NIH Funds the First Long-Term Study into Cannabis Effectiveness for Pain Relief

NIH Funds the First Long-Term Study into Cannabis Effectiveness for Pain ReliefThe National Institute of Health (NIH) has put up almost $4 million to fund a 5-year study into whether or not medical cannabis can be an effective replacement for opioids in managing chronic pain. This is an official federal grant which has been awarded to researchers at the and Montefiore Health System, and the stated mission of the study is to determine if cannabis can truly be a step-down method for weaning patients away from opioids.

Parameters of the study

To conduct this study, only high-quality medical dispensary cannabis from NY state will be used, as opposed to the typically low-grade cannabis generally available for current research projects. The study group will consist of 250 patients currently experiencing chronic pain, many of whom will be HIV-positive, and all of whom have already been approved for using medical marijuana to relieve pain. Since HIV-positive patients are well known to be chronic pain sufferers, the inclusion of a number of such patients will provide very useful data over the life of the study.

Every two weeks, participants will be asked to complete online questionnaires which focus on their level of pain, and their usage of cannabis for relief. Urine and blood samples will also be taken from participants every three months to provide firm medical and scientific backing, and to ensure that opioids are not being taken in tandem with cannabis. Interviews will also be conducted among chosen members of the study group to obtain their perspectives on the effectiveness of cannabis vs. opioid usage.

Unchartered territory

No study of this kind has ever been conducted, so the information it provides can be extremely useful, particularly if there are strong indications that cannabis can be effective as an opioid replacement. There have been localized, on-the-spot observations of course, but no prolonged research has ever been performed over such a long period of time. The duration of this study is one of the aspects which lends greater legitimacy and credibility to its findings, since they would have the advantage of being demonstrated in a pattern of consistency.

No long-term studies have ever been conducted on how the active chemical compounds of cannabis, i.e. THC and CBD, impact the health, pain levels, or quality of life for patients regularly ingesting them. As the study’s chief investigator, Chinazo Cunningham states, “As state and federal governments grapple with the complex issues surrounding opioids and medical marijuana, we hope to provide evidence-based recommendations that will help shape responsible and effective healthcare practices and public policies.”

Former Prohibitionist Congressman Introduces Bill for Medical Marijuana Research

Former Prohibitionist Congressman Introduces Bill for Medical Marijuana Research
In a move that can only be described as stunning, former Republican marijuana prohibitionist, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah introduced a bill in Congress which would encourage far greater research into the medical benefits of cannabis. On September 13, 2017, Sen. Hatch stood before his peers and delivered an impassioned speech about how cannabis has already demonstrated some very profound healing properties, as well as the ability to improve quality of life for people suffering from various kinds of chronic pain.

An abrupt philosophical change

In his words, “The federal government strains to enforce regulations that sometimes do more harm than good. To be blunt, we need to remove the administrative barriers preventing legitimate research into medical marijuana, which is why I’ve decided to roll out the MEDS Act.” So what is responsible for this seeming about-face in Sen. Hatch’s philosophy? Apparently, the plight of a close friend figured strongly into his thinking, and even though he still opposes recreational use, his thinking about medical marijuana has indeed been drastically altered.

Sen. Hatch has an unnamed friend who had been forced to ingest nearly 20 pills a day to manage pain, and some of these were fairly powerful opioids. After trying medical cannabis, this friend was able to discard all the pills, including the opioids, and rely solely on the medical cannabis for full relief. Right before his own eyes, Hatch witnessed the near-miraculous effects of pain relief, as well as the extremely effective substitution of cannabis for opioids.

What’s included in the MEDS Act 

This is no lightweight, half-hearted bill introduced by Sen. Hatch – these are the highlights of the features included in the bill:

  • Requires the Attorney General to increase the national marijuana quota as soon as is practicable, in order to meet the changing medical needs of our society
  • Requires the National Institute on Drug Abuse to put forth ‘best practices’ recommendations for the growing and overall production of marijuana, with the expectation that crops would be then used for medical research
  • Make marijuana much more accessible for groups involved with legitimate research into medical marijuana, and for the production of marijuana derivative drugs which have FDA approval
  • Encourage more medical research into the uses of marijuana, specifically by streamlining the registration process and removing barriers to research. This would not be dependent on having marijuana re-classified from its current Schedule I status as a ‘dangerous drug’.
  • Prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from instituting any new requirements or protocols which would tend to inhibit research into the usage of medical marijuana.

Impact of the speech and the bill

The impact of Sen. Hatch’s bill could be far-reaching indeed. If passed, sorely needed research into medical marijuana should proceed at a much faster and less inhibited pace. It would also represent a concession by the federal government that medical cannabis can be an effective tool for many health conditions, and for fighting the opioid crisis. Lastly, it will be seen as one stark example of the changing attitude in our society over the unjust stigma formerly attached to the amazing cannabis plant.


Photo credit: Herb.co