. The scientists dispensed a standardized cannabis product with 12.5 percent THC to 215 chronic pain sufferers who had not used cannabis prior to the study. While there are hundreds of different naturally-occurring compounds found in marijuana, or Cannabis sativa, as it is technically called, the best known therapeutic one is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The researchers then followed the study participants for one year to determine whether there was any potential for negative side-effects of using the herb in the long-term. Two hundred and sixteen additional chronic pain sufferers acted as controls for the study. While some of the cannabis users experienced mild side-effects of long-term use, there was no increased risk of serious adverse effects.
Perhaps one of the biggest deterrents to legalizing marijuana use has been public concern over the potential for negative side effects, but this new, long-term study suggests at least some of the concern is unfounded. And, bearing in mind the potential side effects of pharmaceutical drugs for the treatment of pain, medical marijuana warrants further consideration.
For example, a commonly-used arthritis drug known as Celebrex was initially banned because it was linked to the deaths of many people, most likely because it increased heart attack risk. The drug is back in pharmacies, although the formulation appears to be identical to the one that caused fatalities. One study found that people who take 400 milligrams of Celebrex twice a day have three times the risk of having heart attacks, other heart problems, strokes or cardiovascular disease death, compared with people who don’t take the drug. People who take 200 milligrams twice daily have double the risk.
Obviously, cannabis is not suitable for everyone suffering from pain. Those with a history of addiction should avoid it. And, while low doses have been found to improve anxiety, higher doses may aggravate the condition. But, the growing body of research about its potential for medicinal benefits and the new long-term research showcasing few negative side-effects suggests that marijuana’s acceptance will likely continue its upward trend.
Photo Credit: Bogdan