A little over twenty years has passed since cannabis was first legalized for medicinal purposes in California. In that time, 30 other states and D.C. also legalized the herb, but still, research on the plant – to understand how and why it provides many of the benefits that it does – is still highly limited, even if we know much more today than we did a couple of decades ago. Because of this, researchers at the new Cannabis Research Initiative (a first of its kind academic program dedicated to cannabis) at the University of California, Los Angeles are planning to conduct studies on cannabis’ effectiveness as a painkiller.
Right now, one of the most common ailments that people use cannabis to treat is chronic pain – which affects 25.3 million people in the United States alone – and it can have numerous underlying causes.
“The public consumption of cannabis has already far outpaced our scientific understanding,” said Dr. Jeffrey Chen, director of the Cannabis Research Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We really desperately need to catch up.”
This study will be designed to test different combinations of THC and CBD to determine which combination of cannabinoids provides the most relief. However, before the study can begin, they need to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and they need additional funding. The program itself has already received funds from the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, as well as from some federal and state resources and private donors.
“We’re not trying to do pro-cannabis research or anti-cannabis research. We’re just trying to do good science.”
In a time when an alternative to prescription painkillers is more necessary than ever, this research is needed sooner rather than later. At least two older studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that states with medical marijuana laws that allow the plant to be used to treat chronic pain had 6 to 8.5 percent fewer opioid prescriptions.
With an unfortunate record number of 42,000 Americans dying of opioid overdoses in 2016, something needs to be done to curb the use of these dangerous, addictive and potentially fatal drugs. Legalizing medical marijuana and making it available to those who need it most could potentially make a world of difference.
If this study makes it through FDA approval, this could be an option for all Americans – not just those living in states bold and smart enough to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes.