(NaturalNews) In one of the few extensive tests of marijuana's medical benefits, a study by researchers at the San Francisco General Hospital has shown the drug can ease HIV-related pain in some patients, but the Bush administration's Office of National Drug Control Policy has dismissed the study and its results.
From 2003 to 2005 the researchers studied 50 HIV positive patients with peripheral neuropathy, a foot pain related to HIV for which there is currently no specific drug treatment. Half of the patients smoked marijuana cigarettes three times daily for a week, while the other half of the participants smoked placebo cigarettes that were free of tetrahydrocannabinol -- the active ingredient of marijuana -- in what the scientists report is the first trial to use a comparison group. The cigarettes were machine rolled by staff at the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which is the only place the drug can be obtained legally.
According to the results published in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Neurology, the marijuana-smoking group reported an average 34 percent reduction of pain on a scientific scale, while the placebo group reported only a 17 percent drop.
Lead researcher Dr. Donald Abrams had to get authorization from the DEA and other federal agencies to conduct the study, but Office of National Drug Control Policy chief scientist David Murray still criticized the study in an interview with the Associated Press. He said that, while THC can be an effective pain killer, marijuana smoke is harmful to the lungs because it can, among other things, lead to bacterial infections. Murray questioned both the wisdom of presenting this risk to a group of people with deficient immune systems, and the relevance of what he saw as a small study sample.
"Isn't it interesting that when a natural herbal medicine is scientifically shown to have a medicinal benefit, the Bush Administration immediately attacks it for political reasons?" said consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of Natural Health Solutions and the Conspiracy to Keep You From Knowing About Them. "The power brokers in the United States who control health policy, drug policy and law enforcement policy simply cannot admit to the fact that a medicinal plant has the power to do what no prescription drug comes close to doing: easing the suffering of human beings without causing liver damage or other deadly side effects.
"When it comes to marijuana, the war on drugs is really a war on the freedom of American citizens, many of whom are being arrested as criminals for merely seeking freedom from pain using a safe, natural and scientifically proven herb."
Marijuana is classified under federal law as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is considered to have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and is unsafe for use even under medical supervision. Eleven states, including California, have passed laws that allow marijuana to be used medicinally, but the Supreme Court decided in 2005 that those laws do not overrule the federal ban.
Marijuana is not the only smokable drug that is being considered for use in pain relief. California-based Alexza Pharmaceuticals is currently developing smokable treatments for conditions such as pain, anxiety and schizophrenia-induced agitation.