Marijuana pills offer longer pain relief, study finds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 5:27am


Marijuana provides longer pain relief when taken in pill form than when smoked, a study has found.

Neuroscientists in the United States carried out what they say is the first scientific research to compare pain relief between smoked marijuana and pills with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in the drug.

A team led by Ziva Cooper and Margaret Haney of Columbia University in New York asked 15 male and 15 female volunteers, all of them daily cannabis smokers, to carry out a pain test after having smoked marijuana, taken a pill or a placebo. The experiment entailed a "cold pressor test", in which the participants immersed a hand into a bath of extremely cold water for up to two minutes.

Both smoked marijuana and the THC pills decreased sensitivity and boosted tolerance to pain compared to the placebo. But the pill beat smoked marijuana for long-lasting decreases in pain.

The findings are promising for medical uses of the pill, but more work is needed to determine its impact on individuals who do not smoke marijuana, say the investigators. The study was published on Monday in the Neuropsychopharmacology journal.