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UCSF study finds medical marijuana could help patients reduce pain with opiates
Date:12/6/2011

d either to increase the plasma level of the opiates or to decrease the plasma level of the opiates or to have no effect. And while we were doing that, we also asked the patients what happened to their pain."

Abrams and his colleagues studied 21 chronic pain patients in the inpatient Clinical & Transitional Science Institute's Clinical Research Center at SFGH: 10 on sustained-release morphine and 11 on oxycodone. After obtaining opiate levels from patients at the start of the study, researchers exposed them to vaporized cannabis for four consecutive days. On the fifth day, they looked again at the level of opiate in the bloodstream. Because the level of morphine was slightly lower in the patients, and the level of oxycodone was virtually unchanged, "one would expect they would have less relief of pain and what we found that was interesting was that instead of having less pain relief, patients had more pain relief," Abrams said. "So that was a little surprising."

The morphine group came in with a pain score of about 35, and on the fifth day, it decreased to 24 a 33 percent reduction. The oxycodone group came in with an average pain score of about 44, and it reduced to 34 a drop of 20 percent. Overall, patients showed a significant decrease in their pain.

"This preliminary study seems to imply that people may be able to get away perhaps taking lower doses of the opiates for longer periods of time if taken in conjunction with cannabis," Abrams said.

Opiates are very strong powerful pain medicines that can be highly addictive. They also can be deadly since opiates sometimes suppress the respiratory system.

As a cancer doctor, Abrams was motivated to find safe and effective treatments for chronic pain. Patients in the cannabis-opiates study experienced no major side effects such as nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite.

"What we need to do now is look at pain as the primary endpoint of a larger trial," he said. "Par
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Contact: Leland Kim
leland.kim@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert  

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